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5.0 classic
Agalloch Ashes Against the Grain
Following the involved, laboured, miasmic recording of The Mantle, Agalloch decided to strip back their sound and create an album that was simpler and more focused. Ashes Against the Grain was the result, and it is my favourite record from the band. On it there are lots of influences at work, including post-rock, black metal, and folk music, but the songwriting is tight, the record is the right length, and the atmosphere is consistent. Furthermore, the production is phenomenal (including one of my favourite snare drum sounds of all time). Ashes Against the Grain hits all the right notes (including an absolutely stellar noise closer, "The Grain").
American Football American Football
This is an album which is beautiful in every way, even its imperfections- like that girl you loved then, you love now, and you know you will love for as long as you live. Like anyone, she has flaws, but that doesn't matter to you, because those flaws are part of what make her so perfect. American Football captures a late, teenage summer night perfectly. The spot on production and superlative instrumentation ensure a masterfully created atmosphere, and ultimately it is that atmosphere which solidifies the record as one of the best indie releases- hell, just best albums- of all time.
Anathema Judgement
Judgement is one of my favourite albums of all time for a few reasons. 1) Its complete honesty, and the unbridled and raw emotion with which that trait manifests itself. 2) The production is absolutely spot on, perfectly blending the frequent combinations of electric and acoustic guitars. The vocals sit at just the right spot in the mix as well. 3) The songwriting and album pacing are flawless. None of the tracks sound the same, but they all fit together and contribute to the overall theme and mood of the record. I haven't even mentioned the excellent performances or the incredible lyrics, yet this album possesses both of those qualities as well. Judgement is, quite simply, one of the best albums ever recorded, and you owe it to yourself to listen to it.
Buckethead Bucketheadland
Buckethead Bucketheadland 2
Burzum Burzum
Burzum's first record is an atmospheric masterpiece, captivating from beginning to end and assuredly one of the best black metal albums ever recorded. It's difficult to articulate just how this record achieves such an engrossing atmosphere, but through some combination of its lo-fi production, hypnotic but never boring instrumentation, and tortured vocals, it does. Countless black metal bands have adopted this formula and tried to obtain the same result. Very few have succeeded. Burzum is a phenomenal record and absolutely essential listening for not just black metal fans, but music lovers in general.
Dead Can Dance Within the Realm of a Dying Sun
Within the Realm of a Dying Sun was not a grower album-- it hit me immediately. During the course of the first track I could tell this record was something special. On an atmospheric level, it is one of the most effective albums I have ever heard. Imagine dark, cavernous, coiling cathedrals, and massive spires rising into a black sky. Both vocalists, Brendan Perry and Lisa Gerrard, are phenomenal. The record flows flawlessly, and it is exactly the right length. The production is fantastic. Even the cover art is perfect. All in all, Within the Realm of a Dying Sun is one of the best albums ever recorded.
Deftones White Pony
White Pony successfully blends genre after genre and becomes in the process a dark, engaging, and atmospheric listen. The songs are all different enough from one another that it never feels as though you've heard the same track twice. The production is superlative, and the performances are much the same- Chino's vocals in particular are wonderfully emotive, ranging from airy and serene to downright devastating. White Pony is an extremely unique and varied listen which you should get right now. One of the best albums of the 2000's.
Deftones Saturday Night Wrist
Saturday Night Wrist is a cloudy, ethereal listen. There is a strong shoegaze influence on here. The production is fantastic, and the atmosphere is engrossingly hazy. And you know what, for all its detractors, I kinda dig "Pink Cellphone." On par with White Pony.
Devin Townsend Terria
Devin was not happy with how Physicist turned out, and neither were most of his fans. While not a bad album, it was hampered by a poor production job and a, compared to his two solo records which preceded it, rather one-dimensional approach. While on the road with Strapping Young Lad after Physicist's release, Devin set out to write a more "personal and honest record" and penned Terria. Not only did he succeed, but he succeeded with flying colours. Terria is my favourite album of the 2000's and one of my favourite records of all-time. It is an incredibly detailed, brilliantly written, and perfectly paced album with outstanding performances and a uniquely superb production job. Like Infinity, Terria takes time to grow on you- but, if you give it that time, then rest assured it will. What Ocean Machine is to the... well, ocean, Terria is to the Earth. An incredible record.
Devin Townsend Ocean Machine: Biomech
If I had to choose one album as my favourite of all-time, it would be this one. Ocean Machine: Biomech enthralls for its entirety, from the first second of "Seventh Wave" to the last second of "Thing Beyond Things." It is incredibly mixed, brilliantly written, and perfectly structured. The lyrics are phenomenal, and the performances are too. Suffice it to say, Devin Townsend has crafted an absolute masterpiece with this album. Ocean Machine: Biomech is a truly magnificent work of art.
Diamanda Galas Plague Mass
Saint of the Pit, The Divine Punishment, and You Must Be Certain of the Devil comprise Galas' "Masque of the Red Death trilogy," three records about the treatment of AIDS victims and the predominant view of AIDS in late 80's, early '90s America. Angry and disgusted at the shunning of these victims, Galas unleashed her fury on those three records, and after their release put out Plague Mass, a live record consisting of songs from those records, as well as some other tracks (including bits of tracks which would later be released on her album The Singer). Galas performed the piece in a New York Catholic church, half-naked and covered in fake blood. The church walls reverberate her deathly wails and shrieks and the performance is intense and frightening. Galas' voice is incredibly powerful. The performance is largely a capella, but occasionally drums and other instrumentation enter the fold. Plague Mass is a difficult listen, but it is also a masterpiece.
Edge of Sanity Crimson
Very few bands would even attempt a one-song album- but not only did Edge of Sanity do it, they blew it out of the water. Quite simply, this is the band's masterwork. Finally, the progressive elements the group have toyed with more and more since Unorthodox have been fully realized. And not only are these elements incredible, but the straight-up metal ones are too. The riffs are stunning all the way through. Furthermore, Swano's vocals and lyrics are excellent, Akerfeldt's contributions are integrated perfectly, the instrumental work is spot-on, and the production and mix are virtually perfect. Crimson is a bold, impressive tour de force of progressive death metal, and a landmark record.
Faith No More Angel Dust
A follow-up to the The Real Thing was always going to happen. That record was too big a success for it not to. However, rather than another poppy smorgasbord record, Angel Dust happened. This is due to Mike Patton now having a hand in the writing, as well as the experimental leanings of three of the other band members (guitarist Jim Martin excluded). Angel Dust is a completely different album than The Real Thing, and it is better in every way, too. Gone are Patton's whiny vocals and the predictable arrangements. Instead, we get a versatile, whimsical performance from Patton and a collection of songs which twist and turn but never lose momentum or focus. No two songs sound alike; the production is stellar; and the sample use is fantastic. Angel Dust is a cinematic, atmospheric masterpiece and it is not only the one of the best albums of the '90s, but one of the best rock albums of all-time.
Finch Say Hello to Sunshine
Nate sings 'This is the worst thing that you've ever done' on Say Hello to Sunshine's opener "Insomniatic Meat," and ironically many Finch fans felt that way about the album when it was released three years after the band's debut. Indeed, what doomed Say Hello to Sunshine was its lack of immediacy: this is an album which- due to its odd time signatures, quick changes, and variety- requires many listens to appreciate, and most of Finch's young fans simply didn't have the patience to absorb it. For the rest of us though, Say Hello to Sunshine is a brave and adventurous follow-up, featuring some of the best tracks of the decade, fantastic production, and a uniquely dark and tantalizing (at times Burtonesque) atmosphere.
Frank Sinatra In The Wee Small Hours
In the Wee Small Hours is one of the most significant and influential records of all time because it was the first concept album ever released. Beyond that though, the songs themselves are fantastic in every respect (aside from maybe a couple of forced lyrical rhymes) and Sinatra sounds phenomenal. Take for example "Can't We Be Friends?"- the emotion in his voice is incredible. If you haven't heard In the Wee Small Hours then do so immediately. Not only is it one of the most important albums in music history, but it is a damn good listen on its own terms.
Godspeed You! Black Emperor Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven
f#a# is a bleak, dreary listen. It is the sound of the apocalypse. Lift Your Skinny Fists is the sound of rising from the rubble; the sound of hope. It is a happier record than f#, but it's hardly upbeat; rather, it is a hopeful, almost forlorn, sort of happy. However, like f#, Lift Your Skinny Fists sees GY!BE executing a concept flawlessly. This is some of the most moving instrumental music ever recorded. Every song works. Fantastic production. Excellent samples. Just set aside 87 minutes and listen to this album. You won't regret it.
Godspeed You! Black Emperor F#A# (Infinity)
This is one of the best albums ever recorded. It sounds overwrought-- it equates the apocalypse to capitalism-- but the execution is flawless. It is a bleak, heavy listen, though the title is, funnily enough, hopeful. f#, a#, infinity: the power of music to persevere through any horrors and evils the world sees. "East Hastings" is one of my favourite songs of all time, but the entire album is filled with utterly fantastic music. A must hear record.
John Zorn Six Litanies for Heliogabalus
Six Litanies for Heliogabalus is, well, a record featuring six litanies- or prayers- for the infamous Roman emperor Elagabalus, or Heliogabalus. The emperor came to power at the extremely young age of fourteen and, unfortunately, his rule was characterized by his odd, cruel, deviant behaviour, which included him prostituting himself and raping a Vestal virgin. With this in mind, the music here is suitably chaotic, featuring a diverse range of styles. Patton's performance is extraordinary, notably his eight minute vocal solo "Litany IV". Pay no attention to those who say he just 'makes puke noises'; that song, and really this whole record, is a vocal masterclass. The other musicians are equally fantastic too. Not only the best Moonchild record, but one of the best in all of John Zorn's massive catalogue.
Kayo Dot Choirs of the Eye
An intricately composed and meticulously detailed work of art. Choirs of the Eye is a masterwork in organic, avant-garde songwriting- the record contains genres as diverse as jazz, ambient, black metal, and progressive rock, and still manages to maintain flow. No moment feels out of place or wasted. The production is similarly stellar. It is said that some of the songs here used over one hundred tracks in their recording, yet every note of every instrument is clear, and their tones are fantastic. Choirs of the Eye excels in every facet, and is a modern classic.
Kayo Dot Coffins on Io
Coffins on Io is one of my favourite albums. The atmosphere evoked is so effective-- exactly the retro '80's sci-fi vibe (a la Blade Runner) that Driver was going for-- and the songwriting is so interesting that I can't give it any lower than a 5. Though Kayo Dot has been a notoriously inconsistent group, I'm pleased to report that Coffins on Io is fantastic.
Kelly Bailey Half-Life
Brilliant music. This is a varied collection of tracks (the styles here range from ambience to rock to electronica) and is one of the best video game soundtracks I've ever heard. Opener "Adrenaline Horror" is vaguely reminiscent of a track from the movie Aliens; "Vague Voices" is delightfully creepy; and "Drums & Riffs" is fantastic. Even if you aren't a fan of the game, this is worth looking into. Get it now.
Mr. Bungle California
California is an exceptional record. It is so crammed with details- including the artsy and complex "The Holy Filament" and the wacky "Goodbye Sober Day"- that it never gets boring. Every track has immense replay-ability and there is no weak spot on the album. Mr. Bungle's skill at combining several genres into one song is partly responsible for this. Every time you listen to the album you will find something you had not noticed before. The most accessible Bungle record, and perhaps also the best.
Naked City Naked City
I absolutely love this album. It is daringly original, entertaining as hell, and produced and performed impeccably. Perhaps the most impressive thing about it, though, is how it mix and matches genres as diverse as jazz, grindcore, and movie themes and manages to remain, in its own bizarre way, extremely cohesive. A truly outstanding release.
Neutral Milk Hotel In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
In the Aeroplane Over the Sea is a perfectly paced, expertly constructed record. I didn't always think that, though- the record took a while to grow on me. Initially, the off-tune vocals were an annoyance; but they, and the rest of the album, made perfect sense after multiple listens. The bottom line is that if you took any song- or indeed, any moment of music- off this record, then it would become less effective. Every second here is needed; there is not one wasted moment- and that is the mark of a truly exceptional album.
NOFX 45 or 46 Songs That Weren't Good Enough
This is the best punk record ever released, and it's ostensibly a collection of B-sides. Pretty ironic. But because there are zero inhibitions behind the music, it embodies the punk aesthetic perfectly. It's a hilarious listen that never gets dull throughout its two discs and 47 tracks. This is due to its varietous nature (the electronic-tinged "Pods and Gods," the dub mix of "Eat the Meek," the complete ridiculousness of "I Gotta Pee") and childish but hysterical lyrics. The booklet has some of the best liner notes I've ever read, too. 45 of 46 Songs is fantastic. Don't come for tastefulness or class or technicality, come for crass, unadulterated awesomeness.
Opeth Still Life
Peter Brotzmann Machine Gun
The best free jazz album of all-time. Machine Gun is a noisy, frenetic burst of manic energy. The intensity is ratcheted up to 11, with only occasional, well-placed sections of breathing space occurring throughout. Indeed, this record becomes so intense at points that it borders on noise music. Machine Gun is a chaotic whirlwind, and a must-hear album.
Radiohead Kid A
Could there have been a follow up to OK Computer? Kid A features tinges of electronics and more emphasis on repetition than that record, but it all goes together so well-- again. The production is stellar, the atmosphere is engaging, every song is brilliant... just listen to this album.
Radiohead OK Computer
Concept and execution align nigh perfectly on OK Computer. This is a record about technology's increasing influence on the world, and the dangers that arises. Yorke's unique, emotive vocals sit in just the right place over the textured arrangements. The performances are spot on and the production is ingenious. Effects are never overpowering, but rather add to the music. "Paranoid Android" is one of my favourite songs of all time, but every track here is fabulous. It took many listens to fully appreciate, but OK Computer is a masterpiece.
Strapping Young Lad City
What a year 1997 was for Devin Townsend. Not only did he release Ocean Machine: Biomech, probably my favourite album of all-time, but he also put out City- another one of my favourite records ever. City is one of heaviest, and certainly the angriest, album I've ever heard. However, this anger and heaviness belie the fact that it is intelligently written and perfectly structured and contains some of the best production work heard on any record ever. Seriously: that mix is flawless. The performances are absolutely superlative as well- Devin's vocal work here is perhaps my favourite performance of any metal CD. Furthermore, while every track is incredible, I do have to say that "Oh My Fucking God" might just be my favourite song ever recorded. Listen to it, and the rest of this album, as soon as possible (if you haven't already).
Ulver Bergtatt - Et eeventyr i 5 capitler
Bergtatt is one of the best black metal albums ever recorded. The atmosphere is engrossing from the opening drum fill of "Capitel I," and indeed, not one second is wasted on this perfectly paced masterpiece. The production is some of the best ever in black metal, riding the line perfectly between muddy and clear. Garm's vocal performance is extraordinary. His clean vocals juxtapose beautifully with his harsh and mirror the equally diverse instrumental backing admirably. Furthermore, the album manages to be atmospheric without ever growing dull. This is due to the combination of the engrossing atmosphere and the exceptional songwriting, which ensures no section overstays its welcome. Bergtatt is a perfect entry point for those unfamiliar with black metal.
Vangelis Blade Runner Soundtrack
One of the most beautiful, fitting soundtracks I've ever heard. I'm a sucker for spacey electronic music, and this contains some of the best of that style out there- though to parson this soundtrack down to that one genre would be erroneous. There is a variety of different styles on here, including jazz ("Love Theme"), oriental ("Blimpvert"), and 50's pop ("One More Kiss Dear"), and they all work well, especially in the context of the film itself. Vangelis' Blade Runner soundtrack is one of the best out there.

4.5 superb
Aaron Goldberg Worlds
Agalloch The Mantle
Al Di Meola Elegant Gypsy
Alanis Morissette Jagged Little Pill
A landmark record. Jagged Little Pill has sold over thirty-three million copies (the best ever for a female solo artist), won three Grammies, and topped the charts for weeks after its release. Much of the reason for this success is that Morissette puts her all into this record; so much so that, at times, her vocals skirt with over-the-topness- but thankfully they never descend into it. The production is excellent, and the bass playing of Lance Morrison (as well as guest Flea on "You Oughta Know") is fantastic throughout. The negatives here are that the drum loops can be boring at times, and I never really liked closer "Wake Up." Nonetheless, this is a very important, influential, and well done record. Highlights: "You Oughta Know," "Forgiven," "Mary Jane." 4.5
Annette Peacock I'm the One
My first exposure to Annette Peacock, and what an amazing album it is. The opening title track features one of the most impressive vocal performances I've ever heard, and moreover the album's unique blend of avantgarde, jazz, and blues sensibilities with rock and electronic arrangements sounds strikingly current (this was released over forty years ago). On here, you get tender ballads ("7 Days"), funky stuff ("Pony"), intense synthesizer rock ("Blood"), and more. 4.8
Brand New The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me
The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me combines fantastic lyrics, a Radiohead-esque production precision, and consistently varied, excellent songwriting. The first five songs, as well as "Luca" and closer "Handcuffs," are pretty much perfect. This is a more nuanced, detailed, mature, and rewarding listen than Deja Entendu, and is one of the best rock albums ever recorded.
Buckethead The Cuckoo Clocks of Hell
Buckethead Colma
Buckethead Electric Tears
Electric Tears is the most relaxed album in Buckethead's extensive catalogue. There are no drums, and there is no shredding; rather, Big B has written (aside from one cover, the fantastic "Sketches of Spain (For Miles") a series of beautiful guitar only songs, that, while occasionally slightly overlong, never fail to be emotionally resonant. Indeed, that aforementioned flaw is the only issue with the record; in every other department, Electric Tears succeeds with flying colours. In Buckethead's massive discography, Electric Tears stands out as one of his best releases. Even if you have disliked his previous records, there is a good chance that, due to the high degree of difference between this and most of his other work, you will like this one. A sequel, titled Electric Sea, was released ten years later. 4.5
Buckethead The Elephant Man's Alarm Clock
Easily one of Buckethead's best albums. Definitely the best of his rock records. The songwriting is top notch, it's consistent all the way through-- save the unnecessary hidden track at the end of "Fizzy Lipton Drinks"-- and the guitar work is as stellar as ever. Bootsy Collins even shows up for a space bass solo on the phenomenal "Bird with a Hole in the Stomach." Also, the four-part "Lurker at the Threshold" is Buckethead's best 'epic' track ever and one of the best tracks in his entire catalogue. But really, nearly any track from this record can be counted among Buckethead's best, and considering the number of albums he has, that is quite an accomplishment. 4.9
Buckethead In Search Of The - Volume 1: 'I'
Buckethead In Search Of The - Volume 6: 'R'
Buckethead Pike 13
Burzum Hvis Lyset Tar Oss
Camel Mirage
Casualties of Cool Casualties of Cool
2014 AOTY -- Casualties of Cool is difficult to describe because it sounds unlike any other record I've ever heard. No, this is not Ki 2. Devin's description of the album as resembling "haunted Johnny Cash songs" is about as good a summation as can be. Even conceptually it is remarkably unique: it uses the country genre to tell the story of someone without a country-- someone who travels through time and space. Suffice it to say, this a record which you should hear as soon as you possibly can. It is the best album of 2014 and further establishes Devin Townsend as one of today's most accomplished, and ingenious, musicians. 4.9
clipping. CLPPNG
Noisy, experimental, and featuring some really great lyrics, CLPPNG is one of my favourite records of the year. I love the unorthodox instrumentation (the alarm clock on "Get Up," the metallic clangs and chainsaw samples on "Body & Blood," "Work Work"'s glassy, glitchy backing), the lyrics (as aforementioned), and the production. The noise track which closes the record ("Williams Mix") is really awesome too. Though there a couple of overlong or otherwise underwhelming songs, CLPPNG is still a superb release. 4.5
Colin Stetson New History Warfare Vol 2: Judges
2011 AOTY -- Fiercely experimental and technically masterful, Colin Stetson's New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges is a masterpiece. The entire record was recorded live in single takes, with Stetson utilizing over twenty microphones- placed in various positions in the studio- to capture the numerous sounds emitted while playing his baritone sax. The precision and control displayed, and Stetson's utter mastery of circular breathing, is astounding. Laurie Anderson and Shara Worden appear on a few of the tracks here as well, and their contributions are fantastic. Gripping and atmospheric from beginning to end, New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges is one of the best records of the decade. 4.9
Converge Jane Doe
Cryptopsy None So Vile
A landmark death metal record. Excellent production and incredible performances. "Slit Your Guts" and "Phobophile" are two of my favourite death metal songs ever. Not a 5 because of a couple of lesser tracks, but regardless, this is essential listening for any metal fan. 4.6
Cynic Traced in Air
Dan Swano Moontower
Dan Wentz Red Faction Soundtrack
Fantastic electronic rock/ambient soundtrack. I've got a lot of nostalgia attached to this one. "Imperious Consecution" and "Calm / Storm" are especially good. Fans of Kelly Bailey's Half-Life soundtrack, and Chris Jensen's soundtracks for Half-Life: Opposing Force and Half-Life: Blue Shift, will dig this. 4.8
Darkspace Dark Space III
This, the third Dark Space full length, plays like a combination of the first two. The death metal-inspired riffs which were present on Dark Space I but missing from Dark Space II are back here, and the lengthy walls of sound prevalent on II are here as well. Indeed, this is, overall, the strongest Dark Space record: the atmosphere is just as engrossing as ever, there are plenty of stand out moments and melodies, and the slightly improved production quality is welcome. The record's only flaw is that, at over 79 minutes, it's just too long. However, the atmosphere is so good that this can be forgiven somewhat, and that blemish doesn't stop Dark Space III from being one of my favourite black metal records. 4.5
Darkspace Dark Space III I
Dark Space III I continues the trend of better production values which has henceforth characterized the band's discography. However, it also sees the group experimenting with their established sound: namely, electronic influence in the drums, less vocals, and more abrupt changes from heavy to soft. While of the former two I possess mixed feelings, the latter works well; the sudden changes help distinguish between sections. The twenty-seven minute opener is a little overlong, but nonetheless Dark Space III I succeeds at creating a dark, cold atmosphere that I find myself more than willing to return to. More listens will determine whether this, or the band's previously assumed magnum opus, Dark Space III, is the superior record. 4.5
Darkthrone Transilvanian Hunger
Transilvanian Hunger is one of black metal's most seminal releases, often regarded by critics as among the genre's best. For the most part, this reputation is well-deserved: the production is lo-fi, but not overly so, the performances are solid, and the atmosphere is engrossing. It does drag somewhat in the second half, though, and a little more variation from the rhythm section would have spiced things up. Nonetheless, Transilvanian Hunger is a fantastic release, and a must hear for black metal fans. 4.5
David Garland Control Songs
In the liner notes, Garland calls these 'control songs' "songs about our need, avoidance, and manipulation of that sense of control which we all use to help us function." Musically, this is a varietous and unique listen featuring genres as diverse as noise, spoken word, avantgarde, and electronic. The lyrics are often brilliant ("Keep in Touch") and the production is interesting (the manipulated vocals on "I Am with You"). Overall, Control Songs is a fascinating listen that will grow on you with every listen. I've never heard anything quite like it before. 4.5
David Krakauer Pruflas: Book of Angels Volume 18
An underappreciated volume. Jazz-rock with electronics, and there are even glossolalia vocals (courtesy of bassist Jerome Harris) and a John Zorn alto sax appearance on "Tandal." Some tracks are funky ("Egion,") some jazzy ("Kasbeel,") but it's all performed admirably. Closer "Monadel" is a letdown, but besides that Pruflas is a wildly fun ride. "Neriah-Mahariel" is especially fantastic. 4.5
Death Symbolic
Death Grips Exmilitary
Exmilitary has got a ton of personality and there is lots of detail on all its songs. The record has flaws- namely, "I Want It I Need It (Death Heated)" is too long- but it's still a fantastic listen. Overall, while not as good as The Money Store, Exmilitary is a release that should not be ignored (and once it's on, you'll find it impossible to). 4.6
Death Grips The Money Store
I don't listen to very many hip-hop records, but of those that I have heard, The Money Store ranks up there as one of my favourites. The thirteen tracks on here are almost unanimously noisy, loud, and extremely detailed, and the superb production perfectly compliments them, ensuring that every note, sample, and drum hit can be heard clearly amidst the chaos. A couple of slightly inferior tracks stop this from being a 5- it's close- but regardless, this is a unique, superb listen, though certainly a polarizing one as well. 4.8
Death Grips Government Plates
Featuring few hooks and more emphasis on bizarre song structures, Government Plates is much more experimental than The Money Store and Exmilitary. I don't think it is overall as strong as a record as those two, however it is still extremely good. Also, I respect the fact that the band aren't releasing the same album over and over. Though hampered slightly by some too-short songs and a drawn out closing track, Government Plates is still one of the best albums of the year. 4.5
Death Grips The Powers That B - Part II: Jenny Death
Death Grips' best record since The Money Store. Jenny Death hits on all levels and is the band's most aggressive work yet. Really, this thing borders on hardcore punk. The production is chaotic but clear, MC Ride is in great vocal form, and the lyrics are fantastic. The song structures are not as sporadic as Niggas on the Moon, though most of the tracks are far from the catchiness of The Money Store. Is Jenny Death the last we'll hear from Death Grips? Doubtful. But, nonetheless, it is one of the best records of 2015 so far. 4.6
Deftones Diamond Eyes
Deftones return to more simplistic territory following the layered, expansive, shoegaze-inspired Saturday Night Wrist. And while Diamond Eyes is very strong (the title track, "Royal," "CMND/CTRL," "Prince") it's not quite at the level of that record, or White Pony. It's missing the atmosphere of those two records. Still, the production is fantastic, the performances are solid, and almost all of the songs are great. Overall, Diamond Eyes is fantastic. 4.5
Deftones Koi No Yokan
There are some great tracks on here ("Leathers," "Poltergeist," "Entombed," "Rosemary") but also some disappointing ones ("Romantic Dreams," closer "What Happened to You?"), and the ambient sections, while cool on their own, occasionally feel tacked on. I do like the atmosphere and production of the record, though (great cover art as well). 4.7
Devin Townsend Infinity
Many have claimed that Infinity is a more 'song-oriented' record than its predecessor, Ocean Machine. However, while I do agree that the album's tracks work well separately, calling Infinity 'song-oriented' undermines its cohesiveness as a record. Though it jumps between moods and styles frequently, no track feels out of place or random. This is partly due to the incredibly good mix, which balances the sometimes near-suffocating layers of music perfectly. It's also due to the high quality of songwriting across the album- there's no filler here. Infinity is at times a challenging listen, but with repeated plays the genius behind it emerges. A truly exceptional record.
Devin Townsend Project Ki
Ki has grown on me a lot since I first heard it. I feel like the album is at its weakest during the metal sections which, compared to the mellow sections, are nowhere near as engrossing. Also, "Demon League" is an unnecessary inclusion - "Quiet Riot" would have been the perfect end to the album (with the sample of Devin leaving the studio from "Demon League" put on to the end). Despite these complaints though, Ki is overall a masterfully done record. The production is superlative, as are the performances, and the atmosphere throughout is captivating. The "tense" feel Devin went for here is perfectly captured, until of course the climax of the title track (which also happens to be one of the album's best sections). Ki isn't flawless, but it is still an exceptional record. It speaks to Townsend's incredible discography that an album this good is not even in his top five records. 4.5
Devin Townsend Project Addicted
One of my most-played Devin releases, Addicted is truly a blast from start-to-finish. Its songwriting and production, unlike some of Devin's later forays into the pop-metal genre, never go too over-the-top. Furthermore, Anneke is utilized perfectly on the record, and the whole thing flows very well (the end of "Awake" is one of my favourite send-offs of any album ever). Honestly, the only flaw I can find with Addicted is the opening title track: I have never dug it as much as the other songs here. Nonetheless, Addicted is a near 5, and a record I know I can always turn too. 4.9
Devin Townsend Project Deconstruction
Since I first listened to it, Deconstruction has grown on me to the point where it's now among my favourite of Devin's albums. In fact, it is a near classic. The dense arrangements, jarring song structures, and atonal melodies- especially in the latter half of the record- may seem random and unlistenable upon the first few spins, however with time it all clicks, and the recognition that it is a masterfully constructed record is realized. Devin sings "take your time" in the title track, and that is exactly what this record needs to make any semblance of sense: time. 4.9
Devin Townsend Project Ghost
If Deconstruction is Hell, then Ghost is heaven. -- Ghost is another spectacularly realized vision from Devin. It's his softest album, and also one of his most beautiful. The production is absolutely incredible. Really, the album's only flaw is that it's a little too long. However, the wealth of amazing material here more than makes up for such an oversight. Indeed, the first half of the record in particular is incredibly strong, and with stunning tracks like "Dark Matters" and "Seams" in the second, that half is hardly poor either. Ghost is a truly wonderful record and yet another exceptional addition to Devin's discography. 4.8
Diablo Swing Orchestra Pandora's Pinata
Flat out fun from beginning to end. An upbeat, varied, unabashedly unique listen. "Justice for Saint Mary" is a frankly brilliant mixture of acoustic balladry, violin, metal, and glitchy electronic music and is one of the best songs of the decade so far. The rest of the record is fantastic, too. Recommended for all. 4.8
Diamanda Galas You Must Be Certain of the Devil
You Must Be Certain of the Devil is an unremittingly dark record, save the over-the-top title track. It is also the most 'song-oriented' of Diamanda's albums (up until this point in her career). "Double-Barrel Prayer" sparked controversy for its music video, which was banned by MTV and named the most offensive video of the year (1988). Opener "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" is an insanely virtuosic a capella piece, and closer "The Lord Is My Shepherd" is also a capella, albeit of a much creepier and understated nature. The songs in between are atmospheric and unsettling, and allow Diamanda's voice space to operate. Fantastic. 4.5
Diamanda Galas The Litanies of Satan
WARNING: Only fans of avant-garde and/or other extreme music need apply. The Litanies of Satan is perhaps one of the most terrifying records ever recorded. Diamanda Galas' shrieks, wails, screams, and other vocalizations sound like noises from the pit of Hell itself. The vocal talent on display here is extraordinary. It's over-the-top at times (the "I'm talking about steak" moment on track two) and with a runtime under half an hour, it's a little short. But, nonetheless, The Litanies of Satan is a frightening and intense journey into some dark musical depths. 4.5
Dog Fashion Disco Adultery
Adultery is incredibly well done, versatile, and a blast to listen to from start to finish. Dog Fashion Disco has a sound very reminiscent of Mr. Bungle, and that is high praise. The production and performances are stellar, and the concept is, for the most part, well executed. There is very little to complain about here, aside from that aforementioned concept occasionally becoming difficult to follow. Well, that, and the fact that I wish it was longer! 4.9
Electric Masada 50th Birthday Celebration Volume Four
Utterly fantastic music from this octet supergroup. 50th Birthday Celebration Volume Four is a fantastic place for rock fans looking to get into jazz to start, because it is essentially jazz mixed with a ton of other genres, including noise, ambient, and (yes) rock. Oh yeah, and it's all performed live, too (amazingly- this is incredibly tight). The last three songs slow things down too much- a heavier track would be appreciated in this stretch- but nonetheless 50th Birthday Celebration Volume Four is a must hear. 4.5
Enslaved Axioma Ethica Odini
2010 AOTY -- It's grown off me since I first heard it, but regardless Axioma Ethica Odini is a massive achievement. It features some of the best production I've ever heard on a metal record, it is incredibly solid from beginning to end, and the performances are inspired. Furthermore, the forays into more experimental territory (the intermezzo "Axioma", "Giants," "Night Sight") are executed flawlessly. Axioma Ethica Odini is Enslaved's best record. 4.9
Enslaved RIITIIR
RIITIIR is a grower. It contains some of Enslaved's best songs ("Death in the Eyes of Dawn," "Roots of the Mountain") but they, and indeed the whole album, require multiple listens to appreciate. The performances are great across the board, but what steal the show for me are Ivar's clean vocals. The improvement is obvious; they are fantastic, and the choruses on which he sings comprise some of the record's best moments. The only songs which don't quite do it for me are the last two- they are good, but each feels a little drawn out. Overall though, RIITIIR is a superb record and shows Enslaved's relentless commitment to progression. 4.5
Estradasphere Palace Of Mirrors
Estradasphere's final record is also their best. Unlike the band's previous albums, Palace of Mirrors is an entirely instrumental affair. Thus, the band's stunning musicianship is on full display, and this is a good thing. Furthermore, the production is the best of any of their albums. Finally, the metal parts sound good! With Palace of Mirrors, Estradasphere has also matched their genre defying sound(s) with atmosphere. While the album covers a multitudinous number of genres (jazz, metal, orchestral, industrial, etc.), like all of their releases, each piece works in conjunction with the others. The whole thing feels like the score for a film. It drags slightly towards the end, but nonetheless Palace of Mirrors is a major triumph. 4.9
Estradasphere It's Understood
It's Understood is an ironic title. The record covers genres as diverse as jazz, chiptune, death metal, and bluegrass, and in that way tries hard to not be understood. The cover art supports this idea, too-- a young man who has willingly shaved the top of his head bald, thus adopting a hairstyle commonly thought undesirable. Most would not understand why he would do this. Anyway, the music on It's Understood is utterly fantastic. Wildly creative, diverse, and it never takes itself too seriously. The members of Estradasphere are all phenomenal musicians, as evidenced by their ability to play so many different styles of music so well. Not quite a 5-- the mixing of the metal parts isn't great, and the closing track drags a bit-- but a jaw-dropping listen nonetheless. 4.8
Estradasphere The Silent Elk of Yesterday
At 75 minutes, this is perhaps the longest EP ever released. The Silent Elk of Yesterday contains three studio-recorded tracks ("The Silent Elk of Yesterday", "Crag Lake," and "The Dapper Bandits") that would later appear on Buck Fever, and fifteen live songs that I assume are all from the same show. The studio tracks are great, and the live tracks are too. Estradasphere is made up of phenomenal musicians, and the live tracks prove it. They are tight and performed impeccably, and the sound quality is pretty good too. Additionally, many of the live songs have never been released in studio form, so that's all the more reason to pick this up. A fantastic release. 4.5
Fair to Midland Arrows and Anchors
Fair to Midland have a fresh, unique sound, reminiscent of a more pastoral Faith No More (if that makes any sense). Vocalist Darroh Sudderth is incredibly talented, with a phenomenal clean voice, impressive range, and growling ability too. The songs are well-constructed and cohesive without running together. However, the track sequencing isn't good, and there are too many interludes. Overall though, Arrows and Anchors is a fantastic achievement. It's a shame this band broke up, because their next record could have been the masterpiece this record hints at it. 4.5
Frank London Scientist at Work
Released on the Tzadik label and featuring guest John Zorn and Jennifer Charles appearances, Scientist at Work is a fascinating, varied release. All of the compositions are rooted in klezmer, but explore territories within that framework as diverse as funky exotica ("Fela"), church music ("Shabbos Bride"), and avantgarde jazz ("Imanu Malkheteynu"). A consistently engaging and always unique record, Scientist at Work is fantastic. 4.5
Frank Sinatra Ultimate Sinatra
There are single-disc and quad-disc versions of this release. The single CD release features 26 songs, the four CD box set 100 (plus an 86-page booklet). I have the quad disc set, and it lives up to the 'Ultimate Sinatra' title. Most of Sinatra's best tracks ("My Way," "Ol' Man River," "In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning," "I Get Along Without You Very Well," "Moonlight Serenade") are here, and there is also a previously unreleased rehearsal of the track "The Surrey With The Fringe On Top." If you are new to Sinatra, there is no better place to start than this. You get 100 tracks that span the gamut of his career and display his legendary voice in many facets. 4.5
Giant Robot Giant Robot (NTT)
This is considered by many fans to be the holy grail of all Buckethead albums, and with good reason: it encompasses everything from lightning fast guitar shredding to Jimi Hendrix-esque funk breakdowns to country jamborees, and does all well. Also prevalent are voice samples from movies such as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and A Clockwork Orange. The only disappointment on here is the pointless "Idle Hands", a track that barely tops the one minute mark and doesn't contribute to the album in any significant way. The other pieces on here are almost all great, though; particularly the slightly funky "Scraps", wacky experimental rocker "Binge Buddies", and the beautiful "Mrs. Beasley." If you are a Buckethead fan, or even just a fan of good music, then you have no excuse to not check this out- especially considering you can download it for free (and legally) online. 4.8
Glassjaw Worship and Tribute
I love this album. It has fantastic production that distinguishes the numerous effect-laden layers while allowing the drums to sound massive and the vocals to cut through, the songwriting is interesting while retaining order and catchiness, and the performances-- particularly the vocals-- are fantastic. Worship and Tribute is energetic, unique, and engaging. One of the best post-hardcore albums ever recorded. 4.8
Godflesh Streetcleaner
Streetcleaner is an ugly, grimy, claustrophobic listen. Crushing, heavy songs plod forward unrelentingly and project an oppressive atmosphere that is as compelling as it is uncomfortable. The drum machine is perfectly utilized, adding a mechanical undercurrent to the record that perfectly synthesizes with its soulless presence. Streetcleaner is one of the best metal albums ever recorded. 4.9
Godspeed You! Black Emperor 'Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend!
Guthrie Govan Erotic Cakes
Any fan of guitar virtuoso or otherwise guitar-centric music needs to hear this. Erotic Cakes is a spectacular listen. Great songwriting, varied but cohesive, and it never devolves into mindless wank like so many guitarists' records do. The drums and bass get spotlight time as well, which is great (the title track, "Ner Ner"). "Slidey Boy" and "Hangover" drag, but the rest is fantastic. "Waves," "Sevens," and "Eric" are three in particular that everyone should hear. 4.5
Isis Oceanic
Oceanic is an incredible record on a number of levels: it mixes atmosphere and heaviness near seamlessly, it succeeds with flying colours at its concept (musical rendition of the ocean), and it is extremely cohesive. While it can sometimes get a little repetitive ("Hym"), these moments are few and far between and, when they do appear, are very minor issues. The production is excellent too. One of my favourite metal albums. 4.6
Jimmy Eat World Futures
The first album that I ever bought. I heard "Pain" in Tony Hawk's Underground 2 and it rapidly became my favourite song in the game, so I got the album. I loved the uptempo stuff, but was disappointed by all of the slower material. And indeed, about half of Futures is slow burners. But I'm ten years older now and can appreciate those tracks a lot more. The songwriting is fantastic on not only those songs, but the whole album, and the production is fantastic. Despite a couple of relatively weaker tracks ("Drugs or Me," "Nothingwrong"), Futures is on par with Clarity for the title of Jimmy Eat World's best record. 4.5
John Coltrane A Love Supreme
It's nearly impossible to go into an album like A Love Supreme- an album that has amassed such a legendary status- completely unbiased. Its critical appraisal means that, if you don't like it, the tendency is to think something must be wrong with you, and not the album- a reaction generally not afforded to albums devoid of epic reputations. At any rate, A Love Supreme is, well, a supreme record, and one of the finest jazz albums ever recorded; its status is indeed well deserved. Each member of the quartet performs impeccably, and the compositions are engaging and bold ("A Love Supreme, Pt. 3: Pursuance," which features an opening drum solo and a closing 3-minute bass solo). A truly wonderful record. 4.7
John Murphy 28 Days Later Soundtrack
One of my favourite film soundtracks. "In the House - In a Heartbeat" is the obvious highlight, but all of the other tracks and themes are incredible as well, and in the context of the movie, fit the action on screen to a T. "East Hastings" is sorely missed, but what is here is amazing. This is worth listening to even if you've never seen the film (which you should, because it's also amazing).
John Zorn The Big Gundown
An absolute triumph. John Zorn takes nine Morricone tunes (there's one original track on here too) and spins them on their heads, displaying a startling level of creativity in the process. The Big Gundown is varietous to the extreme, and features an incredible array of performers: Big John Patton, Arto Lindsay, Bill Frisell, Fred Frith, Diamanda Galas, Vernon Reid (who would later become famous through Living Colour), Melvin Gibbs (Rollins Band), and more. This is at times a challenging listen (the title track, "Metamorfosi (La Classe Operaia Va In Paradiso)"), but it is never pretentious, and there are so many twists and turns in these songs that listen after listen proves enjoyable for the new discoveries ensued. The 2000 re-master contains six new tracks, including one with Mike Patton on vocals. 4.9
John Zorn Astronome
UPDATE: Bumping this one up. It just gets better with repeated listens. 4.5

Astronome consists of three very long songs, each of which contains multiple 'scenes'-- though it's impossible to tell when one scene ends and the next begins. Musically, this is similar to other Moonchild recordings; it is fiercely experimental, and combines metal, free jazz, improvisation, classical, and numerous other genres into one demented, noisy witches brew. Because of the track lengths, this is likely the most inaccessible of the Moonchild recordings, however it is musically sound and mostly holds my attention. Furthermore, the performances from Patton, Dunn, and Baron are predictably top notch. 3.7
John Zorn Kristallnacht
UPDATE: Upping the rating significantly. "Never Again" prevents this from a five, for the reasons stated below, but the rest is absolutely fantastic. 4.5

One of the most important records in John Zorn's discography. Kristallnacht marks Zorn's first exploration into his Jewish roots (in his own words, it was "a whole lifetime of denying my Jewish heritage coming out in one piece") and thus laid the groundwork for his subsequent projects covering similar ground, like Masada. Kristallnacht is based on the 'Night of Broken Glass,' which occurred in November 1938 and saw Germans in Germany and Austria destroying Jewish-owned shops and murdering Jewish people. The 11-minute sound collage/noise piece "Never Again" represents the Night itself (it is also pretty much unlistenable, and even Zorn writes in the liner notes that he does not recommend listening to it often or loudly because of the high frequencies on it that can cause hearing damage). Opener "Shtetl (Ghetto Life)" represents the period before the attacks-- a traditional Klezmer melody is interrupted by German speech throughout the track's runtime. "Gahelet (Embers)" comes after "Never Again" and represents walking through the destruction. The remaining tracks deal with the Jewish people rising again. Rating Kristallnacht is difficult-- it's extremely effective, but it's also, as aforementioned, unlistenable at points. I'll give it a 3.5 for now, with the disclaimer that this rating is subject to change. 3.5
Karlheinz Stockhausen Hymnen
Stockhausen began collecting recordings of the national anthems in 1964, and in 1969 released Hymnen (German for anthems). Hymnen consists of four pieces (or 'regions') in which Stockhausen manipulates the anthems electronically. They are sped up, slowed down, rearranged, remodulated; essentially, morphed beyond recognition. Stockhausen wrote Hymnen to "accentuate the subjectivity of peoples in a time when uniformity is all too often mistaken for universality" and also to enlighten the public as to the, in the 1960's, new world of electronic music. Listeners' familiarity with the anthems provides them easy access into the world, and thus appreciation for the techniques utilized. In Stockhausen's words, "the more self-evident the What, the more attentive one becomes to the How." Other sounds Stockhausen recorded, such as public events, crowd noises, and conversations, are utilized as well. Hymnen is therefore an early example of musique concrete. Consider also the time period in which Stockhausen was writing. World War II was still fresh in the minds of those alive in the 1960's, and as one of the foremost German artists of the time, Stockhausen was looked to to make a statement about it-- about the rebuilding of Germany after the devastation, economically and morally, the war had caused. Hymnen is nearly two hours long and is a fairly difficult listen. It is also one of the most revered works of the 20th century. For a complete guide to the work, check out: . 4.8
Kayo Dot Dowsing Anemone With Copper Tongue
The problem with Dowsing Anemone with Copper Tongue is that drags at times. "___On Limped Form" takes too long to end and "Amaranth the Peddler" takes too long to get going, causing the latter part of the record to grind to a halt for a while. "Aura on an Asylum Wall" is absolutely fantastic, however, and the vocal excursions on "Gemini Becoming the Tripod" are superb. Perhaps my perspective will change upon further listening (this feels like a grower album to me), but as of now Dowsing Anemone with Copper Tongue is an avant-garde record that doesn't TOTALLY satisfy, despite moments of brilliance. 4.5
Kayo Dot Hubardo
2013 AOTY -- A mammoth, sprawling, incredibly interesting release. This double disc, 100-minute album does not feel that long in the slightest thanks to the unpredictability and uniqueness of its songs. No two sound the same. However, while they are mostly stellar, there is a relative dud track ("The Second Operation (Lunar Water)") and occasionally one will go on for too long. Also, the music doesn't always line up to the story being told- it's as though they are, at times, out of sync with each other. Despite these flaws though, no other album I heard this year struck me as strongly as Hubardo. It is an engaging, effective listen, and the best record of 2013. 4.6
Marc Ribot Asmodeus: Book of Angels Volume 7
Asmodeus is a chaotic combination of free jazz and noise rock. Marc Ribot plays the guitar, Trevor Dunn (Mr. Bungle, Fantomas, Tomahawk) is on bass, and G. Calvin Weston (who has played with Ornette Coleman) is on drums. The record runs together a bit, but the playing is so spirited and technically astounding that that is merely a minor problem. There are a host of phenomenal tracks, too ("Kalmiya," "Dagiel," "Sensenya"), that alleviate the issue. Asmodeus is a whirlwind of a record, and one of the best Book of Angels instalments yet. 4.5
Mastodon Leviathan
Granted I've never heard Remission, but given what most others have said about it, I think I'm fair in calling Leviathan Mastodon's most accomplished record from front-to-back. The production is stellar, allowing every note audibility and evoking the 'wet' sound necessary for the water vibe of the record's concept. The performances are equally accomplished- especially Brann Dailor on drums. Leviathan's only misfire is "Hearts Alive"- it's just too long, and comes off somewhat aimless. Regardless, Leviathan is an essential metal record, and the best of the band's discography. 4.7
maudlin of the Well Bath
I've had this album on almost non-stop since I got it a few days ago, and... wow. Some of the most elegantly composed, original, and just plain engaging, prog metal that I've ever heard. It's difficult to describe, as it combines so many genres, moods, and instruments in such a fluid way. I'm still not sure I've fully digested the entire record, but the fact that even after so many listens I'm interested enough to want to delve deeper into it means it's done its job. I suppose with that in mind I should say that this rating is subject to change, but for now a near 5 is deserving. A 5 may be coming. 4.9
maudlin of the Well Leaving Your Body Map
Darker than its sister album, Bath. Overall, it is a weaker listen, due to some drawn out parts ("Bizarre Flowers / A Violent Mist," "The Curve That to an Angle Turn'D"), but it is still a phenomenal record. The production is fantastic, the interlude tracks are both superb, and Bath's uniquely captivating atmosphere is present here too, albeit in an aforementioned darker form. Also, Driver's vocals are better on this release than on Bath. 4.5
Megadeth Rust in Peace
UPDATE: I've decided to bump this record down by .1. The flaws I discussed in my original soundoff are just too off-putting for me to give Rust in Peace a perfect score. I still highly, highly recommend this release, and I also still think it may be the best thrash metal album ever recorded (it's really close between this and Peace Sells... But Who's Buying?) but, again, its flaws are just too prevalent for me to award it a 5/5. 4.9

Quite possibly the best thrash metal album ever recorded, Rust in Peace is a classic in every sense of the word. It isn't totally flawless ("Dawn Patrol" is a bit underwhelming, and the vocals get slightly irritating on some of the tracks) but its lasting influence, and the sheer quality of the songwriting and performances, warrant a 5/5 rating.
Megadeth Peace Sells... but Who's Buying?
A thrash metal staple and with good reason. Peace Sells... But Who's Buying? features some incredible guitar work and a wealth of fast, technical, well-written songs. It's close to a 5/5 for me, but the production is a bit lacklustre and "I Ain't Superstitious" doesn't gel very well with the rest of the album (though it's a good cover in its own right). "Peace Sells" is one of my favourite songs ever. 4.9
Megadeth Endgame
Megadeth's best since Rust in Peace, and an absolute blast from start to finish. Endgame is superbly paced, has no filler, and contains many of the best songs in the band's discography. The guitar work is out of this world, and the other instruments hold their own as well. A must-hear record. 4.6
Meshuggah Nothing
I have mixed feelings regarding Nothing. On one hand, it's an overlong record that takes a singular concept-- slow distorted chugging polyrhythms-- and drills it into the listener, song after song, with little variation. On the other hand, it does that one concept so well that I can't help but admire it. Ultimately, while I rarely find myself listening to the entire album in sequence, Nothing gets so much right that I can't award it any less than a 4.5. This is not an easy listen, but it's a bold and uncompromising one, and the musicianship, as per usual with Meshuggah, is phenomenal. 4.5
Meshuggah I
I is a one track EP. The song is 21-minutes long. It is one of Meshuggah's best songs. The riffs are superlative throughout, it doesn't get boring (like so many of their songs that are but a quarter of this length), and, best of all, it doesn't pull any punches. A minute-and-a-half guitar and tom build-up tightens the tension like a coil, and once it ends, all Hell breaks loose. Meshuggah's best release-- the short length ensures it can be listened to in full without boredom setting in. 4.5
Metallica Master of Puppets
Miles Davis Kind of Blue
Mr. Bungle Disco Volante
Disco Volante is an extremely difficult album, even going so far as to require outside research to fully understand it (the "Secret Song" at the end of "Carry Stress in the Jaw", "Merry Go Bye Bye"'s noisy ending, "Nothing"). The record is a completely different experience from its self-titled predecessor; where the former was a deranged circus metal extravaganza, this is an avant-garde mindbender. However, with that said, the two albums do share some qualities; namely, in their ingenious melding of numerous, seemingly unrelated genres, and their superb performances. Disco Volante is not an easy listen, but it is a fantastic one. A bold, experimental tour de force. Founding member and saxophonist Theo Lengyel left the band after the release of this record, with Trevor Dunn attributing the parting to the man not growing with the rest of the band, and them running out of things for him to do.
Mr. Bungle Mr. Bungle
Mr. Bungle's debut is a completely off-the-wall record. Perhaps its most impressive aspect is that, despite its incorporation of so many different genres, it remains cohesive. The production, courtesy of none other than John Zorn, is also absolutely phenomenal. Furthermore, the lyrics are twisted brilliance. My major gripe with the record are the sound clips added to the beginning/end of many of the songs: they are awesome, but way too quiet. Having to turn your speakers way up to hear them is an unnecessary nuisance. It's a testament to the strength of the music itself that this problem doesn't come off as a big deal. Mr. Bungle is fantastic. 4.6
Napalm Death Scum
On influence alone, Scum deserves a 5. This is the album that invented grindcore and popularized the blast beat, and without it the metal genre would look very different than it does today. Further testament to Scum's strength is that, despite being nearly twenty years old, its songs don't feel dated. Of course, the production is pretty bad, but that comes with the territory-- this album was recorded for almost nothing-- and, actually, the lo-fi-ness works very well for the vibe of the songs. I do wish the guitars were a tad louder in places, though. But, regardless of complaints, at the end of the day Scum is one of the most influential metal records of all time, and therefore a must-listen album. 4.9
Ne Obliviscaris Portal of I
Neurosis Through Silver in Blood
This is an absolutely devastating album, and I mean that in the best possible way. Through Silver in Blood is heavy as Hell. The atmosphere throughout is impeccable, and the use of electronics and samples are spot on. Every instrument is performed well. The only disappointment for me is the last song, which is kind of a bore. Regardless, this is a must hear record for any music fan. 4.8
Nightwish Oceanborn
Opeth Orchid
Opeth Morningrise
Opeth Blackwater Park
Opeth My Arms, Your Hearse
Opeth Ghost Reveries
Opeth In Live Concert at the Royal Albert Hall
Ornette Coleman The Shape of Jazz to Come
Listening today, The Shape of Jazz to Come is not particularly challenging. At the time of its release, though, it was a revolutionary and controversial record. Coleman broke several of jazz's established 'rules.' The record falls between the rigidity of bebop and the chaos of free jazz. The songs begin with a recitation of a theme, then there is a middle section of improvised soling, and then the theme repeats again. That is the bebop influence. The free jazz influence comes from the record's lack of chordal instruments (there is a bass, cornet, sax, and drumset) and Coleman's use of a plastic saxophone, which gives a shrill sound. The Shape of Jazz to Come also features "Lonely Woman," Coleman's only track that became a jazz standard. Ultimately, The Shape of Jazz to Come is a landmark record. It was instrumental in the creation of free jazz and showed the world that rules, even in jazz, were made to be broken. 4.9
Ornette Coleman The Complete Science Fiction Sessions
Disc one is Coleman's Science Fiction record plus two tracks from Broken Shadows, another record of his which was recorded at the same session as Science Fiction. It also contains two previously unheard alternate takes from Science Fiction (of "Street Woman" and "Civilization Day"). Disc two is the rest of Broken Shadows. Science Fiction is probably one of the best jazz albums of all time, and while Broken Shadows is weaker, you can't go wrong with this release. Both records feature varied jazz music, though within that variation it's all energetic, exciting stuff. 4.5
Outworld Outworld
Paul Wardingham Assimilate Regenerate
From the masterful songwriting and playing, to the atmosphere, to the replayability, to the great production, everything about Assimilate Regenerate is right on the money. Other than a couple of uninteresting spots, this album is extremely solid from beginning to end, and is one of the best records of the year. Check this out: you won't regret it. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to listen to it again. 4.6
Paysage d'Hiver Paysage d'Hiver
It took a few listens for me to appreciate, but this really is a superb black metal record. Yes, it's repetitive, but never boring- there are gorgeous melodies and a fantastically absorbing atmosphere on here that ensure it always stays interesting. 4.5
Pierre Henry Messe Pour Le Temps Présent et Musiques Concrètes
An early example of musique concrete (music designed by extracting the musicality from recorded sounds, rather than inputting the music into a traditional instrument). It's got four sections. The first is a score Henry wrote for a ballet, and consists of traditional rock music overlain with effects (note: "Psyche Rock" was later re-purposed for the Futurama theme). The second section is an intense hodgepodge of electronic effects, clanging, opera vocals, and more. The third is a collection of fairly minimalist, ambient tunes. The last consists of entirely short, sound-driven pieces-- lots of grinding, stuttering atonality. ("Fievre 1" is especially good.) This is a fantastic starting point for people interested in musique concrete, as you get a sampling of the different forms the genre can take; and, furthermore, it is a fascinating listen in its own right. 4.5
Pig Destroyer Terrifyer
Terrifyer is probably my favourite grindcore album ever. The guitar riffs are astounding, the production is absolutely perfect, and best of all, there's real emotion on these songs- you can feel the anger seething in every second of them. The sampling work is fantastic too. The record's only flaw, and the reason it's a 4.5 and not a 5, is that the second half does get a bit draggy. Regardless, Terrifyer is a must-hear record for anyone remotely interested in grindcore, metal... or hell, just emotional, angry music. 4.6
Pink Floyd The Dark Side of the Moon
Porcupine Tree In Absentia
Porcupine Tree Fear of a Blank Planet
Fear of a Blank Planet is a truly outstanding record. It flows incredibly well, is produced brilliantly, and contains a host of phenomenal performances- most notably Gavin Harrison, who gives potentially my favourite drum performance of any record ever. The lyrics are relevant, memorable, and delivered with just the right combination of passion and apathy by Steven Wilson. It's also exactly the right length for the material. Overall, Fear of a Blank Planet is one of the best records of the 2000's and, furthermore, one of my favourite albums of all time.
Praxis Transmutation (Mutatis Mutandis)
Ray Lynch Deep Breakfast
Relaxing and fun computerized new age listen. "The Oh of Pleasure" is absolutely astounding. 4.5
Refused The Shape of Punk to Come
Ambitious, massive, unique, pretentious... all of these words and more describe Refused's landmark record The Shape of Punk to Come. Despite the title, this isn't really a punk record-- it's more post-hardcore, albeit post-hardcore of a very dense, imaginative, experimental variety. (The track that comes closest to punk, "Summerholiday vs. Punkroutine," is actually the weakest on the record.) The songwriting is great, the excursions into techno/jazz and sample work are fantastic, and the production is phenomenal. Not all the songs work (the title track is too long) but overall, this is a superbly creative listen. 4.6
Scale the Summit The Collective
Septicflesh The Great Mass
Shade Empire Omega Arcane
One of the most ambitious albums of 2013, Omega Arcane aspires to be no less than a symphonic death/black metal masterpiece. And, for the most part, it succeeds. The performances of the band are spot-on; the orchestra is integrated extremely well into the music, never overpowering the band itself or getting pushed to the background; and the production is superlative. The record's greatest flaw stems from that aforementioned ambition, however: it's too long. Omega Arcane could stand a 15 minute trim. Another minor issue is that "Devolution," an interlude track, appears too late in the album. It would have been perfect right after the 13-minute epic "Disembodiment." Regardless, I highly recommend Omega Arcane- despite its flaws, it is a high-reaching, and ultimately superb, record. 4.5
Slayer Reign in Blood
Strapping Young Lad Heavy as a Really Heavy Thing
An extremely raw, brutal, and heavy album. The production is a bit rougher than Devin's usual, but still has his trademark layering going on. This is probably the most "industrial" of all the Strapping Young Lad albums, due in large part to the drum production, which gives the album a very mechanical feel at points. The record loses some steam in the latter half but is, for the most part, engaging and interesting all the way through. Even though Devin himself has largely dismissed this album since its release, I think it's an absolutely superb record and definitely worth a listen. 4.8
Sublime Sublime
Sublime's self-titled record succeeds due to three factors: its versatility, its performances, and its energy. The band expertly mix musicianship and accessibility on here, and maintain a consistent flow throughout despite cycling through genres as diverse as punk, hip hop, and reggae. And, while all of the performances are excellent, Brad Nowell deserves special mention: his vocals especially are a big part of why this is such an effective record. The album's only flaw is its containing a few unnecessary tracks (including the reprise of "What I Got"). However, Sublime is nonetheless a hugely influential and highly enjoyable listen. 4.5
Swans The Seer
2012 AOTY -- It reportedly took thirty years to make, but now it is finally here. A massive, monolithic double disc release spanning nearly two hours, Swans' The Seer is anything but an easy listen; songs will repeat the same two note progression for minutes before abruptly turning into avant-garde campfire sing-a-longs or bagpipe solos. Additionally, any form of traditional song structure is pretty much disregarded, with two tracks hovering around twenty minutes and one even topping thirty (!) Indeed, the album feels more like a long trek than anything, and the discordant atmosphere throughout only adds to this sensibility. Some listeners may be turned off by the record's deliberate pace and lengthy repetitious stretches, but these are all part of that aforementioned trek- one that is just as rewarding as it is challenging. The Seer is a masterfully crafted, painstakingly detailed album and the best of the year so far. It may have been thirty years in the making, but it was thirty years well spent. 4.8
Swans To Be Kind
Kindly Bent to Be Kind for the Blind Focus Annihilator of Filth, also known as the Seer of all Still Life in Blackwater Park who crafts the Illusion of Safety while remaining a Jane Doe. The Satanist of Vheissu fears this being, and often seeks Shelter while providing a Great Misdirect in the form of Chinese Democracy. (The being is politically active and its favourite album is American Idiot.) In closing, I'm Not a Fan, but the Kids Like It!

EDIT: I think I like this even more than The Seer. While that album succeeded more atmospherically, this one is more diverse- and in a two-hour plus album, diversity is welcome. "Bring the Sun / Toussaint L'Ouverture" is the only misstep- it's a little overlong. Regardless, To Be Kind is one of the best records of the year. 4.8
System of a Down System of a Down
System of a Down's self-titled record focuses less on accessibility and more on mood than the band's subsequent releases. It is also one of the best metal albums ever recorded, due in large part to that aforementioned mood focus, as well as the phenomenal songwriting and production job, and Serj's vocals. He gives it all he's got here and never holds back, and what results is an eclectic and unforgettable performance. System of a Down is the strongest record in the band's discography, containing almost all of their best songs, and is a must-listen album.
Thanatopsis Axiology
Fantastic jazz fusion release. Something totally different for Buckethead, further proving himself a master of all genres. However, Travis Dickerson and Ramy Antoun deserve equal credit. What incredible playing all around. A couple of tracks ("Vicious Circle", "Gnash") aren't quite as engaging as the others, however Axiology is still a very consistent, and enjoyable, record. 4.5
The Dillinger Escape Plan Calculating Infinity
Calculating Infinity is largely responsible for today's technical metal scene. Upon its release in 1999, metal music with this degree of technicality had never been recorded before. A whole scene was created in response to this record-- and rightfully so, as Calculating Infinity gets a lot right. The songwriting is tight, there is no filler, the tracks sequencing is bang on, the production is very good, and the performances are superb. Menakakis' vocals are mostly yelled, but they are effective due to the passion behind them. Indeed, the passion in all of the performances is what separates this record from most of the records subsequently released in its genre: whereas emotion is often superseded by technicality on those albums, Calculating Infinity balances both. Overall, while a demanding listen, Calculating Infinity is worth the effort. 4.5
The Dillinger Escape Plan One of Us Is the Killer
One of Us Is the Killer sees The Dillinger Escape Plan making a few minor forays into new territory, but for the most part it shows them sticking to their guns. This still results in one of the best records of 2013, though. A really solid record, with some truly pummelling riffs and sections. 4.7
The Moody Blues Days of Future Passed
Thrice The Artist in the Ambulance
Incredibly solid from beginning to end, The Artist in the Ambulance is an energetic, creative, and impeccably performed record. It never drags, never gets boring, and never really lets up, save for brief moments. 4.7
Thrice Vheissu
Vheissu shows Thrice progressing from The Artist in the Ambulance and in the process releasing their best album. It is more experimental and more varied than anything in their discography thusfar, yet retains the remarkable consistency which has become a trademark of their records. Add fantastic production and performances, including Dustin Kensrue's best vocals yet, and Vheissu becomes a near perfect record. A must-hear album. 4.8
Thrice The Alchemy Index Vols. I & II
The first part of Thrice's ambitious series of concept records. The band released 4 EPs, each themed after one of the four elements (fire, water, earth, and air), and then released two full lengths with two EPs on each. This one contains the fire and water EPs and, while the disc has flaws, it hits A LOT more than it misses. The fire half is heavy and aggressive, whereas the water half is almost exclusively calm, with lots of electronic drumming and ambient sound effects. In my view, the band treats the elements a little too simplistically-- more variation within the theme would have been nice. However, the songs are still mostly enjoyable, with "The Flame Deluge", "The Arsonist," "The Whaler," and the instrumental "Night Diving" being among my personal favourites. Volumes I and II of The Alchemy Index are fantastic, enjoyable listens and testaments to Thrice's admirable ambition. 4.6
Thrice The Alchemy Index Vols. III & IV
The air and earth discs see Thrice continue their experimentation from the fire and water discs. The air disc is full of lush, airy soundscapes, glockenspiels and synths. It also contains "Daedalus" and the absolutely gorgeous (but too short) "Silver Wings," which are both amazing. The Earth disc is the biggest departure for Thrice from their traditional sound, and sees them utilizing acoustic instruments and jazzy melodies ("Digging My Own Grave," "The Lion and the Wolf"). Overall, The Alchemy Index is a wildly successful endeavor. 4.6
Thrice Major/Minor
Fantastic album. Cohesive without being repetitive, performed exceptionally well, produced excellently. "Promises," "Call It in the Air," "Blur," and "Anthology" are my favourite tracks. There are a couple of songs which are a bit below the level of the others, but they aren't bad by any means. Sophisticated, cerebral garage rock. 4.6
Trophy Scars Holy Vacants
I would not call Holy Vacants a perfect record. Due to their loose structures, a lot of the songs run together, like melted ice cream- it's still delicious, but it's hard to eat and better if it's solid. The drums are a bit loud in the mix as well. However, the uniqueness of the band's sound and fantastic musicianship are huge pluses, and I love the strings and other extra instrumentation. Overall, Holy Vacants is a superb record, but not a perfect one. 4.5
Ulver Blood Inside
I absolutely love this album. The sample use is ingenious, Garm's vocals are outstanding, the production is spot on, and the atmosphere is engrossing. Also, it's really, really catchy in spots, which is a remarkable achievement considering the extensive layering and unorthodox melodies used. 4.9
Ulver Shadows of the Sun
A beautifully minimalist release from Ulver. "Eos" and "All the Love" are two of my favourite songs of all time. Gorgeous production, excellent vocals from Garm, and even the Black Sabbath cover works. The last two tracks could have used a bit more oomph, but otherwise, this release is absolutely fantastic. 4.5
Ulver Messe I.X-VI.X
"Glamour box (ostinati)" is absolutely amazing. The rest of the album is strong as well; very dark and atmospheric. If you liked Shadows of the Sun and Wars of the Roses you'll like this too: it's stronger than the latter, and at least on par with the former. My one complaint is that I wish Garm had more vocals throughout, as he only appears on a couple of the tracks here. However, regardless this is still an incredible album, and one of the best of the year. 4.6
William Shatner Has Been
Let me tell you why Has Been is one of the best albums of the decade. Brilliant arrangements that perfectly capitalize on Shatner's grandiose vocal style, a huge amount of variety that ensures the record never gets boring, a perfect balance of self-deprecating humour (the title track, "I Can't Get Behind That") and honest emotion ("That's Me Trying," "What Have You Done"), and the obvious emotion that went into the project. This record means something to Shatner, and in turn, it means something for listeners, too. The guest performances (Joe Jackson, Henry Rollins, etc.) are great as well. Has Been is a phenomenal album. 4.9
Windir 1184
1184 is a fantastic album. It is best described as black metal with elements of power and progressive metal. The production is clear, contrary to most black metal, and the songs are never repetitive, also contrary to most black metal. The vocals are strong and piercing and the songwriting is excellent ("Dance of Mortal Lust," "Journey to the End"). Unfortunately, this was Windir's penultimate album. The band dissolved after frontman Valfar's tragic but extremely black metal death: he died from hypothermia while walking through a snowstorm in a forest. 4.5
Yellowcard Southern Air
those two soundoffs are the same stop cheating >: (

4.0 excellent
Absu Abzu
Alcest Les Voyages de l'Âme
An Endless Sporadic Ameliorate
Ameliorate is the debut EP of that band everyone loved in Guitar Hero III, and thankfully "Impulse" isn't the only great song here. All four of these songs are engaging and entertaining genre-jumping romps. Granted, the production's not very good, but the songwriting is. It's short-- this is an EP, remember-- but there is more creativity in this 17 minutes than many bands have on their full lengths. 4.0
Anathema We're Here Because We're Here
One of Anathema's best records, and worth the seven year wait, though the second half (aside from the incredible climax to "Universal") is not as strong as the first. "Angels Walk Among Us" is one of the most heartbreaking songs I've ever heard. 4.1
And So I Watch You From Afar Gangs
Anthrax Worship Music
Arsonists Get All the Girls Motherland
At the Gates Slaughter of the Soul
August Burns Red Sleddin' Hill
A regular record in my Christmas rotation. "Carol of the Bells," "Oh Holy Night," "Sleigh Ride" and "O Come O Come Emmanuel" are especially fantastic. My issue with the album is the drum production: it is way too triggered, and the loud snare drum severely detracts from the quieter portions of the record, when it is utilized during them. However, despite that, the album is a total blast. 4.3
Authority Zero A Passage In Time
Authority Zero is one of the most underrated punk bands ever, and this album is proof of that. A fantastic fusion of punk rock, ska, and Spanish-music, A Passage in Time is simply a superbly enjoyable listen. Energy exudes off this record, and that's part of what makes it so engaging. Highlights include the title track, punk rocker "Everyday," the short but sweet "La Surf," "Over Seasons," and the longest track on the album "One More Minute;" how this song wasn't a huge hit is beyond me. Highly recommended. 4.2
Authority Zero Rhythm and Booze
I love this record. Really fun live acoustic album containing most of my favourite songs by the band. The compositions are brimming with energy and most of the tracks work really well acoustically. Some funny on-stage banter only adds to the experience. Highly recommended for Authority Zero fans. 4.3
Behemoth Demigod
Behemoth The Satanist
UPDATE: I just realized this was my 666th rating. That's amazing.

An excellent record, The Satanist shows that Behemoth have not slowed down despite their nearly five year hiatus. They are just as heavy, fast, and aggressive as ever, as songs like "Messe Noire," "Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer," and the title track demonstrate, and the songwriting is fantastic throughout the record. This great songwriting is emphasized by equally great performances, especially from Nergal, who is in better vocal form here than I've ever heard him. My only complaint is that some of the tracks run together a bit- more experimentation, like the guitar solo on the aforementioned "Messe Noire" and the ambient/soft parts on the ironically titled "In the Absence ov Light," would be welcome and help this issue. Regardless though, The Satanist is a stellar record and well worth checking out. 4.2
Between the Buried and Me Between the Buried and Me
So Between the Buried and Me's self-titled debut is a little rough around the edges, to be sure. But it also happens to be one of my favourite records by the band; and, indeed, I find myself returning to it more than any of their other material. In particular, the opening and closing tracks, which are two of their best songs ever. Sure, some songs drag ("What We Have Become," "Fire for a Dry Mouth") and "Use of a Weapon" is pretty much a total dud, but the raw talent on display is astounding, and there's none of the pretension or wankery here that plagues some of their later releases. Plus, I like the growls a lot on this one. 4.4
Between the Buried and Me Alaska
The problem with Alaska is the metal parts: they all blur together. Thus, the entire record flies by in one big blend of hyperspeed riffage, separated only by occasional breaks into slower material that I wish were more frequent and expounded upon. I also wish Tommy Rogers used more clean vocals-- that would certainly help render the metal sections more distinctive. Nonetheless, there are some awesome tracks here: "Selkies: The Endless Obsession" (perhaps the best song in the band's catalogue), the title track, and "Backwards Marathon"-- and there are other great parts scattered throughout the other songs too. If BTBAM savoured their riffs more instead of doubting the listener's patience and cycling through an incredible number too quickly, rendering each nearly impossible to appreciate, this would be a better record. But it is still an excellent one. 4.1
Between the Buried and Me Colors
The best BTBAM album. The metal parts are (more often than not) distinctive, solving a problem from past releases. The track ordering is fantastic- this one-song album is pulled off superbly. The bevy of additional genres thrown in add humour and diversity to the proceedings. The production is great too. Structurally though, the longer songs feel too much like cut-and-paste riff jobs rather than calculated tracks- and while the majority of those riffs are great, their potential is wasted at times due to their not being utilized to their full advantage. Also, Tommy should sing more. His growling gets monotonous after a while. More than anything though, Colors is a really fun album to listen to, and is commendable for both its ambition and its balls-to-the-wall approach. 4.4
Blink-182 Blink-182
Borknagar Borknagar
Born of Osiris The Discovery
Sure, it's a bit too long, and sure, it may not come together exactly as it should, but The Discovery is nonetheless an excellent record. It has a great sense of ambition that I really appreciate- it aspires to be more than your typical deathcore record, and succeeds more often than not. Furthermore, the performances are excellent across the board, the production is really good, and there are tons of awesome moments. The ambient tracks are fantastic too. 4.1
Brand New Deja Entendu
I didn't much care for this record when I first heard it- apart from a couple of tracks- but after a second run-through I liked it more. Deja Entendu retains some of the pop-punk sensibilities of Your Favourite Weapon while simultaneously being more broody, mature, and sophisticated. It can get a little too downtrodden at times ("Me vs. Maradona vs. Elvis") but all in all, this is a fantastic record. 4.2
Brand New Your Favorite Weapon
A really good pop-punk record, with some cool little flairs and more intricacies than typically seen in the genre. It runs together a little, but does have some stand-out tracks ("Jude Law and a Semester Abroad," the ridiculously catchy "Mix Tape," "The No Seatbelt Song," "Seventy Times 7," fantastic closer "Soco Amaretto Lime"). Most importantly, though, the whole thing is really, really relatable, thanks to the fantastic lyrics throughout. Anyone who is, or has been, a teenager should find at least a few tracks on here that strike a chord with them. 4.0
Brand New Daisy
Daisy is absolutely fantastic. It is a messy, noisy listen with perfectly tuned production and a keen sense of atmosphere. What lets it down are some poor lyrics and a comparatively weak second half. Daisy gets so much right, though, that it can hardly be considered a disappointment. It also shows Brand New progressing, and it is admirable that the band continues to evolve their sound with each release. 4.4
Breaking Wheel Breaking Wheel
Buckethead Giant Robot
Buckethead Inbred Mountain
Despite an overlong closer and second track, Inbred Mountain is one of Buckethead's better records. The album has a couple of superb songs, which are among the best in Big B's massive discography ("Flock of Slunks," opener "In Search of Inbred Mountain"), the soloing is fantastic throughout (the aforementioned "Flock of Slunks," "Plastination Station"), and it manages to create a unique atmosphere. Also of note: "Lotus Island" is an overrated but not unpleasant rock number, and "Advance to the Summit" is a bizarre genre mish-mash track (including some vocals!) that is actually really cool. 4.0
Buckethead Kaleidoscalp
Just a total blast of a record. I love the circuit bending, and there are a ton of fantastic riffs throughout the album that are... well... fantastic. Phenomenal production as well. Granted, "The Sticker on Hallucinogens" is one of Buckethead's worst songs, but it's under two minutes long, and when the rest of the album is as excellent as it is, its presence results in no more than a minor blemish. The record's other flaw is that some of the songs get lost in the shuffle ("Breakfast Cyborg," 'Rack Maintenance") but the whole album is so creative and unique that, again, this flaw can be forgiven somewhat. 4.2
Buckethead Monsters & Robots
Buckethead Decoding the Tomb of Bansheebot
One of Buckethead's more solid outings. Nothing new here-- it's all the traditional Buckethead brand of experimental rock/metal-- but the compositions are solid ("Ghost Host," "I Can Only Carry 50 Chickens at a Time," "Stretching Lighthouse"). There are less solos than usual, but there are plenty of lightning fast riffs and when Big B does break into a solo it's inevitably excellent. Overall, though it meanders sometimes ("Hall of Scalding Vats"), Decoding the Tomb of Bansheebot is one of Buckethead's stronger albums. 4.0
Buckethead In Search Of The - Volume 2: 'N'
Buckethead In Search Of The - Volume 3: 'S'
Buckethead In Search Of The - Volume 5: 'A'
Buckethead It's Alive
Buckethead The Shores of Molokai
This is a fantastic album, and Buckethead's best since It's Alive. The riffs on here are jaw-droppingly good, and the electronic drumbeats- when utilized- add a lot of personality to the ordeal. I didn't care for some of the blatant Dubstep-influenced stuff ("Smile Without a Face") and the album felt a little bit short overall, but it's still an excellent slab with a lot of killer moments, great flow, and no filler at all. Highly recommended. 4.3
Buckethead Hold Me Forever (In memory of my mom)
Overall, a fantastic pike that manages to transmit a feeling of grief despite the rather upbeat and energetic nature of the composition(s) (this is six songs that connect to make one). The last half is essentially one long guitar solo, and Buckethead really goes all out; and while the thirteen minute long shredfest does a get a bit tiresome after a while, it is nonetheless impressive. Hold Me Forever is an excellent release. 4.0
Burial Untrue
Burzum Det Som Engang Var
Burzum Filosofem
Chelsea Wolfe Apokalypsis
Dark ethereal soundscapes with lots of effects. Variety-- "Demons" is essentially a rock song, where "The Wasteland" is haunting electronic ambience and "Moses" is a heartwrenching ballad. The length is just right for the material. Excellent. 4.3
Chelsea Wolfe Pain Is Beauty
A very, very interesting record. Chelsea Wolfe has a fantastic voice; I love the emotion she puts into every word on here. I also really like the dark atmosphere on the compositions, and though some of the songs are a bit overlong and repetitive, more often than not they work really well. Definitely worth checking out. 4.0
Clown Core Clown Core
One of the most oddly compelling albums I've ever heard. It's absolutely hilarious, and musically these guys are obviously very talented. All in all, this is a really fun listen. I just wish it was longer. 4.1
Coheed and Cambria In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3
Colin Stetson and Sarah Neufeld Never Were The Way She Was
Excellent modern classical with post-rock influence. Stetson isn't as prominent as his solo records (which is expected due to this being a collaborative effort) but rather his playing weaves into the dreamy, soaring fabric. I wasn't familiar with Neufeld before this, but she is fantastic too. Beautiful melodies are repeated but never to the point of boredom, and the songs are organic, reminiscent of birds in flight. The title track is weak and the record ends too suddenly, but overall Never Were the Way She Was is exceptional. "The sun roars into view" is one of the best songs of the year. 4.4
Converge Axe to Fall
Converge All We Love We Leave Behind
Cop Shoot Cop Ask Questions Later
Unique industrial record. Some tracks are too long and repetitive ("Furnace") but on the whole, it works quite well. 4.0
Darkspace Dark Space I
An album this dense and detailed would be tiring at half the length, and therein lies Dark Space I's biggest problem: it's too long for its own good. However, the atmosphere is really, really excellent (very dark and cold), the ambient passages are great, and the sample work is cool too. All in all, this is an excellent black metal record, marred only by an excessive runtime. 4.0
Deafheaven Roads to Judah
Deafheaven Sunbather
Black metal has been available in Living Colour for years, I dunno what Shane is talking about.rBut as for my real soundoff... what a superb record. Some of the most colourful black metal I've ever heard, if that even makes sense. Great flow, and excellent instrumental and vocal work all the way through. My only gripe with the album is that "Vertigo" is a little too long, but that is a really minor complaint. All in all this is one of, if not the, best record of the year (so far), and you should check it out immediately. 4.4
Death Grips The Powers That B - Part I: Niggas on the Moon
I'm not sure what to make of this record- and I think that's exactly what Death Grips intended when creating it. I have admiration for the increasingly experimental direction the band is heading in, but at the same time prefer the Exmilitary and The Money Store-era to it. Some of these tracks lack anything that really grabs me. MC Ride is great here, though. And the production is excellent. And some of the tracks ("Have a Sad Cum," 'Fuck Me Out") are incredibly interesting. I have in the past praised Death Grips for never releasing the same record twice, and the trend continues here. Regardless of your opinion of their output, that trait alone is extremely admirable. 4.4
Dethklok The Dethalbum
Diamanda Galas The Singer
Probably the best place for those unfamiliar with Diamanda to start. The Singer sees her reinterpreting classic blues songs on piano and vocals with mostly successful results. The record is extremely dark. Her versions of "Gloomy Sunday," "I Put a Spell on You," "Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?," and "Reap What You Sow" are particularly deathly and effective. Along with The Sporting Life (her collaboration with John Paul Jones), The Singer is the most straightforward of Diamanda's records-- that doesn't mean it's straightforward, though. 4.0
Dog Fashion Disco Ad Nauseam
DFD's most focused record. There are no country songs or elevator music interludes or string-backed avant-garde spoken word pieces here; rather, every song falls pretty neatly into the rock/metal category, albeit with a distinctly dark atmosphere and Todd Smith's Patton-esque vocals. "Last Night Never Happened," "Golden Mirage," and "Starving Artist" are the highlights, but there isn't a weak song in the bunch. While I miss the eclecticism that characterized the band's previous works, Ad Nauseum is ultimately a great record-- if narrower in scope than DFD's other albums. 4.0
Don Salsa Koolaide Moustache in Jonestown
Don Salsa was the first band of future Estradasphere members Jason Schimmel and Tim Smolens. They only released one album, Koolaide Moustache in Jonestown, a post-modern smorgasbord of genre-defying music with song lengths ranging from thirty-one minutes to four seconds. The album is obscure. Only one pressing was ever made. Luckily though, it can now be heard in full online. Reportedly, some consider it 'the most extreme album ever made.' I'm not sure I would go that far, but indeed, these rapid, mind-twisting pieces certainly constitute extremity. Think an even more eclectic Naked City or Mr. Bungle. On the record you will hear jazz, metal, opera, noise, waltz, funk, video game music... and I'm only talking about track six. Koolaide Moustache in Jonestown might be too multifarious for its own good (the songs can, paradoxically, lose listener attention by being overly sporadic) but the startling level of creativity, ambition, and talent on it is undeniable. DISCLAIMER: this rating is subject to change with further listens. 4.3
Drudkh Eternal Turn of the Wheel
This is pretty much as mainstream as black metal can get, but I love the atmosphere here, and the vocals are a nice change from the usual wailing associated with the genre. The record is also nice and short, not overstaying its welcome. Eternal Turn of the Wheel is overall a little safe for my tastes, but not unenjoyable. 4.0
Earth Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light I
Edge of Sanity Crimson II
Like most sequels, Crimson II is inferior to the original. However it is still an excellent release. Indeed, I would even go so far as to call it my second favourite album from the band- though calling Edge of Sanity a band at this point is incorrect, as Dan Swano is the only one who did anything on this record apart from vocal and guitar guest spots. Crimson II is more synth-driven than its predecessor and features longer stretches of full out death metal which, unfortunately, grow stale in spots. With that said though there are plenty of excellent riffs and sections and some motifs from the original Crimson are re-purposed brilliantly, and it is these parts which make Crimson II an excellent album, if not a classic like the original. 4.1
Emperor In the Nightside Eclipse
Enslaved Frost
Erik Friedlander Volac: Book of Angels Volume 8
Erik Friedlander is a one man band on this, the eighth volume of John Zorn's Book of Angels series. More aggressive solo cello pieces are alternated with softer ones from track-to-track on here, and Friedlander is equally adept at both. I love how you can hear his breathing in the background of some of the songs. It drags slightly at points, but overall Volac is a fantastic record filled with wonderful performances of Zorn's compositions. 4.4
Estradasphere Buck Fever
This album covers nearly every genre on the planet, from jazz to death metal to video game music (and everything in between). Its only fault is that it's a bit overlong, but for the most part this an extremely interesting and enjoyable release. Not a flawless record, but a very unique one which I recommend you check out. 4.2
Every Time I Die Ex Lives
Exotic Animal Petting Zoo Tree of Tongues
Explosions in the Sky How Strange, Innocence
Fantomas The Director's Cut
Fantomas Suspended Animation
Bizarre- and I mean that in the best possible way. This is a record of what can perhaps be best called 'audio sketches,' but really any description I could write wouldn't do it justice. I recommend listening to this and making sense of it yourself. (Yes, I'm aware this is a cop out thing for a reviewer to say, but eh.) 4.1
Fightstar One Day Son This Will All Be Yours
There are some really superlative tracks on here ("We Apologise for Nothing," "Floods," "Deathcar") and a lot of excellent instrumentation (particularly the drums and vocals). However, the record is pretty top-heavy, and the production is too muddy, resulting in a lot of details being harder to hear than they should be. Despite these minor issues, though, this is an excellent record which I recommend to anyone. 4.0
Frank Sinatra Frank Sinatra Christmas Collection
You can't go wrong with this. Frank Sinatra sings these Christmas tunes so well. Especially noticeable here is his astounding enunciation- you can hear every word he's saying. The two duets with Bing Crosby ("Go Tell It on the Mountain" and "White Christmas") are also fantastic. A couple of the tracks ("I Wouldn't Trade Christmas," "The Twelve Days of Christmas") don't work as well as the rest, but are still fun. Recorded at various periods between 1957 an 1991. 4.0
Frank Zappa Apostrophe
Frank Zappa's most commercially successful record. The first three tracks are humorous and tell a story, and are backed by some good music too. From then on the record gets more serious (until the closer). I can't tell if this is a concept record or not. I can tell it's a very enjoyable listen, though. Not too long, a nice mix of sounds and moods, and good production. It's silly, but in a way that's refreshing. 4.1
Funeral for a Friend Welcome Home Armageddon
Gaza No Absolutes in Human Suffering
Mixture of metalcore and sludge metal that is a lot better than that combination would imply. Fantastic production, and relentless heaviness. Some interesting songwriting, too (the sudden outro in "When They Beg"). It runs together towards the end, and the title track is a letdown, but overall, if you're looking for a heavy fix, No Absolutes in Human Suffering is a solid choice. 4.0
Ghost (SWE) Infestissumam
Well-performed and produced retro satanic metal record with modern twists. The last two tracks are the album's weakest, but everything else is very good. I really dig the raw snare sound. Infestissumam is a catchy, fun listen and can be considered mostly successful. 4.0
Ghost (SWE) Meliora
As someone who loved Infestissumam, I am pleased to report that Meliora is every bit as good. It contains some of Ghost's best songs ever ("From the Pinnacle to the Pit," "Cirice") and excellent production and performances. Ghost have proven with this record that their unique take on heavy metal has staying power. 4.3
Godspeed You! Black Emperor Slow Riot For New Zero Kanada
Godspeed You! Black Emperor Yanqui U.X.O.
The weakest GY!BE record. On this one, the band eschewed samples, creating a purely instrumental work that, while often gorgeous and produced wonderfully, lacks the atmosphere of F# and Lift Your Skinny Fists. It's not that the record goes on too long, exactly, but that the lack of samples, or other additional instrumentation, causes it to feel empty at points. The climaxes aren't as satisfying, either. Overall, I suppose it's a feeling of "I've heard this before" that permeates Yanqui U.X.O. and leaves it less engaging than the band's previous works. This is barring closer "Motherfucker=Redeemer (Part 2)," though. That song is the closest GY!BE have ever come to traditional song structure, and it is also one of the best songs in their catalogue. An engrossing, atmospheric, intense ten minutes with a perfect ending. 4.1
Guns N' Roses Chinese Democracy
Chinese Democracy is a great record. Buckethead's playing is incredible ("Better," "Riad N' the Bedouins"), Axl's vocals are unique and engaging and his high notes are remarkable ("I.R.S."), and songs like "Shackler's Revenge," "Sorry," and the aforementioned "Riad N' the Bedouins" are fantastic. It may not have lived up to the impossible expectations constructed from its ten year production term, but Chinese Democracy is nonetheless a worthwhile listen. The truly exceptional guitar work is the star of the album. 4.0
Haken The Mountain
Ross Jennings gives what may possibly be the best vocal performance of 2013 on The Mountain, and the other instruments are all exceptionally well-performed as well (some of those guitar solos are insane). There is a lot of fantastic material on this record- too many great parts to count. However, some of the lengthier songs are just too much so, and lose me in the winding structure and arrangements. Furthermore, the uneven atmosphere is a bit distressing. 4.2
Helloween Keeper of the Seven Keys Part I
One of my favourite power metal albums ever. Some of the lyrics are pretty bad ("Future World") and certain sections are a little too cheesy for me, but on the whole this is excellent. The record is paced well, there is great instrumental and vocal work throughout, and the production, while a bit rough around the edges, works well for the sound. Special mention to "A Little Time" and "Halloween" - both superlative tracks, with the latter being possibly my favourite power metal song of all time. 4.3
Ikue Mori Hex Kitchen
Ikue Mori creates some intriguing avantgarde music by utilizing samples and drum loops and creating fragmentary beats and melodies that vary from relaxed to chaotic. Most impressively is the way she harnesses this technique to create listenable songs. Indeed, Hex Kitchen is actually relatively accessible. Vocals appear periodically through the record, their simplicity juxtaposing nicely with the instrumentals. John Zorn was the executive producer of this record, and also played clarinet on it. 4.4
Infectious Organisms Human Experience
Isis Panopticon
James Horner Commando
Totally over-the-top, but what else would work for Commando? Steel drums, layers and layers of instruments, big snares, reverb, horn blasts-- it's all here. The music itself is really good too, though. The distinctive melody in the intro and outro tracks is one of my favourite melodies of all time. Don't come here for subtlety, come here for unabashed machismo and bold '80s style. 4.3
Janelle Monae The ArchAndroid
Jesse Cook The Rumba Foundation
Jimmy Eat World Clarity
A huge step up from Static Prevails. Clarity is a wonderfully constructed record, varietous enough to hold attention but maintaining a consistent theme and flow. The production is fantastic. The strings are integrated excellently. The performances are great (particularly Jim Adkins, who has taken over all of the lead vocal duties [besides the up tempo "Blister"]). The record isn't all excellent-- "Goodbye Sky Harbor" goes on for way too long, "Crush" doesn't do much for me, and "Lucky Denver Mint" is mostly uninteresting-- but Clarity is nonetheless a masterful work, which I highly recommend. 4.4
John Zorn The Crucible
Of the Moonchild records that I've heard so far, this one seems the most overtly eclectic. "9x9" is a Led Zeppelin inspired off-kilter rock track; the only way to tell it is a Moonchild song is Mike Patton's incredible, discordant screaming. "Almadel," the album opener, sounds like a Moonchild take on Masada, and features some interesting harmonized saxophone and vocal melodies. And then there are, of course, the jazzy grindcore tracks, like "Shapeshifting" and "Hobgoblin," which are just as heavy as ever. Overall, The Crucible is a slightly uneven, but nonetheless enjoyable, trip into the mad world of Moonchild. 4.0
John Zorn Templars-In Sacred Blood
The sixth album from John Zorn's "Moonchild" project. This one features Mike Patton, John Medeski, Trevor Dunn, and Joey Baron. The record is about the Knights Templar, an enigmatic warrior cult established in 1128 and excommunicated in 1312 for heresy. While I can't explain how specifically the songs relate to this theme, I can tell you that this album is a total blast from start to finish- provided you are a fan of experimental work. Full of tempo and genre switches, and Mike Patton's nearly inhuman vocals, Templars: In Sacred Blood is a consistently enjoyable record that keeps you guessing at every turn. 4.4
John Zorn Rimbaud
Four diverse tracks, each a sonic representation of a different work by 19th century French poet Arthur Rimbaud. "Illuminations" is an interesting (if overlong) track: the piano part is fully notated, whereas the rhythm section is improvised. "Conneries" is one of Zorn's infamous file card pieces-- it features the French actor/director Mathieu Almaric yelling/speaking Rimbaud's words over Zorn's eclectic instrumentation. "A Season in Hell" is a noise track, and "Bateau ivre" is a fascinating, endlessly shifting modern classical piece. Overall, Rimbaud is excellent. 4.0
John Zorn Filmworks XIII: Invitation to a Suicide
I never like rating soundtracks without having seen the film they are written for first-- after all, the purpose of this music is to supplement the film. I have not seen 'Invitation to a Suicide,' the film this music was written for. However, I will thus rate this soundtrack as a collection of music alone; and, taken as such, it is very good. Most of the songs here are based around a single theme (as per most soundtracks) but the theme is sufficiently elastic as to adhere well to the multiple stylistic changes it endures. The last song is totally unexpected (a minute-and-a-half noise rock number) but it's John Zorn... what did you expect? Though some of the material doesn't engage, Filmworks XIII is a great record, and as my introduction to Zorn's Filmworks series, it has proved more than satisfactory. 4.0
John Zorn Music for Children
Music for Children is the perfect title for this, a collection of songs that, bar the first and last ones, embody children's music in virtually no way whatsoever. There are three genre-mashing Naked City outtake tracks, performed admirably by the Bostonian band Prelapse; an atonal, 14-minute long chamber music piece; a jazzy Western-esque number; and a 20-minute long, crushingly heavy dark ambient piece with a wind machine. Why is Music for Children the perfect title, then? Because it perfectly embodies the spontaneity of youth-- jumping from one thing to the next without inhibition. Overall, this is a fantastically entertaining record (though "Cycles du nord," the aforementioned dark ambient piece, is too long, and begins with an annoying buzzing sound in the background that I absolutely hate). 4.0
John Zorn Filmworks: 1986-1990
The first of John Zorn's Filmworks series contains four distinct sections. Section one, tracks 1-6, is the soundtrack to Rob Schwebber's short film "White and Lazy." It is my favourite of the bunch, with the tracks variating between ambient, country, and jazz. Section two, tracks 7-17, is the soundtrack to Raul Ruiz's 1990 film "The Golden Boat." To mirror the film's low budget, Zorn recorded all of the music for the soundtrack in one day, then edited the results. Section three is track 18, which is a rendition of Morricone's "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" theme that Zorn was contracted to write for a Camel cigarette advertising campaign. Section four is tracks 19-32 and is the soundtrack to Sheila McLaughlin's 1986 film "She Must Be Seeing Things." There is a lot of great music on this CD, and it is enjoyable whether or not you have seen the works for which they were written (which you probably haven't). 4.0
Katatonia Brave Murder Day
It doesn't always hold my attention, but the atmosphere is very absorbing and the melodies are excellent. 4.1
Katatonia The Great Cold Distance
The Great Cold Distance is a solid record with fantastic production. It's not grand enough in scope to get a higher rating, but it tackles one sound-- dark, depressive progressive/alternative rock-- very well. Some more risk taking and sonic diversity would be welcome. 4.3
Katatonia Dead End Kings
Kendrick Lamar To Pimp a Butterfly
Everyone knows I'm not much of a hip-hop guy, but To Pimp a Butterfly received so much praise that I had to get it. And I'm glad I did, because this a fantastic record on a number of levels: variety, production, lyrics, imagination, ambition, flow. "For Free? (Interlude)" and "The Blacker the Berry" are two of my favourite songs of the year. If I was more into hip-hop as a genre this would get a higher score from me; as it stands, I get the album, but don't entirely feel it. 4.3
Koby Israelite Orobas: Book of Angels Vol. 4
Certainly the most diverse of the Book of Angels so far. Orobas mixes jazz, klezmer, metal, and about ten other genres. Koby Israelite is an insanely impressive musician. He plays eight instruments on here, including guitar, drums, accordian, flute, and bass. It doesn't come together as the best genre-hopping records do, but Orobas is a really fun listen. 4.0
Light Bearer Lapsus
Lo-Pan Salvador
Lovage Music To Make Love To Your Old Lady By
I love this record. Fantastic production, consistent flow, and Patton and Charles' vocals are both phenomenal. Charles is so good, in fact, that she almost steals the show. "Sex (I'm A)" and "Strangers on a Train" prominently feature her seductive, mellifluous voice, and man, are they ever good. Patton likewise shines on "Anger Management." My one complaint are the interludes-- they don't add much. Nonetheless, Music to Make Love to Your Old Lady By is an atmospheric, engaging listen. 4.4
Mariam the Believer Blood Donation
An astounding and unique record. Blood Donation is almost Bjork-esque, and is made up of dark, avant-garde 'pop' songs. Mariam's voice is incredible and she pulls off everything she goes for, and the other instrumentation is excellent as well. Hole Patterns is too short, though, and a couple of the other tracks don't stack up against the rest. Still, this is a superb record and one of the best of the year. Check it out. 4.3
Mark Feldman & Sylvie Courvoisier Malphas: Book of Angels Volume 3
Book of Angels Volume 3 features eleven violin and piano duets. It is the strongest Book of Angels so far. The performances are fantastic, the production is impeccable, and there is a good mix between melodious and chaotic material. Some of the longer tracks lose a little steam, but this is an excellent record with some truly great material (opener "Azriel," "Rigal," "Sammael"). 4.2
Masada String Trio Haborym: Book of Angels Volume 16
This is the Masada String Trio's second entry in the Book of Angels series, and it is another excellent addition to it. Indeed, it is a stronger record than Azazel, their first entry-- in particular, "Tycharaga," "Bat Qol," and "Raamiel" are some of the trio's finest songs. And those swelling strings in the middle of "Gamrial" are so fantastic. There's not much more to say about Haborym-- if you liked Azazel, or really any of the other Books of Angels, you'll like this one too. 4.0
Mastodon Blood Mountain
Blood Mountain is mostly effective. Once again, where Mastodon succeed is in capturing their desired atmosphere- whereas on Leviathan that was water, here it is earth, and the thick sludgy riffs, dry production, and progressive songwriting style all evoke the feeling of traversing a massive mountain. The performances are excellent, including some well-handled guest spots. Overall though, this is a weaker record than Leviathan, due to some rather unexciting tracks (mostly clustered in the second half of the record), and the ridiculously long silent gap on "Pendulous Skin," which hurts replayability. 4.0
Mastodon Crack the Skye
Max Roach We Insist! – Freedom Now
Max Roach's Freedom Now Suite is a commentary on black civil rights; indeed, the civil rights movement was coming to a head in 1960, and this record functions as one of the most effective artistic statements concerning this issue. The album cover depicts a civil rights meeting, which had become common by this time. The record does a phenomenal job of embodying its concept: "Driva' Man" ingeniously utilizes a 5/4 time signature with a hit on the first beat to imitate a whip cracking, the Protest section of "Triptych" features screaming overtop a drum solo to depict anger, etc. The only flaw here is "Out of Africa"-- it goes on far too long. 4.4
Medeski, Martin and Wood Zaebos: The Book of Angels, Vol. 11
"Zagzagel" is a loud, noisy battering ram of an opener. My biggest problem with Zaebos is that it never reaches that level of intensity again. It's still an excellent record, though. The band's interpretations of Zorn's arrangements are creative and diverse ("Asaliah," "Vianuel") and the performances are fantastic ("Ahaij"). Overall, Zaebos is another excellent addition to the Book of Angels series. 4.0
Meshuggah Destroy Erase Improve
Destroy Erase Improve is often regarded as both the first 'true' Meshuggah album and Meshuggah's defining record. This is because, while the thrash metal of Contradictions Collapse is still present, it is blended with the djent-style the band created and is known for today. Really, Destroy Erase Improve is a transitional album. It's not as cold and mechanical as its follow-up, Chaosphere, but it is certainly moreso than its predecessor. From front-to-back, it is also Meshuggah's most consistently enjoyable record. Unlike later releases, where the constant chugging blurs together after a while, Destroy Erase Improve manages to hold listener attention for most of its duration (tracks eight and nine are the exceptions). Conceptually, it is strong as well. The title refers to the band breaking down their sound and redefining themselves. There's even some dark humour in the "Acrid Placidity" song title-- it being the only clean track on the record. Overall, Destroy Erase Improve is a landmark metal record. 4.4
Meshuggah Chaosphere
"Corridor of Chameleons" and "Sane" both use the same fake fade out trick, "New Millennium Cyanide Christ" ends on a long fadeout, and the end of "Elastic" is just noise and then all the songs from the album played overtop of each other for the last fourteen minutes. Coupled with album's already short running time, those facts lead Chaosphere to feeling a little lazy. Still, there are some fantastic tracks ("Concatenation," "The Mouth Licking What You've Bled") and the band is as technically impressive as ever. Plus, the mechanical, soul-crushing atmosphere is effective. 4.2
Mike Patton Mondo Cane
Classic Italian pop covers with Mike Patton on vocals, backed by an orchestra. It's pretty much as epic as that sounds. The version of "Urlo Negro" on here is inferior to many live versions, but besides that there's not much to complain about. A blast to listen to, and one of my favourite records of 2010. 4.4
Morbid Angel Altars of Madness
Muse Absolution
My Bloody Valentine Loveless
Atmospherically entrancing, but too meandering at times ("To Here Knows When," "What You Want"). When the record displays energy ("Only Shallow", "When You Sleep") it is at its best. The cover art is a perfect representation of the sound- pink, cloudy, dream-like. Was Loveless worth nearly bankrupting the record label that released it? No. But is it an accomplished listen worth your time? Yes. 4.3
Naked City Torture Garden
Torture Garden is actually a compilation CD containing all of the 'hardcore miniatures' from Naked City's self-titled record and their subsequent release Grand Guignol. Thus, if you own those two albums, there's no point in having this one as well- there's no new content here. However, if you have never heard Naked City, or if you don't own one of the two aforementioned records, then Torture Garden is certainly worthy of your time. It's a 22-minute blast of combined jazz and grindcore that is wholly entertaining for the entirety of its short runtime. 4.2
Naked City Grand Guignol
Naked City Leng Tch'e
Leng Tch'e: or, death by 1,000 cuts. The ancient Chinese torture method, only outlawed as recently as 1905. That is what this record attempts to capture, sonically, and it's hard to imagine an album doing a better job. Leng Tch'e is a disturbing, heavy listen, consisting of one thirty-one minute avant-garde sludge metal song; essentially, the exact opposite of the genre-hopping that characterized the band's earlier work. While the song starts off with only guitar feedback and other background sounds, it develops into a slow, oppressively dark riff, and then Yamatsuka Eye is screaming and John Zorn's sax is squealing, and then... it's over. Leng Tch'e is an extremely difficult listen, but that is because of how well it captures its concept. Not a record to listen to every day, but one that accomplishes its mission. 4.0
Napalm Death Utilitarian
Utilitarian is a fast, heavy, relentless listen- and that's not all. Indeed, what helps Utilitarian stand apart from its contemporaries is the fact that there is more going on on it than most records of its type- moments of brilliance, such as John Zorn's saxophone on "Everyday Pox" (also perhaps my favourite Napalm Death track ever), the choir on "Blank Look About Face", and the epic layering of intro "Circumspect" all elevate the record. Of course, there is also the usual heavy riffage and aggression one expects from a Napalm Death release, but the aforementioned experimentation is welcome. Indeed, more of it would be even better! Also, some songs fall through the cracks; but, overall, Utilitarian is a successful release. 4.0
Ne Obliviscaris Citadel
Citadel addresses the main problem with Portal of I: length. This is a more focused, tighter, and less intimating record than its predecessor, and I applaud NeO for their restraint. Furthermore, "Painters of the Tempest" is the best song they've ever done. I suppose my own waning interest in progressive metal is partly to blame for why I don't enjoy this more- Citadel is a very, very strong record as a whole, and I have simply heard so much progressive metal over the last few years that I have exhausted myself of much interest of the genre. Many of the metal parts on here just bore me. Nonetheless, Citadel impresses, and I highly recommend it. 4.4
Necrophagist Onset of Putrefaction
Nevermore Dead Heart In A Dead World
A solid metal record, with wonderful performances from all the band; especially Warrel Dane on vocals and Jeff Loomis on seven-string guitar. "We Disintegrate" is fantastic. There are some bad lyrics ("Inside Four Walls"), and there are a couple of generic, over-the-top corny numbers ("Insignificant", "Believe in Nothing")-- and "Engines of Hate" goes on too long-- but those are the only flaws with the record. The production is great, there are some amazing guitar solos ("The River Dragon Has Come," the aforementioned "We Disintegrate"), and it is a mostly consistent listen. 4.0
Niechec Smierc w miekkim futerku
Ninjaspy Pi Nature
Incredibly underrated record by three brothers from Vancouver, BC. Pi Nature mixes metal, reggae, and ska in a unique and consistently entertaining manner. Joel Parent's vocals are wildly engaging, moving between excellent cleans, low growls, high screams, lightning speed talking, and more. The two other brothers, Tim and Adam, are proficient on bass and drums too. A large reason why this band never took off as much as they should have is likely the complete lack of seriousness in the song lyrics and titles. Pi Nature is flawlessly executed-- the production and performances are spot on-- but that ridiculousness inherent in the songs here turns the record into somewhat of a self-aware novelty item. This is the band's only full-length, and it came out in 2007. 4.0
NOFX The Greatest Songs Ever Written (By Us)
Nyktalgia Nyktalgia
Don't let the over-the-top cover art fool you- Nyktalgia is actually a very good black metal record, replete with quality guitar work and containing a compelling atmosphere. The vocal work is also excellent- very Burzum-esque. "Lamento Larmoyant" is probably my favourite track, but all four are good, and most impressively, the album never gets boring despite the heavy repetition. 4.3
Opeth Deliverance
Opeth Damnation
Orchid Chaos is Me
OSI Blood
Pat Metheny Tap: Book of Angels Volume 20
A varietous listen, with a bevy of instruments (sitar, tiple, flugelhorn, bandoneon) and genres (avantgarde jazz, guitar jazz, jazz fusion). The compositions are mostly excellent, too. "Sariel" is overlong, however the rest is fantastic, particularly the gorgeous "Phanuel" and the Blade Runner-esque "Tharsis." While not the best of the Book of Angels series, Tap is a fantastic addition to it. 4.0
Paul Brody's Sadawi For the Moment
Eclectic jazz record. The opening track embodies this eclecticism-- it begins as a mournful horn piece, but morphs into a klezmer trade-off section and then a thrash metal guitar solo. Elsewhere, the title track is a total riot featuring a John Zorn alto sax solo, "Good-Bye for Jetzt" and "Pure As a Teardrop" are slower, contemplative pieces (the latter includes vocals), and "Sit Down" is jazz-rock with an abrasive, atonal guitar solo. The closer, "Guitar," is the only letdown. The rest of the songs work, and the record doesn't overstay its welcome. For the Moment is a fantastic album. 4.4
Paul Gilbert Get Out of My Yard
Porcupine Tree Deadwing
Propagandhi Failed States
Prototype Continuum
Queens of the Stone Age ...Like Clockwork
Imagine Thrice, Brand New, Fair to Midland, and Muse at a Hallowe'en party. That's the best way I can describe Queens of the Stone Age's latest ...Like Clockwork. It is a creative and interesting record which manages to be experimental and original while still retaining catchiness and a degree of mainstream-appeal. The album really is a genius concoction in a lot of ways. The production is fantastic too, with the bass audible throughout. The first half is slightly weaker than the second, though, with "If I Had a Tail" the biggest weak spot (aside from the awesome outro). Regardless, I highly recommend ...Like Clockwork. One of the year's most interesting and best records. 4.4
Russian Circles Empros
Very good instrumental (mostly) metal release. The production is nicely gritty which suits the music well. The first four songs are fantastic- well-constructed, with a plethora of engaging riffs and melodies. "Batu" loses me somewhat- it's not as interesting as those before it- and closer "Praise Be Man", while nice, doesn't totally satisfy. Still, this is an absolutely excellent record. 4.4
Senses Fail Renacer
This might sound a bit weird, but I am really proud of Senses Fail. I appreciate any band that isn't afraid of change or progression, and these New Jersey natives proved they are doing just that- progressing- with this release. Renacer is Senses Fail's heaviest record yet. It is also consistent, well-performed, and all around excellent. Furthermore, it contains some of the catchiest tracks of the year, and Buddy's vocals have really improved as well. A strong showing- I can't for the next record! 4.1
Septicflesh Communion
Excellent orchestral death metal. Fantastic production and smart songwriting. The first four tracks are fantastic. After that, the quality dips slightly (closer "Narcissus" is especially lackluster, being far too poppy for an appropriate finish, and "Sunlight/Moonlight" is cloying), but the album is still quite solid. 4.0
Shai Hulud Reach Beyond the Sun
Reach Beyond the Sun contains fantastic instrumentation, interesting songs and song structures, a lot of energy, and remarkable consistency. Though not perfect- the second half isn't quite as strong as the first- it's undoubtedly one of the best albums of the year. 4.3
Sigur Ros ( )
( ) is a beautiful album, but it is not a perfect one. Some of the songs are too meandering, and the climaxes don't always hit hard enough. But when it works, it really works ("Untitled 3") and the production and performances are spot on. 4.4
Steven Wilson Grace for Drowning
Symphony X The Divine Wings of Tragedy
TesseracT Altered State
There's a lot to love about Altered State, from the experimentation (clean guitars underneath distorted, saxophone solos), to the grooves (when they don't get boringly repetitive), to the excellent production, to the consistency, to the great performances. However, some of the tracks drag in spots ("Of Reality - Eclipse" and "Of Energy - Singularity" providing the most egregious examples of this) and more of that aforementioned experimentation would be welcome. Altered State borders on incredible, and some of the songs reach it, but the record as a whole needs a bit more of a push to get there. 4.1
That Handsome Devil A City Dressed in Dynamite
The 3rd and the Mortal Tears Laid in Earth
Haunting doom with fantastic female vocals and a healthy dose of dark atmosphere. Songs alternate between clean and distorted passages but the tempo is always quite slow and there is a consistent sense of beauty in the proceedings. 4.3
The Cracow Klezmer Band Balan: Book of Angels Volume 5
You would be forgiven going into Balan expecting typical klezmer music-- after all, look at the band name. And indeed, some of the songs here are fairly traditional. However, there are also a number of pleasant surprises (the glossolalia vocals that occasionally appear, most notably on "Suria;" the chaotic "Kadosh") which prevent the album from becoming monotonous. There are a couple of duds ("Dirael" is boring, and "Jehoel" drags) but overall Balan is one of the better Book of Angels volumes so far. 4.0
The Devin Townsend Band Synchestra
The Devin Townsend Band Accelerated Evolution
Accelerated Evolution is the most straightforward of Townsend's solo records, with almost every song on the album being entirely distorted and falling into the realm of hard rock/progressive metal. While this lack of dynamic and stylistic shifts is a bit disappointing, the album is by no means bad. Indeed, it has some of Devin's best vocal work ("Storm," "Deadhead") and guitar solos ("Away," "Sunday Afternoon") ever recorded. The mix is superb as well- the record sounds absolutely enormous, and this is perfect for the stadium-rock-esque vibe. Though the underwhelming drumming, aforementioned lack of dynamics, and a comparatively weak track in "Traveller" hold Accelerated Evolution back somewhat, it is nonetheless is a very good record and well worth hearing. 4.0
The Dillinger Escape Plan Miss Machine
The Dillinger Escape Plan Irony Is a Dead Scene
Dillinger releases can sometimes be too long for their own good; thankfully, Irony Is a Dead Scene, by virtue of being an EP, avoids this pitfall. Also, "When Good Dogs Do Bad Things" is one of my favourite DEP songs of all time, and Mike Patton's vocals are absolutely fantastic for not only that song, but the duration of the record. I'd love to see him do more work with this band. It occasionally moves too quickly for its own good, but on the whole Irony Is a Dead Scene is an intriguing listen, and one of the best Dillinger releases. 4.2
The Dillinger Escape Plan Ire Works
A fun listen, but comes off somewhat half-baked. Namely, the interludes (tracks 4-7): they're cool, but I wish they'd been developed into longer songs. Also, "Mouth of Ghosts" doesn't really satisfy. "Fix Your Face," "Lurch," "Milk Lizard," and "Dead As History" are fantastic tracks, though, and as I said, the whole thing is really enjoyable, and it isn't too long. 4.0
The Dillinger Escape Plan Option Paralysis
Overall, an improvement on Ire Works. The experimentation is more fully realized on this one; indeed, it results in the record's best song ("Widower"). Furthermore, Puciato's vocals are getting better with every release, and the production is fantastic. It's still a little disjointed-- the jazz influences of "Widower" and "I Wouldn't If You Didn't" are absent from the rest of the tracks, and the three shortest songs on the record are placed among the first five slots-- but nonetheless Option Paralysis is a very good release. 4.3
The Frank Lowe Orchestra Lowe & Behold
Live free jazz featuring a young Eugene Chadbourne and John Zorn (this is Zorn's earliest appearance on record, besides the Twins version of "Lacrosse" in the Parachute Years box set). Great performances from the eleven total musicians. Opener "Heart in Hand or (How Vain I Am)" is especially good, featuring a wonderful theme. It's chaotic and not an easy listen, but it's free jazz... what do you expect? For detailed liner notes, check out: 4.2
The Maine Forever Halloween
Catchy, but at the same time pretty dark and brooding, Forever Halloween is quickly becoming one of my favourite records of the year. 4.0
Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light on Everything
The lo-fi production grew on me as the record played out, and I love the violins and female vocals. The male vocals are a bit much at times (the beginning of "What We Loved Was Not Enough") but on the whole, they work for me. There are some fantastic songs here- the aforementioned "What We Loved Was Not Not Enough" and "Take Away These Early Grave Blues" being two highlights. "Little Ones Run" is excellent as well. I don't care much for "Austerity Blues" though- it feels stretched out- and it's the longest track here. On the whole, however, this is a very successful release. 4.2
Thrice The Illusion of Safety
Though I do not personally harbour the feelings of nostalgia that so many others do with this record, I can still appreciate it. It is not hard to see how The Illusion of Safety became such an influential record- the heavy but catchy instrumentation, passionately delivered vocals, and raw production all come together to create a very emotionally resonant record. In terms of technicality, tightness, and variety, Thrice would get legions better on subsequent releases, however if you're looking for a raw and fun blast of emotive energy, The Illusion of Safety is probably right up your alley. 4.0
Trophy Scars Never Born, Never Dead
Ulver Perdition City
Atmospherically, Perdition City is reminiscent of a great concrete city bathed in dark, with the occasional beam of moonlight shining through. Musically, it is a unique blend of electronica, trip-hop, avant-garde, jazz, and probably at least ten more genres that I don't know the names of. Needless to say, this is a very unique record; it is also Ulver's first non-black metal record that really satisfies (though it isn't flawless- the last two tracks don't do much for me). Particularly, "The Future Sound of Music" and "Porn Piece or the Scars of Cold Kisses" are two of Ulver's best songs. Perdition City is a fantastic record. 4.3
Ulver The Marriage of Heaven and Hell
You can't fault Ulver for lack of ambition. This, their fourth album, was their first foray into electronic music, a world which the band, to this day, hasn't fully exited from. Really though, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell is genreless. Across its 101-minute runtime it dabbles in metal, folk, spoken word, industrial, ambient, and more, combining and deconstructing these genres at the drop of a hat. Lyrically and conceptually, the record is the entirety of William's Blake's infamous literary work (also called The Marriage of Heaven and Hell) set to music. Having never read it, I cannot comment on the validity of the musical interpretation Ulver applies. However, I can say that this record is a truly unique experience-- one that is probably too ambitious for its own good, as it runs very long (the twenty minutes of silence in the last song does not help). Ultimately, this is a determinedly difficult album to penetrate, but it is worth the effort. 4.0
Unexpect In a Flesh Aquarium
Wintersun Wintersun
A fantastic record, combining elements of many different metal sub-genres into one cohesive and enjoyable listen. Some of the tracks are a bit too long and a little more variation among them would be welcome, but the whole thing is so well-performed and produced that it scarcely matters. "Death and the Healing" has one of my favourite guitar solos ever. 4.2
Wormrot Dirge
Really fun grindcore record. It's only 18 minutes long, but all 18 are awesome. 4.0
X-Ecutioners General Patton vs. The X-Ecutioners
Yellowcard When You're Through Thinking, Say Yes

3.5 great
3 The Ghost You Gave To Me
Super poppy rock record with minor progressive elements. I love Joey Eppard's voice, and there are some really catchy tracks here ("React," the title track, "Afterglow"). It's sort of one-dimensional though, and "One with the Sun" and "The Barrier" are both underwhelming. Overall, The Ghost You Gave to Me is a fun listen, but not a particularly deep or rewarding one. 3.8
A Lot Like Birds No Place
A well-executed album, with excellent production, interesting songwriting, and fantastic performances all around (aside from the screamed vocals, which are whiny and grating at times). No Place blows the new Dance Gavin Dance album out of the water, and is one of the more enjoyable listens of the year. 3.7
Abnormality 2007 Demo
Absu Absu
A reasonably entertaining black/death/thrash/whatever metal album. Aside from having some of the best song titles in recent memory ("Of the Dead Who Never Rest in Their Tombs Are the Attendance of Familiar Spirits," "Magick Square Cipher," "In the Name of Auebothiabaithobeuee") this record contains some wild riffing and fantastic instrumentation. There isn't really a bad track on here per se, it's just that many of them sound similar to each other, so at times you think, "Didn't I just listen to this song?" I still recommend Absu's self-titled record to fans of the band and also metal in general, however. 3.7
Agalloch Marrow of the Spirit
There is a great and compelling atmosphere on here (when the songs aren't stretched too long) and also some nice riffing (the opening of "Ghosts of the Midwinter Fires," "Into the Painted Grey"). The section with wailed vocals in the middle of "Black Lake Nidstang" deserves special mention, as it is absolutely incredible. However, as I mentioned before, some of the songs here are overlong, and closer "To Drown" doesn't really work- it sounds like they tried for something Godspeed-esque, but it's just very uninteresting and doesn't do anything for me. 3.9
Alkaline Trio Damnesia
All That Remains The Fall of Ideals
Allan Holdsworth Atavachron
I became aware of this record through its Star Trek connection (the cover art, album title, and title of the last song are all related to the show). As a Star Trek fan, I immediately downloaded the album. It's instrumental-- save the last track-- jazz fusion that makes heavy use of the synthaxe, a guitar-shaped MIDI controller that hasn't been produced since the '80s. While the synthaxe's presence undeniably dates Atavachron-- as does the production-- the record is still a fun listen. Holdsworth is a phenomenal guitarist, and the backing band holds their own. 3.5
Ambitious Lovers Greed
A really enjoyable-- and decidedly '80s-- new wave record. If songs like "Copy Me," "Privacy" (which features John Zorn), and "King" don't get you nodding your head or tapping your foot, then... I don't know. "Too Far" is an experimental dissonant track, and one of the best on the album. However, the record's second half, besides the avant-garde "Steel Wool," is sort of a let down compared to the first. Still recommended, though. 3.9
Anathema A Natural Disaster
There are a host of good tracks on here ("Closer," "Are You There?", "Pulled Under...", the title track) but as a whole, the album lacks the unity and energy that made Judgement so effective. "Harmonium" is a poor opener as well. 3.8
Anathema Weather Systems
Weather Systems feels a little contrived at times, and there are too many tracks which follow the same formula (basically, all of them besides "The Storm Before the Calm"). Lee Douglas also oscillates too fast in spots; it's unnecessary and distracting to me. However, with all that said, this is a beautiful album; both parts of "Untouchable," "Sunlight," "The Lost Child"... really, the whole thing. The problem is that some of this beauty seems borne out of style rather than substance (as Trey Spencer pointed out in his review). I still recommend Weather Systems, but it, at times, lacks the emotional resonance of Anathema's best work. 3.7
Anathema Distant Satellites
The electronic drumming in the second half of the record doesn't totally work for me, and as a whole the record isn't as consistent as their best work, but nonetheless Distant Satellites is another great release from Anathema. The three parts of "The Lost Song" and the band-title track "Anathema" (which features some of Vincent's most impressive vocal work ever) are the highlights. The mix is very good too. Overall, Distant Satellites isn't at the top of Anathema's discography, but it's far from the bottom, and as it stands is a mostly worthwhile listen. 3.7
Anneke van Giersbergen Everything Is Changing
Anneke van Giersbergen Drive
Anneke sounds as good as ever, and I like the aggression in her voice on some of the songs here ("We Live On," "The Best Is Yet to Come"). "Mental Jungle" is also worth noting - a very interesting mashup of metal and Eastern melodies recalling "Pixillate" off frequent collaborator Devin Townsend's record Synchestra. Some tracks are a bit by-the-numbers, though ("Treat Me Like a Lady," the title track, "Shooting for the Stars") and the verses tend to be weak compared to the chourses. Still worth a listen, but doesn't fully live up to Anneke's potential. 3.5
Arsis We Are the Nightmare
Undeniably a fun listen, Arsis' We Are the Nightmare is a technical death metal album filled to bursting point with riffs, wickedly fast double bass playing, blast beats, and the same type of harsh vocals that bands like Absu employ. The problem here is that each track sounds quite similar to the last, so it becomes hard to distinguish individual songs from one another. The production is fantastic however, and the album is full of great riffs and guitar soloing (not to mention the brilliant drumming). Definitely worth checking out if you're a fan of technical metal and want something new to listen to.
Arsonists Get All the Girls The Game Of Life
Ash Borer Ash Borer
Ash Borer Cold of Ages
Atari Teenage Riot Delete Yourself!
High-energy and fast-paced debut record from this German digital hardcore group. The inclusion of two live tracks is an interesting move, but they feel a bit out of place. Some of the guitar riffs are generic too. Nonetheless, the great sample work and production, as well as the aforementioned high energy level, elevate this record's quality. 3.8
Atheist Jupiter
Augury Fragmentary Evidence
Austrian Death Machine Total Brutal
A parody metal band based around Arnold Schwarzenegger sounds like it could be a huge disaster; however, there are some surprisingly good songs on here. Tracks like "I Am A Cybernetic Organism, Living Tissue Over (Metal) Endoskeleton" with its great chorus, "You Have Just Been Erased" and its shreddy lead guitar line, and "It's Not A Tumor" (whose subject matter should be obvious) are all fun-filled metal romps with hard-hitting riffs and solid drumming. The problem with this album is that the songs start blurring together towards the end, and even the skits start getting less funny. Also, the disappointing "Not So Hidden Track" (which leads nowhere) is an anti-climatic ending to the album. Nonetheless, this is worth checking out, especially if you're an Arnie fan. 3.6
Austrian Death Machine A Very Brutal Christmas
Authority Zero Andiamo
Bad Rabbits American Love
Great record with phenomenal performances, especially Fredua Boakye on vocals. Man, that guy can sing. The album would benefit from some more variety and experimentation, but as it stands it is still an extremely catchy and enjoyable ride. The short runtime was wise considering the sameness of the material. American Love is a great first step for Bad Rabbits, and I hope they continue to expand their sound on their next release. 3.8
While occasionally too slow and meandering for my taste ("Eyes Closed," "Sustain"), overall III is an impressive record. The standout tracks ("Can't Leave the Night", "Hedron") are fantastic, and the sheer amount of variety- from hip-hop beats on "Triangle" and "CS60" to the lounge jazz of "Differently, Still" to the infectiously appealing circus-esque pulse of "Since You Asked Kindly"- is admirable. It doesn't all work, but what does is very good. 3.7
Banquet of the Spirits Caym: Book of Angels Volume 17
A nice amount of variety on this one. Of course, there is klezmer influence, but it is blended with Arabic bellydance music, South Asian folk music, jazz, and more. A cornucopia of cool instruments are used, too (oud, gimbri, kamel n'goni, pump organ). At its best, Caym is a roaring, spirited (pun intended), fascinating listen ("Tzar Tek," "Yahel," "Phaleg"). At its worst, it's boring ("Tahariel"). The good outweighs the bad, though. A great addition to the Book of Angels series. 3.8
Bar Kokhba Lucifer: Book of Angels Volume 10
UPDATE: Yeah, I under-appreciated this one. It's still a bit tame for me, but the musicianship is just so fantastic, and there are some great tracks ("Dalquiel," "Gediel," "Abdiel"). A couple too many sleepers, though ("Zechriel," "Quelamia"). 3.9

Well-performed and produced jazz record of the Bar Kokhba Sextet performing material from John Zorn's second Masada book, 'The Book of Angels.' The compositions are all nice; very easy to listen to, especially compared to the majority of Zorn's discography. Personally, it's a little too tame to be enjoyable all the way through; however, it is nonetheless an impressive record, and I certainly appreciate the musicianship and composing skill on display. 3.4
BATS Red In Tooth and Claw
Behold... The Arctopus Skullgrid
Ben Goldberg Quartet Baal: Book of Angels Volume 15
Baal plays Zorn's compositions pretty close to how the original Masada probably would have, except Goldberg is on the clarinet, adding another layer to the proceedings. Baal is a solid listen all the way through. There are no weak links. It's not one of the more outrageous additions to the series, but it's a great listen. 3.9
Bjork Biophilia
Bob Ostertag Attention Span
The first twenty-six tracks (a section titled 'Slam Dunk') are short and chaotic sound collages featuring John Zorn's saxophone. The last six (titled 'Sleepless') are mostly longer and much slower sound collages featuring Fred Frith's guitar. I suppose the two parts represent day and night? At any rate, this is not a record for the faint of heart. 'Slam Dunk' is basically noise, and 'Sleepless,' while much calmer, is not easy to listen to either. There are some cool sounds here, but it's style over substance (so you can glue bits of sound together; can you use the technique to make something more meaningful?) Also, the Frith tracks have their moments, but are at points overly minimalistic. Overall though, enjoyable. 3.5
Bomb the Music Industry! Vacation
Boris Heavy Rocks II
Buckethead Bermuda Triangle
Buckethead In Search Of The - Volume 4: 'E'
Buckethead Look Up There
Two long jams from Buckethead, somewhat reminiscent of tracks from his infamous In Search Of The... collection. The guitar work on here is phenomenal; the riffing is excellent, and the solos are also top notch. The only problem with this release is that it doesn't really feel like an "album-" more like two cool jams Buckethead decided to release. Which is fine (I would rather see a release like this than one with a bunch of unnecessary filler tracks,) it just makes for a somewhat fragmented listening experience. 3.5
Buckethead Electric Sea
Buckethead Teeter Slaughter
Buckethead throws everything but the kitchen sink at this release, and because of that it becomes one his most interesting albums in a while. However, the sprawling nature of the entire record, combined with the lack of track titles, means everything runs together a bit. I also wish that some parts were expanded on (for example, the acoustic guitar and double bass at the end of "Track 3") because they are awesome, but over too quickly. 3.5
Burzum Hliðskjálf
Burzum Aske
"Stemmen fra trnet" is awesome. I love the abrupt ending. It also happens to one of Burzum's few 'catchy' songs. "Dominus Sathanas" follows, and is a drumless affair, too short to leave much impact. It feels more like an interlude than anything. The EP ends with "A Lost Forgotten Sad Spirit" (a different version than the one on the self-titled record, but nothing is radically different between the two besides the production-- this one is a little clearer) and its just as good as ever. 3.5
Cannibal Corpse Hammer Smashed Face
Carcass Surgical Steel
Very well performed throughout and a nice production job, though it's all a bit same-y. "The Master Butcher's Apron" is probably my favourite song on the album. Oh, and some of the guitar solos are incredible ("Cadaver Pouch Conveyor System," "Captive Bolt Pistol"). 3.8
Cloudkicker ]]][[[
"%" is not only my top Cloudkicker song (from what I've heard by him), but also one of my favourite instrumentals ever. It's an incredible track. "#" and "$", the other two cuts off this EP, aren't as strong overall, but man are there some good riffs in them. They both go on too long though, and feel a bit repetitive in spots. All in all, I recommend this EP, but especially "%"- it is the best song on it and a must hear track for anyone. 3.9
Cloudkicker Beacons
Some of the melodies and riffs on here are repeated too many times, and as a result Beacons drags in spots. However, it also has some truly exceptional parts, and the concept is one that I feel to be highly effective (when the riffs aren't repeated ad nauseam) and pretty ingenious. Interestingly, the slower tracks are some of the best on here (check out the one-two punch of "I admit it now. I was scared." and "We were all scared."). Overall, Beacons is an effective instrumental concept record, but some of its sections are a chore to slog through. 3.8
Cobra Strike 13th Scroll
Coheed and Cambria The Afterman: Ascension
Colin Stetson New History Warfare Vol. 3: To See More Light
I have mixed feelings about Justin Vernon's vocals on here- they don't always fit and they, overall, aren't as impressive as Laurie Anderson and Shara Worden's work on Vol. 2. However, he does have his moments, and luckily Colin Stetson's playing on here is just as amazing as ever. Indeed, Hunted is an instrumental and one of the best songs on the record- it wouldn't have felt out of place on Vol. 2- and the title track is a fifteen-minute, epic journey. All in all, this record is not as good as Vol. 2- due partly to the aforementioned vocals, and also to a few less interesting numbers- but it's still worth hearing. 3.7
Darkspace Dark Space II
Dark Space I contained a few actual "riffs" (or parts which you could tap your foot to, anyway). Dark Space II tones this element down and instead takes the wall-of-sound concept even further than its predecessor. The length has been shortened for this release- 54 minutes vs. the 76 of Dark Space I- which is a good thing, and the atmosphere is still very absorbing. However, the record can be a little overly repetitious at times, and the samples are very difficult to decipher, which is a disappointment. (Special mention to "Dark 2.10," though, which is an incredible track and one of my favourites from the band.) 3.9
David Moss Dense Band
Full House featured David Moss and an array of other experimental musicians attempting to create avantgarde pop tunes through utilizing free improvisation for pop song-lengths. While a reasonably entertaining record, it did not accomplish that mission: instead of avantgarde pop, the pieces felt like brief, often minimalist, experimental sketches. Dense Band, the follow-up to that record, features the same approach as Full House, but it is much more successful. Perhaps this is due to Fred Frith's co-composing the tracks here. At any rate, Moss utilizes more steady rhythms on this one than Full House, allowing the other musicians (including John Zorn, Arto Lindsay, and Wayne Horvitz) room to improvise, and as a result the 'avantgarde pop' sound striven for is more fully realized. The fact that more than two musicians are on each track means the songs are denser and more interesting, too (hence the title). Opener "Stride," featuring Moss' off-the-wall vocal style, is a great example of how avantgarde and pop collide on this release. 3.9
Dead Can Dance The Serpent's Egg
I appreciate how The Serpent's Egg doesn't overstay its welcome, however it's a little too brief. Another track or two would be nice. There is a lot of excellent material here, though, namely opener "The Host of Seraphim," "In the Kingdom of the Blind the One-Eyed Are Kings," and "Ulysses." In the end, although the record is a little too short, I would easily take a briefer album of quality tracks over a longer one stuffed with filler. 3.8
Deftones Around the Fur
This is a decent record, but it's hurt by a lack of dynamic changes and the relative sameness of all the songs. It gets me bobbing my head at times though, and Chino gives a great vocal performance. Around the Fur is not at the same level as Deftones' later material, but it's more good than bad. 3.7
Devin Townsend Project Epicloud
Deconstruction is one of his most popular and well-received albums? Huh?
Diamanda Galas The Divine Punishment
Less abrasive than The Litanies of Satan, but still by no means an easy listen. This is apparently a record regarding how the Catholic Church treats AIDS victims (AIDS being a prevalent theme throughout Diamanda's work, as her brother died from the disease). Musically, it sounds like someone going through an exorcism. It's very dark, very unsettling, and frightening in spots. The arrangements range from minimal to incredibly layered, often with many voices-- but there are some fantastic a capella moments too. Not for the faint of heart. 3.9
Diamanda Galas Saint of the Pit
Not as challenging as Diamanda's past work. The first track is an instrumental piece, and after that nothing gets really weird until the last song, which sounds like an audio recording of an exorcism. This record shows off the more 'normal' side of Diamanda's voice well, though ("ż (Deliver Me)," "Art?mis"). Saint of the Pit is not unenjoyable, and the atmosphere it conjures is effectively creepy. It's just, overall, less striking than some of Diamanda's other work. 3.5
Diamanda Galas Malediction and Prayer
The cover may look like a Celine Dion album, but don't be fooled. While Malediction and Prayer is not as abrasive as much of Galas' work-- it is a live record of cover tunes, featuring only piano and vocals-- it is still a heavy, emotionally weighty listen. Track two, "The Thrill Is Gone," is one of the few tracks to feature Galas' signature shrieking, but the songs don't need them to be impactful: see "My World Is Empty Without You" and "Gloomy Sunday." The last half drags a little, but Malediction and Prayer is overall an effective demonstration of Galas' musical versatility. 3.8
Dog Fashion Disco Sweet Nothings
Sweet Nothings is marred by muddy guitar and flat drum sounds and a poor mixing job. One way that poor mix manifests itself is in the vocals. They are way too quiet in spots ("Tastes So Sweet"). It's a shame, because these are great songs for the most part-- the production hampers them. Ultimately, Sweet Nothings is not a bad record; it's just a shame that the mix is so poor. Were the sound clearer, this album would be infinitely more enjoyable. The muddy production casts a shadow over the entire affair, not rendering the record unlistenable but detracting from its overall presentation. Luckily, some of these songs are so good that they transcend this damper ("Doctor's Orders," "Envy the Vultures," "We Aren't the World," the title track). 3.8
Dream Theater Images and Words
I'm not a Dream Theater fan, but this record has its pluses. The songwriting is actually very good for the most part ("Another Day," "Metropolis, Pt.1," "Under a Glass Moon," my favourite song by the band), it's not too long, and the detectable pretension on the band's later material is nowhere to be found here. However, it's a really cheesy listen. LaBrie's vocal delivery and some of the lyrics are just so over-the-top. On the plus side, the distinctly '80s production (though this came out in the '90s) actually compliments that cheesiness well. Anyway, provided you aren't lactose intolerant, Images and Words is a good record. 3.7
Dropkick Murphys Blackout
Edge of Sanity Purgatory Afterglow
One of the best Edge of Sanity albums. Purgatory Afterglow sees the band progressing from The Spectral Sorrows and Unorthodox into even more, well, progressive territory. The full realization of this sound would come with Crimson, but Purgatory Afterglow is nonetheless a strong record- although the clean vocals are too hard to hear, and some of the tracks run together a little. 3.9
Edge of Sanity Until Eternity Ends
The first two songs on here are much more melodic, and even outright catchy, than anything the band has released before. It's not surprising they didn't feel these fit on Purgatory Afterglow. On the other hand, there's "Bleed," which has some of the most tortured vocals I've ever heard from Swano. The EP closes with "Invisible Sun," a Police cover, and while I can't say I enjoy it that much, it's well-performed, and I appreciate the band attempting something completely out of left field. NOTE: The beginning of "Until Eternity Ends" has a hidden message at the very beginning that you need to turn your speakers up to hear. It says: "This is a warning. In 4 seconds we will blow your speakers straight to fuckin' hell." 3.5
Edge of Sanity The Spectral Sorrows
Edge of Sanity continue to get more progressive with The Spectral Sorrows, the third full-length in their discography. While this development is welcome, it's- as it was with Unorthodox- the death metal stuff that gets in the way and brings the album down. The Spectral Sorrows is at its best when its most outside the box ("Darkday," "The Masque," the ending of "Jesus Cries," "Sacrificed", the intro and outro tracks) and at its worst with the straight up metal (most everything else). 3.6
Edge of Sanity Unorthodox
A big improvement from Nothing but Death Remains, Unorthodox is the first Edge of Sanity record where the band would start establishing their own unique sound. There are cool progressive touches all across the album, and though some of the death metal parts get a bit boring- particularly in the latter half of the record- these touches make sitting through some of them worth it. Also, Dan Swano's growls are fantastic (as per usual), and though the production is a bit muddy, it actually helps give the album an old school vibe which suits the music very well. Overall, while the death metal stuff gets a bit tiresome after a while, the unique (and dare I say, unorthodox) flourishes running through the record help make it a worthwhile listen. 3.8
El Stew The Rehersal
A very raw recording featuring Buckethead, Brain, Extrakd, SP808, and DJ Eddie Def. Supposedly, the whole thing was recorded with one microphone and then transferred straight to CD. Some of the compositions here are actually really good ("01," "02"), though the jam tracks can go on for too long ("06," "12"). "07" is a shorter, DJ-ified version of "Night of the Slunk." Overall, The Rehearsal is a fun listen, especially for Buckethead fans- and best of all, it's free! 3.5
Enslaved Eld
Enslaved Vertebrae
While the excellent performances across all instruments are let down somewhat by a subpar production job, this doesn't stop Enslaved's Vertebrae from being a great record. The guitar playing is particularity impressive, with the jaw-dropping solo on track three "Ground" providing one of the record's best moments. Other highlights include the first minute and a half of opener "Clouds" and the entirety of track five "New Dawn." There are some negative things about this album, however: as I mentioned before, the production is disappointing (particularly on the harsh vocals), and I don't like how many of the tracks begin with the sounds of sliding guitars or other random noises, as they don't add anything to the record. 3.7
Enslaved The Sleeping Gods
Estradasphere Quadropus
With Quadropus, Estradasphere decided to deconstruct their sound. Rather than meld genres, as on past releases, each track on Quadropus represents one aspect of the band's eclectic musical palette. There is jazz ("Hardball,") surf ("Crystal Blue,") metal ("Jungle Warfare,") acapella ("Dubway,") experimental ("A Car Ride in Idealistic Ethiopia (Part 1)"), parody rock ("Bodyslam"), and more. This results in the most uneven Estradasphere record, but one that is nonetheless just as fun as their previous work. Metal is still the band's weak link, though. 3.8
Evanescence Evanescence
Explosions in the Sky The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place
Faith No More King for a Day... Fool for a Lifetime
Inner band turmoil- including the loss of longtime guitarist Jim Martin, a car crash, and the death of Roddy Bottum's father- led to a three year gap between this record and Angel Dust. The latter managed to display genre eclecticism while maintaining flow; King for a Day doesn't, really. The two other big problems with the record are the production, which is dry and thankless (unlike Angel Dust's phenomenal sound), and the guitar playing- it's rather boring and uninspired, which is surprising, considering Mr. Bungle's Trey Spruance was the player here (though he claims there was general confusion as to what direction the band wanted, and that, as well as his admitted lack of enthusiasm for most of the material, likely led to the issue). Still, there are plenty of great tracks ("Evidence," "The Gentle Art of Making Enemies," "Star A.D.," "Cuckoo for Caca") and Mike Patton's performance is phenomenal. 3.7
Faith No More Sol Invictus
What's missing from Sol Invictus-- and indeed, what has been missing from all of Faith No More's records post-Angel Dust-- is atmosphere. Angel Dust had a clear sense of purpose. The title, track order, artwork, and music itself all aligned with it. From that sense, the atmosphere was derived. Sol Invictus feels like simply a collection of songs, rather than an utterly cohesive musical statement. This is not to say Sol Invictus is a bad record, only that it lacks the atmosphere that characterized the band's best record and thus is not propelled into the stratosphere like that one was. Sol Invictus is also too short. Another two or three tracks would have been appreciated. And indeed, even some of the songs that are here are too short ("Sunny Side Up," "Motherfucker"). However, most of these songs are excellent, and the performances are fantastic. Sol Invictus is not as good as Angel Dust, but it is a satisfying comeback. 3.9
Fates Warning Darkness in a Different Light
Aside from some of the guitar solos, not much on Darkness in a Different Light wowed me, but it is nonetheless a solid and enjoyable prog metal record. 3.7
Fightstar Behind the Devil's Back
A confident, solid rock record. I wish the choruses had more bite ("Sink with the Snakes") and some of the more overtly poppy moments lose me ("Overdrive"). Nonetheless, tracks like "Sharp Tongue," "More Human Than Human," and "Dive" are fantastic, and Charlie Simpson's vocals are fantastic. 3.7
Finch Epilogue
What a shame the remainder of the World of Violence demos will never see the light of day. The two here are more interesting than pretty much everything on the sadly derivative Back to Oblivion. As it stands, Epilogue is a bittersweet release: sweet, because we get two good Finch tracks, and bitter, because we get only two good Finch tracks. 3.5
Foo Fighters Wasting Light
Funeral for a Friend Conduit
A great, stripped down record. Most of the songs on Conduit are pretty short, and the sound is raw and in your face. There is a nice amount of aggression, the instruments are performed very well, and most of the tracks are different enough from one another that the record never runs together or gets boring. Some of these songs are a little too short, though, and at times the vocals feel a bit strained and/or off key (the opening of "Nails.") While not as strong as Welcome Home Armageddon, Conduit is a solid album, if somewhat one-note. 3.8
General Patton vs. The X-Ecutioners General Patton vs. The X-Ecutioners
Mike Patton sent famed turntablists the X-Ecutioners a selection of records, they created beats out of them, and then he messed with them some more. The final product was this record. A hyperactive, sporadic hip-hop album with elements of noise, jazz, and a bunch of other genres. Imagine if Fantomas played hip-hop-- that's a pretty good descriptor of this. The only song that follows a traditional structure is "?Get Up, Punk! 0200 Hrs." The rest of the songs are short experimental multi-genre pieces (a la Fantomas), there are vocal samples galore, the record is themed around war and weapons somehow, and Patton does great work (as usual). The consistently sporadic compositions mean the record runs together to a degree, but General Patton vs. The X-Ecutioners is a fun listen nonetheless. 3.6
Glassjaw Coloring Book
While lacking the incredible energy of Worship and Tribute, Coloring Book boasts a unique atmosphere, good songwriting, and some great clean vocals from Daryl Palumbo. It's really catchy in spots, too ("Vanilla Poltergeist Snake"). 3.7
Gordian Knot Emergent
Green Day American Idiot
I have to applaud Green Day for attempting something different and going for broke with this record. And, at times, American Idiot is fantastic. "Boulevard of Broken Dreams," "Give Me Novocaine," and the 9-minute epic "Jesus of Suburbia" are all excellent tracks. However, "Holiday" is absolutely atrocious, and other duds such as "Are We the Waiting" and "St. Jimmy" do nothing to help the record. I have affection for American Idiot's ambition, and while it isn't perfect- and the wisdom of its political notions is questionable- it got people talking, and that is more than can be said for many albums. 3.7
Hoppy Kamiyama Ongaku-o 2: Welcome to Forbidden Paradise
A bizarre album. It is a dense listen with lots of sound effects and features '80s style new wave, metal, ambient and new age interludes-- and oh yeah, the closer is a 16-minute instrumental featuring John Zorn and Marc Ribot and the album cover is a topless woman with a chain nipple piercing. Some of the songs go on too long ("My Dear Sight," the aforementioned closer), but the variety is commendable. I'm not sure I've fully grasped this one, and I don't know if I ever will. 3.9
Ihsahn Eremita
Immolation Majesty and Decay
In Flames Clayman
I love the atmosphere and instrumentation on this CD, and "Suburban Me" is one of my favourite In Flames songs ever. However, many of the tracks on here are very similar, and this causes much of the album to run together. 3.7
Intergalactic Maiden Ballet Square Dance
A one-dimensional but really fun jazz-funk record. John Zorn shows up on three tracks playing saxophone, which is always good. "Ballad of Deception" is the only change of pace here from upbeat stuff, and it's one of the best on the record. Increased variety would make this a more well-rounded effort, but Square Dance is nonetheless worth hearing. These guys should collaborate with Diablo Swing Orchestra. 3.7
Jeff Loomis Zero Order Phase
John Carpenter Halloween 20th Anniversary Edition
The Halloween theme is awesome, as everyone knows. Many of the tracks on here feature it prominently, which is great, though in terms of an album it does get a bit tiresome to hear it over and over. Beyond that on this disc there is other creepy, cool piano stuff and some brief electronic bits. There are also dialogue samples which are great for sampling. In terms of the movie, the soundtrack gets a 5/5- it's perfect for what's on screen. The majority of the music on this album is just the aforementioned theme repeated though, which, while great for the film, makes the soundtrack album as a whole a little less worthwhile. 3.9
John Zorn Spillane
Spillane consists of a twenty-five minute long file card piece (in which Zorn writes different musical sections on cards, then arranges them, creating a series of 'sound blocks'), a two-part eighteen minute blues piece written for and featuring Albert Collins, and an avant-garde song featuring a ton of quick-cut transitions, with a Japanese narrator occasionally speaking overtop. The file card piece is fantastic, and the avant-garde song is fantastic too. However, while the blues track is decent, it is overlong. Zorn used crime writer Mickey Spillane's work as the unifying theme for these songs, hence the album title. 3.8
John Zorn Locus Solus
Four different parts, each played by a different trio, make up Locus Solus-- a record comprised entirely of no-wave improvisational compositions. Zorn is the only constant throughout, though the record isn't as fragmented as would be expected from that fact. The album is also surprisingly engaging; this is a difficult, atonal listen, but manages to hold attention for over an hour. Zorn himself, looking back on this record (it is one of his first) called it 'weird,' and if the man himself says that, you know it's really, really weird. 3.5
Marissa Nadler July
Great album concept, and the atmosphere matches it extremely well. Marissa's guitar playing is nicely emotive too, and the extra instrumentation- particularly on the record's first two tracks- is dead on. The production is superlative, with just the right amount of reverb on Marissa's voice and a good amount of space for everything to breathe. The issues with the record are that some of the songs are slightly dull, and that after the fantastic first two tracks the same heights are never reached for the album's remainder. Still, the strength of the performances and production and sheer earnestness of July are enough to warrant a recommendation. 3.6
Masada Alef
I don't really know much about Klezmer music-- this is my first experience with the genre. That said, I found this pretty enjoyable. Masada's debut record is a nice mix of slower and more frantic material. Oftentimes, two instruments (the saxophone and trumpet) will be soloing at the same time, making for some wild moments. What's especially impressive about Alef is that it is one of four albums recorded in one day (!!!) It drags in spots, but overall this is a great record. 3.6
Mastodon Once More 'Round the Sun
Once More 'Round the Sun improves upon the more commercial formula that The Hunter went for by, ironically, being less commercial. Don't get me wrong- this is still a record with plenty of catchy, poppy moments, however there is more depth to these songs and they are (mostly) more interesting. Is this Mastodon's best work? No. Some of the production choices are questionable- the bass is very loud and the vocals too quiet- and some of the tracks ("Feast Your Eyes", "High Road," opener "Tread Lightly," closer "Diamond in the Witch House") don't do much for me. However, is Once More 'Round the Sun worth hearing? Yes; and, as aforementioned, it is an improvement on The Hunter. 3.6
Megadeth Countdown to Extinction
Despite great cuts like "Symphony of Destruction" and "Architecture of Aggression" and some of Mustaine's best vocals ever, overall Countdown to Extinction falls a little flat. It's still worth listening to, but a lot of the tracks just lack 'oomph,' especially compared to some of Megadeth's previous releases. Oh yeah, and "Sweating Bullets" is terrible. 3.7
Megadeth Killing Is My Business...
(I have the re-issue.) There's a lot to like about this disc, from its sheer speed and ferocity to the technicality of the guitar parts to Mustaine's angry vocal delivery. However, some sections feel a bit blase, the production isn't very good, and "These Boots" is rendered almost unlistenable by the bleeping of Mustaine's lyrics. 3.5
Megadeth The System Has Failed
While not one of their all-time greats, The System Has Failed is a respectable release from Megadeth, especially when you consider the string of relative clunkers that preceded it. There is a nice amount of bite on this release, and a lot of superb guitar work, however some of the tracks disappoint. 3.5
Meshuggah The True Human Design
A shortened version of "Sane" from the Chaosphere album, and five different versions of "Future Breed Machine" from Destroy Erase Improve. The first is an excellent live version, the second is a ruthlessly heavy industrial mix, the third is a joking campfire version, and the fourth and fifth are off-the-wall electronic remixes. Altogether, The True Human Design is the most un-Meshuggah Meshuggah release, and that makes it one their most interesting, too. The remixes may be from the same song, but they all sound very different. 3.7
Meshuggah None
The first Meshuggah release where they start sounding like, well, Meshuggah. The chugging rhythms, barked vocals, and chunky production are all here, albeit in less concentrated form than subsequent releases. "Ritual" actually has clean vocals (the only song in Meshuggah's entire catalogue to do so), and "Gods of Rapture" has a legitimate jazz fusion guitar solo. Overall, None is a great EP. It proved a stepping stone for Destroy Erase Improve and thus the Meshuggah we've come to know today. 3.5
Michael Angelo Batio No Boundaries
The first three and last three tracks of this album are some Batio's best ever; "No Boundaries" in particular is a modern shred classic, and a must-hear for anyone interested in the genre. The middle of this record does drag, though, and is nowhere near as strong as its start and end. 3.7
Michael Buble Let It Snow!
As a whole, this EP is a little sleepy for me- four of the five numbers on here are quite slow (not counting the live track)- but Buble's voice is so good that you can't help but listen when he's singing, and as a result Let It Snow! is elevated in quality. 3.5
Michael Romeo The Dark Chapter
Mike Patton A Perfect Place
Mike Patton Crank: High Voltage
Mike Patton The Solitude of Prime Numbers
Mogwai Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will
An enjoyable record, but the last three tracks don't do as much for me as the first seven do.
My Bloody Valentine m b v
Nicely textured and interesting dreamy shoegaze record. It's at times a little overly repetitive, and I feel like some more crescendos or changes in dynamics would make it more engaging, however it isn't boring (usually) and is regardless a very good record. 3.9
Napalm Death Smear Campaign
Napalm Death Apex Predator - Easy Meat
Apex Predator is another solid Napalm Death record. There is some mild experimentation (the title track, "Hierarchies"), but for the most part this is the same heavy, relentless deathgrind as their last several records. Some of the material gets lost in the shuffle, but overall Apex Predator is another brutal, well-performed addition to the Napalm Death catalogue. More experimentation and risk-taking would benefit future records, but it's not as if this stuff doesn't rock too. 3.8
Necrophagist Epitaph
Neko Case The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight...
Seriously, people like "Nearly Midnight, Honolulu?" It makes me cringe. Other than that, and a couple of other tracks which get lost in the shuffle, this album is pretty good. The first three songs (as well as "Where Did I Leave That Fire") are especially enjoyable, and the record does a good job of mixing things up enough to where it doesn't get boring, but not mixing them up so much that it becomes incoherent. Interesting title too. 3.7
No Use for a Name Keep Them Confused
This is one of my "nostalgic" records- I listened to it a lot when I was younger. Thus, maybe I'm being too lenient with it... but oh well. I still think this is a really damn underrated album. Some fantastic lyrics ("For Fiona," "There Will Be Revenge"), great riffs/melodies ("It's Tragic," "Part Two"), and good performances, especially from Tony Sly. Sure, "Failing Is Easier (Part Three)" is kind of random, the mix is a little dry, and some of the auxiliary stuff (voice samples) is clunkily added in, but Keep Them Confused is overall a very enjoyable listen. 3.9
No Use for a Name All The Best Songs
You get a bunch of No Use's best/most popular songs on here, and two previously unreleased tracks too. Pretty much as good as a Greatest Hits record can be. 3.8
Noise Lounge Have A Seat Take In The Smooth Sounds Of...
Opeth Watershed
Opeth Heritage
OSI Fire Make Thunder
Paysage d'Hiver Die Festung
When reviewing ambient records, I think in terms of how well the album creates an engrossing atmosphere, and how well it sucks me in. Die Festung does a good job of this, and though it doesn't always hold my attention, it does draw me in for the most part. 3.5
Pelican Forever Becoming
Forever Becoming is an enjoyable instrumental release. It's well-performed, and the production is excellent, however it is at times overly repetitious. Some more lead guitar work, or even some vocals, would be welcome during these stretches. 3.7
Peter Holmgren Exotic Island EP
Praxis Metatron
Praxis' debut effort, Transmutation (Mutatis Mutandis), is one of the greatest experimental albums of all-time. Here, the material is even more varietous. Opening with a fantastic acoustic ballad featuring something that almost sounds like a recorder ("Wake the Dead"), it quickly goes into the effect-laden heavy metal outing "Skull Crack (We Are Not Sick Men)" (featuring voice samples from Bruce Lee's 'The Chinese Connection'), and then into the Buckethead classic "Meta-Matic". From here on, the album gets very avant-garde. The ambient "Cathedral Space (Soft Hail of Electrons)" and the chilling "Double Vision" are two examples that come to mind. "Turbine" features a heavy metal riff that was made for headbanging along too, and "Warcraft (Bruce Lee's Black Hour of Chaos)" contains some insanely fast shredding courtesy of Buckethead. There is also a light sprinkling of funk with "Cannibal (Heart Shape of the Iron Blade)", though it's more dark and experimental than the funk featured on Transmutation. Pick this up if you like experimental works or were a fan of any of the other Praxis releases. 3.8
Prelapse Prelapse
Do you like Naked City? Good. Prelapse is basically another Naked City. John Zorn even plays sax on a bunch of these tracks, and he wrote a few too. The majority of the 23 songs are chaotic jazzcore, though there are slower, more ambient tracks as well ("Lachrym," "Fat Neck, No Neck"). The "Message for Alex" tracks are funny, and there are standouts ("Blood Sucking Freaks," "Screwball"). The vocals are underused, though, and the longer jazzcore tracks don't work well. Overall, Prelapse is a fun listen, but it's basically a less interesting Naked City. 3.9
Primordial Redemption at the Puritan's Hand
Punky Bruster Cooked on Phonics
Queensryche Operation: Mindcrime
Okay, I like the concept, ambition, and there are some good melodies/tracks here ("Spreading the Disease," "Suite Sister Mary," "I Don't Believe in Love"). The problem with Operation: Mindcrime is that a lot of it feels dated, especially the over-the-top vocals (which are well-performed, but too much at times) and drum production. I can believe this was a game-changing album when it was first released, but, musically, it hasn't aged very well, bearing many hallmarks- both negative and positive- of the '80s. 3.8
Queensryche Queensryche
Rise Against Siren Song of the Counter Culture
Saul Williams Volcanic Sunlight
Scale the Summit The Migration
On par with The Collective; I can't decide which I like more. One thing's for sure, though: "The Traveler" is a better closer than "Drifting Figures" is. Besides that, this record has the same incredibly tight, colourful playing that Scale the Summit always puts out, and some fantastic songs as well. My only real negatives with the album are that "Sabrosa" is too short and placed somewhat oddly in the track listing, and that a little more variation, stylistically, would be welcome. Regardless, this is another superb record from a superb band. 3.9
Senses Fail Still Searching
An improvement on Let It Enfold You in every category. It's great to see Senses Fail include some experimentation and not simply rehash their previous record. The closing duet of "Negative Space" and "The Priest and the Matador" is the best part of the record, but it's a solid listen from start to finish. Not a perfect listen, but a very good one, and a step in the right direction for the band. 3.9
Silverstein Discovering the Waterfront
A very solid and well-produced emo/post-hardcore (emocore?) record. I actually think some of the best parts on the album are the clean sections (the break in "Smile in Your Sleep") though Silverstein know how to bring the heavy as well (the outro of "Already Dead"). I also really enjoy the title track; it's a song that could have easily gone corny, but Silverstein play it just right. Parts of the album get lost in the shuffle, and some of the vocals are a bit much (the repeated 'When you's!' in the aforementioned "Already Dead") but on the whole Discovering the Waterfront is a largely successful and engaging release. 3.9
Soundtrack (Film) Nightmare Before Christmas: 2-Disc Special Edition
Soundtrack: 5/5 - Bonus disc: 1.5/5 - Total: 3.5/5
Spiral Architect A Sceptic's Universe
Steve Beresford Signals for Tea
Vocal jazz featuring Steve Beresford on piano and vocals backed by Masada (with Kenny Wollesen subbing in for Joey Baron on drums). Beresford sings the quirky lyrics ("Let's Get Cynical," "Elephants") in a conversationalist tone that pairs well with the mostly relaxed instrumental work. The record is a little drawn out overall, but it's never bad, and the performances are strong. 3.5
Steven Wilson The Raven That Refused to Sing
The musicianship throughout this record is impeccable, as is the production. Furthermore, the first four tracks are very cool, and for different reasons. The last two songs are pretty boring though, and I would have liked to see Guthrie Govan utilized a little more. 3.8
Storm Corrosion Storm Corrosion
Strapping Young Lad Alien
Townsend knew that to make Strapping Young Lad album worthy of the first two, which the self-titled release was not, he would have to return to that dark place inside himself he was so afraid of. To that end, he stopped taking his bipolar medication, and Alien was the result. Though the songs sometimes get held up by stale riffing ("Skeksis"), "Two Weeks" is out of place, and "Possessions" doesn't do anything for me, Alien is ultimately a great album because the stronger tracks are among the band's best ("Shitstorm," "Shine") and the performances are outstanding. Ironically, Alien, despite widespread acclaim, is the reason that Strapping was finished after The New Black, because Townsend knew he could not do what he did to himself again. 3.8
Stratovarius Elysium
A fairly cool but not particularly remarkable power metal album. The instrumentation is great throughout- particularly the guitar and keyboard- but some of the tracks just feel derivative and unnoteworthy. The ambitious 18-minute title track which closes the album is excellent, however, as is opener "Darkest Hours."
Sylosis Edge of the Earth
System of a Down Toxicity
Toxicity is one of the strangest albums to break on to the mainstream MTV circuit, but such strangeness works in its favour. Most of the tracks on it are well-written, well-performed, and unique. Serj Tankian is in great form here, though I miss some of his crazier vocal techniques from the self-titled. Also, some of the songs run together. Overall though, Toxicity is an extremely consistent album, and well worth listening to. 3.8
T.R.A.M. Lingua Franca
TesseracT One
The Killers Hot Fuss
The first five tracks are indie-tinged pop rock excellence. At track six, the album declines sharply in quality, and until track ten we are subjected to derivative, boring drivel. The last song is fantastic, though. So six of the songs are fantastic, and five are bad. Hot Fuss is one of the most top-heavy albums I've ever heard (save the closer). Listen to tracks 1-5 and 11 and forget the rest. 3.5
The Ocean Pelagial
UPDATE: This has grown on me since my first couple of listens. I still feel it doesn't quite take off as it should, but I appreciate the record as a whole more now. Pelagial is not quite as good as it could have been, but it is good enough for me to bump my rating up. 3.9

There are some nice riffs and performances on Pelagial, but it never really takes off for me. I just feel a lack of energy here, and as a result there is very little replay value, and the record falls kind of flat. There are still enough good parts/tracks/performances for me to recommend this (mildly), and the record does grow on you after multiple listens, but it doesn't reach the heights that it should. 3.4
Tomahawk Mit Gas
Tomahawk Tomahawk
Tony Sly 12 Song Program
Transplants Transplants
Nicely varietous record. "Diamonds and Guns" is, of course, the song that everyone's heard, and also the best one on the album, but most of the other tracks are enjoyable as well. Some of the lyrics are a bit dumb, and the record's flow isn't great (the last four songs are all pretty mellow; a heavy track or two would be welcome in this stretch) but on the whole, the Transplants' debut record is an enjoyable genre-mashing endeavour. 3.7
Ulver Kveldssanger
Bergtatt blended black metal and folk. Kveldssanger is pure folk. Exclusively clean and acoustic, with layered choral vocals. Beautiful melodies throughout. Ultimately, it is a highly effective record, though the songs are all quite similar to one another and many, in the second half especially, blend together. 3.9
Ulver Nattens Madrigal
Ulver Lyckantropen Themes
It's difficult to say this is a 'fair' rating, as I've not seen the film itself. However, I will say that in terms of an ambient record this is pretty interesting. It's fairly repetitive, but the instrumentation and sounds used throughout are sufficiently engaging to keep things from getting dull (for the most part). 3.5
Ulver Silence Teaches You How to Sing EP
Ulver 1993-2003: 1st Decade In The Machines
A bunch of artists you've never heard of take small pieces of Ulver songs and 'remix' them. The majority of these tracks are completely unrecognizable from the originals. A large number are noise songs, but there is some ambient and electronic stuff too (there's even a chiptune track!) Ulver contributes one new song, the opener, and unexpectedly it's one of the weakest here. There's more good than bad, though ("A Little Wiser Than the Monkey, Much Wiser Than Seven Men," "Der Alte," "I Love You, But I Prefer Trondheim (Parts 1-4)," Merzbow's "Vow Me Ibrzu," which remixes "Capitel IV" from Bergtatt in one of the few distinguishable source sections) and the diversity is admirable. 3.5
Ulver Wars of the Roses
Unexpect Fables of the Sleepless Empire
Unida Coping With The Urban Coyote
Various Artists Short Music For Short People
Vintersorg Jordpuls
Wintersun Time I
I love the dense arrangements and detail on the tracks here, and there are some excellent melodies and performances as well. The atmosphere is fantastic too, being superbly epic all the way through. Unfortunately, with only three non-interlude tracks, this does feel like half an album (which, to be fair, it is... but it doesn't feel complete when listened to as a stand alone piece). The lack of guitar solos is also disappointing, considering the debut record had some incredible ones. Lastly, the production falters a bit at times, with stuff dropping out too quickly and, as a result, the mix sounding choppy. 3.7
Witherscape The Inheritance
It isn't at the same level as Moontower or Crimson, but The Inheritance is still a worthwhile, and at times excellent, listen. Dan Swano's growls are just as formidable as ever, and his drumming, singing, and synth work are great as well. The other member of the band, Ragnar Widerberg, does a fantastic job too, and has some truly epic guitar solos (almost as epic as his moustache). The problem with this album is that it lacks the fantastic sense of unity, and also the consistently exciting songwriting, of Moontower or Crimson. The second half features some less memorable cuts, and the record ends on a solo piano track that, while nice, is only around a minute long and doesn't help that aforementioned lack of unity. Overall, The Inheritance is worth checking out, but it at times leaves something to be desired. 3.6
Wolves in the Throne Room Diadem of 12 Stars
Yamataka Eye & John Zorn 50th Birthday Celebration, Volume 10
Yellowcard Ocean Avenue

3.0 good
+44 When Your Heart Stops Beating
Alcest Écailles de Lune
Fantastic production and cover art. I really like the dreamy atmosphere. However, some of the songs feel dragged out, and the last track is a total letdown. It's begging for a climax which never comes (kind of like anyone who has sex with Justin Bieber LoOoLLlOlOLLLloLloL!1!!1). 3.4
Alcest Shelter
Shelter sees Alcest dropping the black metal entirely from their sound and this results in a pleasant and enjoyable release, but one which is more one-dimensional than their previous work. It's got some absolutely fantastic songs ("Voix Sereines," "D?livrance") but it also has some underwhelming tracks, including one total dud ("Away"), and that aforementioned one-dimensionality is slightly disconcerting. 3.4
Anathema Serenades
Anathema's debut sounds nothing like their later work. Aside from the soft, female-vocal driven "J'ai Fait Une Promesse," the interlude "Scars of the Old Stream," and the 23-minute ending ambient piece "Dreaming: The Romance," Serenades consists of crushing death doom metal with a distinctly hopeless atmosphere. There are wonderful passages (the end of "They Will Always Die") but some of the tracks don't go anywhere (opener "Lovelorn Rhapsody"). Still, it's not bad, and it shows that even in their beginning stage, Anathema knew how to conjure an atmosphere. 3.4
Anathema Pentecost III
Definitely more interesting than The Crestfallen EP. "We, the Gods" is in particular a great track. However, the murky production results in a very heavy atmosphere which, while effective, causes the songs to blend together more than a cleaner mix would have. The band's last recording with original singer Darren White- he left before this was released. 3.1
And So I Watch You From Afar All Hail Bright Futures
It's a bit one-dimensional and not as good as Gangs, but All Hail Bright Futures is nonetheless worth hearing because it is a well-performed, well-produced, and above all, fun, record. The quirkiness is almost annoying at times, though, so fair warning. 3.0
Animals As Leaders The Joy of Motion
So much great instrumental work, so few great songs. In fact, I wouldn't call any of the tracks on The Joy of Motion great. I love the production, the detail, and, as aforementioned, the performances, but the songwriting is just unsatisfying to me. The tracks seem to go in different directions without ever attributing to anything. As a result, the numerous fantastic sections are wasted in a hodgepodge of go nowhere riffage. 3.1
Atheist Unquestionable Presence
More admirable than enjoyable. The musicianship is phenomenal. However, the songs themselves don't excite me. Part of the reason is Kelly Shaefer's vocals, which, while competent, rarely divert from a scream-shout. Another part is that while many of the sections are phenomenal, they are over too quickly. This results in everything blurring together, to a degree. Ultimately, this is a musician's album. There are plenty of guitar solos ("Your Life's Retribution," "The Formative Years") and the bass gets well-deserved spotlight time ("An Incarnation's Dream"). Get it and admire the instrumental skill, but don't expect to play it often. 3.2
Autopsy The Tomb Within
I'd enjoy this a lot more if it wasn't for the vocals, which are way too high in the mix. At times they even sound comical. However, the instrumentation is solid- opener "The Tomb Within" contains Slayer-esque guitar solos and great verses. A decent death metal outing.
Autopsy Macabre Eternal
Avenged Sevenfold Sounding the Seventh Trumpet
Benighted Asylum Cave
A fun listen. I mean, this thing starts off with a Bugs Bunny sample. You can't take it entirely seriously. "Let the Blood Spill Between My Broken Teeth," "Hostile," and "A Quiet Day" are great tracks, but there is also crap like "The Cold Remains" and "Swallow." The songwriting isn't always strong, either-- riffs transition awkwardly. There are some great guitar solos, though, and the drumming is fantastic. Asylum Cave is overall an enjoyable record, but a flawed one too. 3.4
Between the Buried and Me The Great Misdirect
Not as good as Colors, but still has some cool songs. It's grown off me since its release, though (writing this in January 2013).
Between the Buried and Me The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues
Beyond Creation The Aura
Undoubtedly, many will propose that my criticisms against this record are criticisms of entrenched aspects of its genre and that, as such, my mentioning them as negative is unfair. However, I in turn propose that, if the qualities I bring up are of the album-- that is, regardless of whether or not they are typical of the genre-- then they, as this is a review of that album, should be addressed, in spite of any typicality. Now, with that said, The Aura is in someways an atypical technical death metal release; namely, its use of fretless bass, which is outstanding. There are also some very good clean moments that occasionally appear (a latter section of "Coexisted" and the short "Elevation Path"). However, the monotonous vocals (which are mixed quite high) and, indeed, the monotony of the nonstop technicality, render it an overall boring affair when heard in full. The production and performances (besides the vocals) are excellent, but ultimately The Aura is unsatisfying as a whole because it does not maintain my interest for its runtime. Some great tracks ("Omnipresent Perception") and the aforementioned good qualities, though, award it points. 3.2
Billy Talent Billy Talent
Blink-182 Dude Ranch
Bloodbath The Fathomless Mastery
Bootsy Collins Christmas Is 4 Ever
Box Car Racer Box Car Racer
Brown Brigade In the Mouth of Badd(d)ness
Buckethead Enter The Chicken (Reissue)
Buckethead In Search Of The - Volume 7: 'C'
Buckethead In Search Of The - Volume 8: 'H'
Buckethead In Search Of The - Volume 9: 'O'
Buckethead In Search Of The - Volume 12: 'H'
Buckethead Empty Space
Buckethead Racks
Buckethead The Silent Picture Book
Buckethead Pumpkin
I'm not sure why there's been such a negative reaction on here to this release, unless it's due to animosity towards the Pikes series in general. All in all, this is a pretty successful ambient record, and great for Hallowe'en night. My issues with it are that some of the tracks are awfully short, and the banjo is distracting at times ("Pumpkin Pikes 3," "Pumpkin Pikes 6"). Often, the songs would be more absorbing without it. Still, Pumpkin is by no means awful and, if you're in the mood for some ambient stuff, worth checking out (especially considering it's free!) 3.2
Burzum Fallen
Burzum Sol austan, Mani vestan
A good dark ambient record from Burzum. Some of the songs go on for too long and they aren't all particularly interesting, but it hits more than it misses. 3.3
Cannibal Corpse Evisceration Plague
Cannibal Corpse Torture
Torture has some great songs and is bolstered by Alex Lifeson's incredible bass playing (see: "Encased in Concrete" and "The Strangulation Chair"). It is a bit too long, though, and the second half, in particular, drags. 3.3
CHON Newborn Sun
Some great instrumental work, however a lot of the songs on here feel a little empty, due partly to the lack of vocals. The interlude tracks are a bit disappointing as well, being too short to leave much of an impact. I would still recommend Newborn Sun, due mainly to the aforementioned instrumental prowess on it, but it isn't the best thing you'll hear all year. 3.3
Cloudkicker Fade
Crosses Crosses
I went into this expecting to hate it, but it pleasantly surprised me. Though Crosses is too long and some of its lyrics are a bit hackneyed, overall it is a strong listen; it's catchy, well-produced, and Chino's vocals are extraordinary. I wish there was more screaming on the record, though (like the end of "Bitches Brew"). 3.4
Crowbar Sever The Wicked Hand
Darkspace Minus One
* This is a review of the original Dark Space -1, not the re-recorded version. * The first track is a cool slice of black metal, though the ambience and the heaviness don't mix as well as they should- the synth feels sort of tacked on in places. The second track just goes on for too long, feeling like a long build-up with no climax. I can appreciate the atmosphere, but more should have been done with it. Overall though, I'd still say this EP is worth hearing, mainly for that aforementioned atmosphere. 3.0
Darkthrone The Underground Resistance
A partly comedic metal throwback record which has some great riffs but doesn't entirely work. Overall it's a fun listen, but some of the vocals are kind of bad and it doesn't all grab me. 3.3
Devin Townsend Physicist
Though it has some great tracks ("Namaste," "Material," "Kingdom"), overall Physicist is nowhere near the level of either Infinity or Ocean Machine: Biomech, Devin's two previous solo releases. Firstly, handing over the mixing duties to Mike Plotnikoff was a mistake- the album sounds muddy and compressed. It's not unlistenably bad, but the production does not suit Devin's extremely layered style. Second of all, the songs this time around are all pretty straightforward and relatively similar to each other, which results in some ("Death," which is notable only for the atrocious effect on much of the vocals) getting lost in the shuffle. With that said though, Physicist isn't all bad- the aforementioned great tracks are indeed great, and it's overall worth listening to- but it's one of Devin's weakest solo releases. 3.4
Devin Townsend Ziltoid the Omniscient
Devin Townsend Ass-Sordid Demos I
NOTE: My version of this album has a different tracklisting than the one here. There are some fantastic songs on this release, namely "Ocean Machines" and "Red Tomorrow." "Roadkill" is also good for a laugh. Some of the tracks are too long, though. A good listen for hardcore Devin fans who are interested in his early work, however, these being demos, they are (mostly) not of the same quality as his later, more polished material. 3.0
Earth Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light II
Enslaved Vikingligr Veldi
Enslaved Thorn
This EP came out of nowhere. It's only two songs totaling around eleven minutes. The production quality is grainy and the atmosphere is uncertain and weird, but interesting. This is probably the most 'black metal' Enslaved have sounded in over ten years. Thorn is too short, but it's a fascinating peek into a different side of Enslaved. 3.0
Estradasphere The Pegasus Vault EP
Anyone who knows Estradasphere knows they are eclectic, and this collection of scraps and outtakes from the "Palace of Mirrors" sessions perfectly demonstrates this. Jazz, noise, parody rock, remixes, a cool live version of "The Return," etc. etc. The quality of the songs is all over the place, though. I'm not big on the Cymbalom Mix of "Smuggled Mutation," and "Faceoff: Advocate Vs. Accuser" and "Circuit Malfunction" are basically Merzbow-lite. However, there is some hilarious stuff (parody Monster Truck American anthem "Star Slyderz,") and some legitimately awesome stuff too ("Neither Hide Nor Hair," which I wish was longer, and "Rendezvous"). Overall, while it is inconsistent, The Pegasus Vault EP is an entertaining listen, especially for fans of the band. 3.3
Every Time I Die From Parts Unknown
Great vocals from Keith Buckley, and I like the experimentation ("Moor," the piano on "El Dorado"). The energy and heaviness are awesome too. However, the songs tend to run together. 3.4
Fantomas Fantomas
Highly imaginative avant-garde metal from Mike Patton. He wrote all of the music, then recruited Trevor Dunn from Mr. Bungle, Buzz from the Melvins, and Dave Lombardo from Slayer to help him realize his vision. Thirty (mostly) short songs, no lyrics (vocals are treated as another instrument), quick changes, lots of samples and metal riffage. It all blurs together save a few moments, and subsequent Fantomas releases are better, but nonetheless the self-titled record is a worthwhile listen. 3.4
Fred Frith The Technology of Tears
Friction Replicant Walk
Japanese no wave with John Zorn showing up on sax for a few tracks. Replicant Walk is not always compelling, but the big production and vocal performance are fun. There are some good grooves, too ("Burn Don"). For no wave, it's pretty commercial-- sort of a grittier Ambitious Lovers. Overall, Replicant Walk is an enjoyable effort. 3.4
Gob Foot In Mouth Disease
Gorguts Colored Sands
Great instrumental performances and many excellent riffs, but I wouldn't call Colored Sands the AOTY contender many would. A lot of these songs go on for too long, and as a result the record gets kind of boring, especially in the latter half. The vocals are too quiet in the mix as well, though admittedly other than that the production is fantastic. Lastly, "The Battle of Chamdo" is a nice track on its own, but is out of place in the context of the album. 3.4
Hugh Laurie Let Them Talk
In Flames Sounds of a Playground Fading
In Vain Aenigma
AEnigma isn't unenjoyable, and indeed has some very good tracks ("Image of Time," "Hymne Til Havet," "Floating on the Murmuring Tide" - the latter one of my favourite songs of the year). Unfortunately, some of the time it's simply okay, or passable. This renders sections of the disc a little boring. The band doesn't have a terribly original sound, though they have a knack for cool flourishes (the saxophone on the aforementioned "Floating on the Murmuring Tide") and are clearly skilled instrumentalists. Ultimately, AEnigma doesn't totally satisfy, but it's enjoyable enough to warrant a listen. 3.4
Incubus Morning View
It's not bad by any means, but this is just radio rock with a greater than average focus on mood r(in this case, the mood is morning). That mood focus elevates the album to a degree, but the rtypical chord progressions and predictability dull the proceedings. Boyd's vocals are great and rthe production is good too, but Morning View is overall too generic to be wholly enjoyable. rAdmittedly though, there are some good tracks ("Nice to Know You," "Warning," closer "Aqueous rTransmission"). 3.4
Jamie Saft Trio Astaroth: Book of Angels Volume 1
After the breakup of the original Masada quartet in 2007, Zorn wrote 300 new songs for the second Masada songbook, titled the Book of Angels. Rather than reform the band, he requested other artists perform his songs and put their own spins on them. The first release in the Book of Angels series comes from the Jamie Saft Trio (bass, drums, piano), and it is a competent but somewhat forgettable jazz record. There are a few standout tracks ("Ygal," "Sturiel," "Pursan") but ultimately this release fades into the background more than I would like. 3.4
Jimmy Buffett Songs You Know By Heart
John Dineen Sentient
Cool release, ranging from piano balladry to ambient to electronica.
John Zorn Spy vs. Spy: The Music of Ornette Coleman
One of the most chaotic albums I have ever heard. Two saxophones, two drummers, and a bassist playing Orenette Coleman tracks at blistering speeds, blurring the line between jazz and hardcore. The musicianship is stellar throughout, and I dig the boomy production style. That said, the track sequencing here is wrong: the first two-thirds of the record comprise twelve turbulent, nearly impossible to follow numbers, and the final third (comparatively) slows things down, with more accessible tunes. The flow of the album is thus compromised-- a more even distribution of accessible amongst inaccessible would render both parties more distinct; as it stands, the songs here tend to blur together, especially in the first half. Nonetheless, I recommend Spy vs. Spy as it is an extremely unique take on jazz- pushing the genre to some of its most extreme points- and I admire that tenacity and fearlessness. The origins of Naked City, an album Zorn would release soon after this, are audible in the proceedings here. 3.4
John Zorn The Gift
This isn't actually a Dreamers' record (it's the third in Zorn's Music Romance series), but it certainly sounds like a Dreamers' record; and I keep giving them 3's, because while there's nothing wrong with any of them, they just tend to fade into the background too often for any sort of regular listening. There are a few exceptions to this rule on The Gift: "Mao's Moon" is absolutely gorgeous, "La Flor del Barrio" is excellent, and "Train to Thiensan" possesses some really cool sound effects. There is a strong surf vibe on much of on the material this record which, while present on some other Dreamers' tracks, is much more prevalent here. "Bridge to the Beyond" features some background vocals by Mike Patton. 3.3
John Zorn The Dreamers
A very easy listen, especially by Zorn's standard. The material here combines jazz, surf, easy listening, and a bunch of other genres, but as aforementioned, it never gets loud (the closest it does get is with the comparatively hectic "Toys"). While a pleasant listen, The Dreamers occasionally bores (the overlong "Anulikwutsayl" and "Exodus") and it isn't really much more than just that... pleasant. Still, it is overall a fun record, and there's a lot worse stuff you could be listening to; recommended, albeit somewhat mildly. 3.2
John Zorn Elegy
A tribute to French activist Jean Genet consisting of four chamber music file-card compositions. Very dark, atonal stuff, and not easy to listen to by any means. Features three members of Mr. Bungle (Mike Patton, Trey Spruance, and William Winnant), but if you're expecting this to sound anything like their material then prepare to be disappointed. "IV: Black" is the best track here. It's basically a dark ambient piece, but it's a very effective one. I dig "I: Blue" and "II: Yellow" also, though not as much. "III: Pink" just comes off too self-indulgent at times to be entirely enjoyable. Overall, while no place for a Zorn beginner, Elegy is a worthwhile listen. 3.4
John Zorn O'o
In the same vein as The Dreamers, which makes sense, because after the release of that album, Zorn formed a band called The Dreamers (named after the album) and released this record. O'o (the title refers to the extinct bird species) is a slightly more focused effort than The Dreamers, though as aforementioned, the styles are similar: easy-listening jazz stuff. The album does sometimes drift into the background, but stand-outs like "Little Bittern" and "Kakawahie" are attention-grabbing, and the record is never poor-- just occasionally somewhat uneventful. 3.4
John Zorn Simulacrum
Simulacrum is the closest John Zorn has ever come to traditional metal. Of course, this is still Zorn, though, so you won't mistake it for Metallica. It's an all-instrumental work featuring Kenny Grohowski (Abraxas) on drums, Matt Hollenberg (Cleric) on guitar, and John Medeski (yes, of Medeski, Martin, and Wood) on organ. This unusual lineup plays music composed by Zorn-- imagine a more coherent Behold... the Arctopus with an organ. There are some fantastic riffs on here, and the production is very good. However, the songs run together somewhat, and the closing track is too long. 3.4
John Zorn & Bobby Previte Euclid's Nightmare
Leonard Nimoy Mr. Spock's Music From Outer Space
Louis Armstrong New Orleans Nights
A fun, cheery listen (as per most dixieland). I wish Louis had more vocals, though. He's a great trumpeter, yes, but his voice is, for me, the main reason I listen to his material. Overall, New Orleans Nights is a pleasant record, but not much more than that. The exception is the drum solo in closer "Bugle Call Rag," which is seriously impressive. 3.2
Ludicra Fex Urbis Lex Orbis
A short record, heavy on the black metal and light on the progressive metal. The production is clean, but it works, and the vocals are great. The record doesn't have enough songs, though-- the songs that are here are pretty good (particularly "Dead City" and "Only a Moment") but the album is too short. Furthermore, the drumming, while spirited, can be a little sloppy ("Collapse"). 3.4
Machine Head Unto the Locust
Unto the Locust is basically a less overlong version of The Blackening. Some of these songs could have still stood a shaving of two minutes or so, but the album as a whole isn't quite as boring as its predecessor. The songwriting styles are very similar on both, so if you liked The Blackening you'll like this. Unto the Locust has great instrumental work and is an improvement on The Blackening, but it's still overly long, overly cheesy, and overly pretentious (in spots). 3.2
Masada String Trio Azazel: Book of Angels Volume 2
The Masada String Trio (violin, cello, bass) are the performers on the second record in the Book of Angels series. Besides the atonal, sporadic stylings of "Mibi," "Gurid," and "Rssasiel," this is pretty accessible classical stuff. It's by no means bad, but my attention wanders throughout the album's duration. Thankfully, the three songs aforementioned, as well as "Garzanal," inject some interest into the proceedings. Overall, Azazel is a good album, but it's too monotonous for me to enjoy in full. 3.0
Megadeth Youthanasia
The production is great, and Mustaine is in good form vocally, but much of Youthanasia feels by the book and somewhat formulaic. The middle of the record is in particular kind of boring. Nonetheless, thanks to great tracks like "Reckoning Day," "A Tout le Monde," and "Black Curtains," Youthanasia can still be considered above average, and worth hearing. 3.3
Megadeth United Abominations
There are some cool tracks on here ("Sleepwalker," "Washington is Next!") but the middle of the record does really nothing for me. The "A Tout Le Monde" re-record is unnecessary, and the other songs are pretty generic. The guitar work on here is great throughout, though, and while United Abominations may not enthrall for its entire runtime, it has enough highlights to warrant a listen. 3.0
Megadeth Th1rt3en
Th1rt3en isn't terrible, and considering the amount of re-recorded songs/songs written for video games/old riffs reused, it doesn't feel nearly as cobbled together as it could have. It has some great guitar work as well, and some fun tracks (the first two, "Never Dead"). It's not as engaging or well-paced as Endgame, though, and there a couple of boring/flat out bad tracks ("Fast Lane," "Deadly Nightshade") which drag the album down overall. When all is said and done, this is an above average record, but disappointing riding on the heels of the fantastic Endgame. 3.2
Merzbow 1930
Merzbow Merzbeat
Merzbow Merzbox (Disc 3) - 1980 – Remblandt Assemblage
Michael Angelo Batio Hands Without Shadows
Both the title track and "Dream On" are superb. The rest of the album isn't as strong; a lot of the tracks here are simply too long, and as is typical on Batio's albums, the hyperspeed guitar shredding loses its lustre after a few songs. At least he put his own spin on the covers here, though, unlike Holiday Strings. 3.0
Michael Angelo Batio Planet Gemini
This record begins with the typical hyperspeed shredding one expects in an MAB release, but the last six tracks are just all over the place. There is space-y ambience, a Doom-sounding videogame part, two tracks with vocals that come out of nowhere, and even a country section. Of course, this all adds up to one of the more interesting records put out by Batio, though it doesn't all work. 3.2
Mike Patton Pranzo Oltranzista
Nada Surf The Stars Are Indifferent to Astronomy
One of the best album titles of the last twenty years. The music though is enjoyable, but not always noteworthy. Overall, I do like the record, but it is all a bit samey. However, "When I Was Young" is a fantastic song, and "Teenage Dreams" is fun. Fans of alt rock with a strong indie twinge will like this one. 3.4
Naked City Radio
For their final album, Naked City return to their roots; that is, playing every genre under the sun. Where Radio differs from the self-titled record is its structure: the first nine songs are more accessible fare, mainly in the realm of jazz, while the last nine are ferocious hardcore slabs with Yamatsuka Eye screaming overtop (a la Torture Garden). The nineteenth and final song, "American Psycho," combines everything into one six-minute track that, while often lauded by fans, is, in my opinion, overrated. In fact, Radio as a whole is quite disappointing;a record returning to the style of the self-titled, my favourite from the band, should sound much more exciting than this. Part of the problem is with that aforementioned structure, which robs the record of some unpredictability. The compositions themselves, too, are not as fun, likely because it's all been heard before. The hardcore miniatures, in particular, feel almost forced this time around. Still, there are highlights: "The Vault" is great, "Sunset Surfer" is enjoyable, and "The Bitter and the Sweet" is a nice reflective track; ultimately, it is these numbers which redeem Radio, though not to the point of being near the level of the self-titled record it is attempting to emulate. 3.3
Neurosis Honor Found in Decay
While it has its moments ("My Heart for Deliverance," the end of "At the Well," "Bleeding the Pigs") overall Honor Found in Decay doesn't do much for me. The last three tracks in particular are pretty boring. I admire the atmosphere and instrumentation (the strings are awesome throughout) but the record just doesn't maintain my interest for its whole runtime. When it does, though, it really does. 3.3
Nevermore Dreaming Neon Black
Nightwish Imaginaerum
None More Black This Is Satire
What makes this band is frontman Jason Shevchuk. He has a gravelly, tuneful voice that is unique and interesting. However, the music, while always fun (save the draggy "I See London" and half-assed "10 Ton Jiggawatts"), doesn't have much to offer beyond that. "Yo! It's Not Rerun" is the album's best song-- the whole band puts actual power into it-- and the enjoyable "With the Transit Coat On" and "You Suck! But Your Peanut Butter's OK," are, well, enjoyable-- but beyond those tracks, This Is Satire is not outstanding. 3.2
Om Advaitic Songs
"Addis" opens the record well, and "State of Non-Return" is an excellent track marred only by its dull vocals (more should have been done with them). "Gethsemane" follows and is a pretty good, if slightly overlong, atmospheric cut. After that, the record produces two pleasant but meandering tracks that don't do much for me, and ends. 3.3
Opeth Apostle in Triumph
Opeth Pale Communion
While I admire Opeth's bravery in totally changing their sound and direction, the change isn't to my taste. This is a very retro progressive rock album, harkening back to the 1970's, and I tend to prefer forward rather than backward-thinking music. With that said though, the production is great (I like the drum sound especially- they are not triggered or overproduced), the performances are good (though Mikael's vocals are occasionally a little unfitting), and there are some awesome moments (the acoustic guitar, spooky middle, and catchy ending of "Moon Above, Sun Below;" the strings, when they appear; all of "Faith in Others"). Overall, Pale Communion is better than Heritage, but there is little point in comparing it to the band's other records as they are completely different stylistically. 3.4
PainKiller Buried Secrets
A lot of this record is noisy "jazzcore," but there is also a dub track, and some harsh, slower stuff as well. Great saxophone playing, as usual from John Zorn, though it is almost overly abrasive at times, and distracts from the other instruments. Also, "Black Chamber" reuses the same dub part from "Blackhole Dub," which seems kind of lazy. There is some cool stuff on here, but it's not all very enjoyable. 3.3
Paysage d'Hiver Einsamkeit
A good ambient effort, though it gets a bit dull at times and the screaming on "Kraft" feels out of place. 3.4
Peeping Tom Peeping Tom
Great vocal work- as always from Mike Patton- and there are some cool, catchy tracks on here, mainly at the beginning and end of the record ("Five Seconds," "Mojo," "Getaway," "We're Not Alone (Remix)"). Parts of the album feel overly self-indulgent, though, and some of the lyrics are horrible ('We're drivin' Lamborghini's and we're sippin' on martinis'). The middle of the record is also significantly weaker than the aforementioned beginning and end. Despite these negatives, though, overall Peeping Tom is worth checking out. 3.3
Pennywise All or Nothing
Praxis Sacrifist
I first heard this record several years ago during my Buckethead-crazed faze. I had loved Praxis' previous effort Transmutation, and when I heard this-- well, I didn't know what to make of it. It sounded like a different band-- which makes sense, because it kind of is. The musicians from Transmutation are all here, but added are Mick Harris (Napalm Death, Scorn) and Yamatsuka Eye (Naked City, Boredoms) who handle vocal duties, John Zorn on saxophone, and the band Blind Idiot God. Sacrifist is very dark and mostly aggressive. It is different from Transmutation in that its main focus is not genre mixing and matching (besides track two, "Cold Rolled/Iron Dub"), but heavy, intense metallic passages with screaming. "Deathstar" and "Crossing" are exceptions. Those two tracks are slower, extended showcases for Bootsy Collins and Bernie Worrell, respectively (that both go on too long). Overall, Sacrifist is far from perfect, and those uninitiated to the world of avant-garde should stay away, but it is an enjoyable listen. 3.4
Puscifer "V" Is For Vagina
Concept album about a relationship between a boy and a girl with mainly spoken vocals by Maynard Keenan of Tool fame. Trip hop with some industrial and rock influence, and very good production. "Momma Sed" is a truly fantastic track-- one of my favourite songs of all time-- but nothing else on the record is at the same level. It's ashame the title, band name, and album art are so terrible, because they overshadow the music. Overall, a mild recommendation. 3.0
Puscifer Cuntry Boner
An intentionally stupid couple of tracks, but the musicianship is actually very good, and so is the production. 3.4
Queensryche Empire
Honestly, what spoils this record for me is Geoff Tate. I've never been one for '80s-esque over-the-top vocal antics, and Empire is chalk full of them. The production further mars the record, with the gated snare and "Silent Lucidity's" overloud vocal sample the biggest offenders. Empire is, due to those factors, a very dated record, and as someone who harbours no nostalgia for the bygone age which it hearkens to it is thus an unsatisfying listen. However, it is not entirely without worth: the title track, "Jet City Woman," and "Della Brown" are all good songs. 3.0
Relient K Mmhmm
There is some great material on this release- I like how the band mix piano parts with the more traditional pop punk stuff. There are some clever lyrics as well. Some of this stuff is fairly generic, though, and the slower ballad songs are pretty boring and really kill the momentum of the record (especially the double whammy of "Which to Bury, Us or the Hatchet?"'s outro and "Let It All Out" right in the middle of the record). 3.1
Rings of Saturn Dingir
Secret Chiefs 3 Xaphan
Mixed feelings on this one. I feel as though I should like it a lot more than I do. Not only is Trey Spruance here, but also four former members of Estradasphere-- one of my favourite bands-- and they're playing songs written by John Zorn! The ingredients are all there. Unfortunately, despite that, Xaphan doesn't totally do it for me. Too many of these songs drag on ("Akramachamarei," "Shoel") and feel emotionless and dry. It is produced impeccably, though, and there are some excellent songs ("Bezriel," "Kemuel," closer "Hamaya"). Overall, Xaphan is a good record, but disappointing considering the personnel involved. 3.4
Senses Fail Let It Enfold You (Deluxe Edition)
A host of catchy tracks and good production, but overall Let It Enfold You is a fairly immature and in some ways underwhelming debut record. It's a nostalgic album for me, though, and so it gets points for that. Ironically, the bonus tracks are two of my favourites. 3.4
Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz Abraxas: Book of Angels Volume 19
Avantgarde rock and jazz-rock interpretations of Zorn's compositions. Somewhat reminiscent of volume 7 (Marc Ribot's Asmodeus), but more structured and with a gimbri instead of a bass. The gimbri (a three-string African bass) basically sounds like a regular bass, though, and so its presence doesn't provide much interest. Overall, Abraxas is superbly performed (the drumming on "Maspiel", the guitar solo on "Domos") but it all blends together to a degree, and doesn't sustain my interest for its duration. 3.3
Silencer (SWE) Death - Pierce Me
I have very mixed feelings about this album. Musically, it's excellent, with the engaging guitar playing creating an effectively dark atmosphere and the drumming keeping up admirably (the title track). However, the vocals are so over-the-top that they often devolve into unintentional comedy (the troll-like ranting in the middle of "Sterile Nails and Thunderbowels"). I give points for the musicianship, but the vocals tarnish an otherwise largely successful black metal record. 3.0
Soen Cognitive
Stormtroopers of Death Speak English or Die
A fun and fast record. Definitely doesn't take itself seriously, with hilarious parody lyrics and skits all the way through. It gets a bit repetitive musically sometimes, though it is less than a half hour long. Highlights are "What's That Noise," "Milk," and "Pussy Whipped." 3.4
Strapping Young Lad The New Black
Sum 41 Does This Look Infected?
Sum 41 Chuck
Swain Howl
A lot of this album just doesn't hit hard enough for me, but there are enough good riffs and sections (particularly in the second half) to warrant a mild recommendation. The vocal performance is pretty good too, but again, some more aggression would be welcome. 3.3
System of a Down Steal This Album!
For a collection of, ostensibly, b-sides, Steal This Album! is pretty good. However, it is also below the standard set by the self-titled record and Toxicity. While it has some worthwhile tracks ("Innervision," "Bubbles," "Fuck the System," "Streamline") almost none of it, including those songs aforementioned, hits as hard as any track off their two previous releases. But hey- that's why they were b-sides in the first place. 3.4
That Handsome Devil The Heart Goes to Heaven, The Head Goes to Hell
The Dillinger Escape Plan Under the Running Board
The Dillinger Escape Plan's second EP is a closer stylistic precursor to Calculating Infinity than their first. There are only three songs here and the total length is around seven and a half minutes, but the material is so dense that it feels like three times that. Ultimately, Under the Running Board is not a not a very satisfying listen because the songs just feels like inferior versions of the Calculating Infinity tracks. However, it's worth a listen if you're a fan. 3.3
The Dillinger Escape Plan The Dillinger Escape Plan
Not the most interesting EP- the songs sound relatively similar to one another, aside from occasional moments- but it isn't a bad listen and it, being Dillinger's first release, is a must listen for fans. 3.0
The Dreamers Ipos: Book of Angels Volume 14
Ipos is by The Dreamers, so you pretty much know what you're going to get: jazzy surf/exotica music. The performances are fantastic and it's pleasant enough to listen to, but it's all so light and airy. Ipos isn't a bad album by any means, but I can't say it's one I want to listen to very often. "Zavebe," "Qalbam," and closer "Kutiel" are my favourites here. 3.0
The Living End Modern Artillery
"End of the World" is fantastic, "Short Notice" is fun, and "The Room" is a nice experiment-- a long track. The production is great, and the instrumental work is at a higher level than most pop rock/punk. Overall though, Modern ARTillery (love the title), while never less than fun, has some generic tracks ("In the End," "So What") that bring the score down. Songs like those are squandered talent. 3.4
The Mount Fuji Doomjazz Corporation Anthropomorphic
Thomas Giles Pulse
Ulcerate The Destroyers of All
William Shatner The Transformed Man
Wolves in the Throne Room Two Hunters

2.5 average
A Million Dead Birds Laughing Xen
Abigail Williams Becoming
Becoming has all the superficial qualities of a black metal record: fuzzy production; wailed vocals; long songs full of tremolo picking. It even has some great passages, and nice touches. However the indeterminate atmosphere and lack of emotional urgency casts the entire affair in a somewhat disingenuous shadow, almost as if the band listened to a bunch of black metal records and then made their own, without really grasping what the genre is all about. 2.5
Abysmal Dawn Leveling the Plane of Existence
A very unremarkable album on the whole, Abysmal Dawn's Leveling the Plane of Existence may feature ten tracks, but they all (save the fifty-six second interlude "Our Primitive Nature") sound almost exactly the same. Unfortunately, the great musicianship can't stop this record from running together and, ultimately, becoming a chore to listen to in full. 2.5
Aerosmith Devil's Got A New Disguise
Alestorm Black Sails at Midnight
Alien Ant Farm ANThology
Spotty mixing and a number of dull tracks hurt ANThology, however the energetic vocal performance and a few interesting pieces ("Wish," "Flesh and Bone," the "Smooth Criminal" cover that everyone knows, the end of closer "Universe") save the record somewhat. Overall, ANThology has moments of greatness, but as a whole lacks the punch to maintain listener interest for its entirety. 2.6
Alkaline Trio My Shame Is True
The first two tracks are good, but the album gets, for the most part, pretty generic and boring after that. Tim Mcllrath's cameo was a cool addition, though. 2.6
Amber Damned Echoes - EP
Pretty generic, but listenable, EP. The title track in particular has some nice moments, and "Half Life" is well-written (not to mention I love that title!)
Anal Cunt I Like It When You Die
Anathema A Fine Day to Exit
Aside from a few moments and songs, A Fine Day to Exit is a pretty uneventful listen and a below par Anathema record. By the way, what is up with the last ten minutes of "Temporary Peace?" It's like the band took too much acid one day in the studio or something. 2.5
Anathema Eternity
I admire the risk Anathema took with this record, but as a whole it doesn't work. Eternity is too long and many of the songs feel drawn out, which results in a mostly boring release. (Special mention to the song "Angelica," though, which is excellent.) Some of the vocals are quite poor as well, but their passionate delivery is good- as is the atmosphere throughout, which I give extra points for. 2.6
Anathema Alternative 4
The positives: A marked improvement in Vincent's singing voice since Eternity. "Destiny" and "Lost Control" are cool. The ending of "Re-Connect" is the most powerful thing that the band had done to this point. The negatives: "Regret" goes on for way too long. "Shroud of False" is pointless and badly produced. "Empty" is poorly written. Overall, though Alternative 4 shows some promise, it's an underwhelming listen. 2.6
Anathema The Silent Enigma
Anathema's vocalist Darren White left the band after Serenades, and the group decided to induct guitarist Vincent Cavanagh as his replacement. As most fans know, Vincent remains their vocalist to this day, and on The Silent Enigma he does a decent job. Oddly, he sounds better here than on the follow-up Eternity- maybe because this one relies more on growling/speaking than singing? Anyway, this record has its moments, and the atmosphere it creates is fantastic, but it ultimately feels drawn out. Songs go on for too long without really doing anything. This was the band's last release of their doom metal phase, though even here you can make out hints of what was to come ("...Alone"). 2.5
Animals As Leaders Weightless
As Blood Runs Black Allegiance
Austrian Death Machine Double Brutal
Authority Zero The Tipping Point
There are nice touches throughout this record, such as the acoustic guitar and awesomely heavy outro on "Shakedown in Juarez," the horns in "Today We Heard the News," and the cool ska track "Struggle." The great vocal and bass (yes, you can hear it!) performances from Jason DeVore and Mike Spero, respectively, are also pluses. Ultimately though, The Tipping Point is a pretty generic record that doesn't live up to the band's previous work. However, it isn't unlistenable and has some good songs- such as those aforementioned- as well as "Undivided." 2.8
Avenged Sevenfold Avenged Sevenfold
Between the Buried and Me The Silent Circus
The Silent Circus has "Mordecai"-- one of Between the Buried and Me's best songs ever-- and... what else? An ambient interlude ("Reaction"), a really corny ballad ("(Shevanel, Take 2)"), and seven metal songs that never quite reach the sum of their parts. There are great moments scattered throughout those seven songs, but none of them do it for me as whole pieces (besides "The Need for Repetition"... but that one has an annoying amount of silence before the hidden track stuck at its end). Also, the drum production is really bad. The bass drum hits are ridiculously synthetic. 2.9
Between the Buried and Me The Parallax II: Future Sequence
Bjork Vulnicura
Great mix, Bjork's performance is excellent, the album concept is cool, and I love the strings. However, the songwriting does little for me. None of the songs here, with the possible exception of opener "Stonemilker" and penultimate number "Mouth Mantra," feel like they go anywhere. They are simply long, monotone stretches of electronic drumming and swirling strings with Bjork vocalizing overtop. This results in a listen that's never bad, but rarely gripping, either. 2.5
Black Flag Damaged
I appreciate the influence and significance of this record, however I just don't enjoy it. Most of it is boring, though I will say that the vocal performance from Henry Rollins makes things more interesting (especially on "Damaged I"). I just wish that the instrumentation was a little tighter and that there was more variation between the songs. Overall, while Damaged is no doubt a seminal record in the history of punk rock, it's more enjoyable as a historical piece than an album proper. 2.7
Blind Witness Nightmare on Providence Street
Blink-182 Neighborhoods
The biggest problem with Neighborhoods is that a lot of it feels disconnected. What made blink's other material so effective was the earnestness; that element is lacking here, and the result is a disappointing record. Other problems include the underuse of Mark's vocals and a host of stale-sounding tracks ("Love Is Dangerous" the worst offender). It isn't all bad ("Ghost on the Dance Floor" is pretty good, "Natives" is catchy, and some of the interlude-y bits are interesting) and I applaud blink for not simply rehashing their earlier records. Neighborhoods is ultimately a rather unsatisfying listen, but the hints of greatness throughout leave me excited for the band's next release. 2.7
Borealis Fall From Grace
A pretty average and unremarkable power metal album, though it does have some good performances and a nice production job. 2.5
Boris Attention Please
Borknagar Urd
Brötzmann Clarinet Project Berlin Djungle
An improvised live recording from 1984. Six clarinets, trumpet, bass, drums, saxophone, trombone, tarogato, and mouthpieces make appearances here. On one of the six clarinets is John Zorn (!) The record is divided into two parts but that decision seems arbitrary-- there seem to be more songs than that, if audience applause are anything to judge by. Lots of cacophonous noise and, conversely, stretches of minimalism. This is by no means easy listening, and the recording quality isn't very good (nowhere near enough drums), but it's fun. 2.5
Buckethead In Search Of The - Volume 11: 'T'
Buckethead Slaughterhouse on the Prairie
Buckethead's first of many releases from 2009, and it is a decent one by the eclectic guitarist. It starts with two previously free-to-download songs from his website, titled "Lebron" and "Lebron's Hammer," respectively. From then on, the album descends into traditional Buckethead stuff- fast riffing, heavy usage of the killswitch and other effects, and of course some incredible guitar soloing. What's wrong with this album is that at times, particularly towards the end of the album, it feels as though Buckethead is just going through the motions, especially on tracks like "Goat Host" which really don't seem to have much effort put into them. There is some great stuff on here, though: "Don't Use Roosts if You Raise Broilers" and "Premonition" come to mind as both being solid tracks by Buckethead- it's just that there are parts of the album that feel a bit lacking. 2.7
Buckethead Spinal Clock
One of Buckethead's most minimalistic releases yet, Spinal Clock is the type of album that prefers to make its point not by hitting you with sound, but by lacking it. This is a very experimental release, with a majority of the nine tracks on here having almost no melody or flow. The highlights for me are the last two songs: "Skeleton Dance" is the closest thing to a traditional song on here, containing a breathtaking Medieval-style riff, and "Bayou By You," which sounds like something from The Cuckoo Clocks of Hell transposed and played on a banjo. One of Buckethead's most polarizing efforts yet, Spinal Clock is not for those without an open mind, but if you can keep one throughout, appreciation for the inventiveness of the compositions will bloom and you may end up enjoying it. For me though, the first seven tracks are just too sparse and minimalistic to merit much playtime. 2.6
Burzum From the Depths of Darkness
When Burzum announced that he would be re-recording a bunch of songs from his first two albums, people were skeptical. And, unfortunately, with good reason. From the Depths of Darkness leaves the listener upset, but probably not in the way Burzum intended. Unfortunately, these new versions don't so much revitalize as they do deaden. The combination of new, more flaccid vocals, a (comparatively) clean production job, and a lack of much change anyway make the entire album feel unnecessary and somewhat pointless. Which it, sadly, is. 2.5
Cryptopsy Whisper Supremacy
Vocalist Lord Worm left after None So Vile because he was butting heads with the rest of the band over the 'experimental' direction they were interested in heading, and his desire to pursue a teaching career. Mike DiSalvo was recruited to take his place, and the choice is a puzzling one. While not a bad vocalist, DiSalvo's style is more suited to hardcore music than technical death metal. When he does venture into death metal styling, the results are not unique. Making matters worse, the mix strongly emphasizes his vocals. As a result, Whisper Supremacy is an unsatisfying listen. The songwriting, too, is not as great as None So Vile, with riffs too often feeling pasted in. Luckily, the musicianship (particularly Flo Mounier's drumming) is fantastic, and there are some great moments (the end of "Loathe"). 2.9
Cynic Kindly Bent to Free Us
Cynic bent their sound with kind intentions, and it freed us from any notions of their next album being great. Yeah, that was kind of forced. Whatever. The problem with this record is that it's like a nice breeze. It's not unpleasant to listen to, but nothing really happens for its duration. It just blows by... like a breeze (there's the connection). I can't say that this is a bad album, because it's not, but it's not a very captivating one either- and for a band as established as Cynic, that is pretty surprising. 2.8
David Moss Full House
A series of improvised pieces. Each features David Moss and one other musician (including Arto Lindsay, John Zorn, and Bill Laswell). Moss is primarily a drummer, but he also has does strange vocalizations (the title track opener, "Possible Fruit"). Genres range from atonal clatters and effects ("Hand Tech") to funk ("The Man with the Rain-Colored Legs"), though most of the songs belong to the first category. I'm generally not big on improvised music-- I prefer listening to music that has been crafted and refined-- but some of the stuff on here is interesting. This record was spawned from the same idea as Zorn's Locus Solus, released one year previously. That idea was, supposedly, to record avant-garde pop music. No one would ever mistake this for pop music, but as avant-garde music it is somewhat engaging. It's more fun if you are aware of the personnel involved, as with all improvised music. 2.8
Deftones Deftones
"Minerva" is phenomenal, but overall Deftones is a dreary, dingy, and sort of boring listen. The record is especially disappointing because it comes off the heels of White Pony. The performances are great, but the production has a scratchy, raw vibe that makes it sound as though the record is spattered with dirt that hasn't been wiped away. There are a large number of uneventful tracks on here, too (ironically, "Anniversary of an Uninteresting Event" isn't one of them). The band wasn't happy with this record when it came out, and it's clear why. Their weakest since the debut. 2.8
Deftones Back to School (Mini Maggit)
On here, you get studio and live versions of the much-derided record label-mandated "Back to School (Mini Maggit)" (even Chino himself hates this song), three more live tracks (including an unreleased song, "Teething"), an acoustic version of "Change," and "Pink Maggit." Though a lot of people dislike "Back to School (Mini Maggit)," I dig it. The live tracks are okay, but the recording quality isn't great. The acoustic version of "Change" is awesome, and "Pink Maggit" is epic... but if you have White Pony, you have that song anyway. Overall, this is a nice EP for fans, but not essential listening. 2.8
DevilDriver The Last Kind Words
Okay, but hardly original metal. Crystal clear production, triggered drums, accessible riffing. This approach works for some tracks ("Clouds over California") but often sounds watered down. There is very little dynamic variation-- most everything is loud and distorted. The vocals are similarly one-sided-- screams-- though the screaming is good. Overall, The Last Kind Words is a generic metal record, likely appealing to metal noobies but not anyone else. 2.5
DevilDriver Beast
Devin Townsend Project Z2
SKY BLUE: Very Epicloud-esque. Overproduced in spots, to my ears. Also, the poppiest thing Devin has ever released. It has some good songs: most notably "Universal Flame," which is my favourite track across both discs, and "Midnight Sun." Overall though, disappointing in that it lacks the diversity and depth of Devin's best releases. 3.0

DARK MATTERS: I admire the creativity in the narrative and dialogue, but the problem with this disc is the music itself: it does nothing for me. There are some good moments scattered across the eleven songs here (most notably in "War Princess," the disc's strongest song) but it consists almost entirely of go-nowhere riffs that are repeated far too many times. The songs should have come first, and then some dialogue could have been stuck between them (as separate tracks) or at their beginning/ends; instead, we get overlong, repetitive metal riffs with dialogue stuck overtop. Along with the first Ziltoid, this is Devin's weakest album. 2.1

Diamanda Galas Schrei X
A series of a capella pieces. The first half of the CD is the songs performed live, the second half is the studio versions. Effects are added to the solo voice, creating blistering, intense, and frightening atmospheres. The words are by Galas, but include excerpts from the Book of Job and St. Thomas Aquinas. Reportedly, the theme of the work is torture; and indeed, Galas' desperate, frantic performance, consisting of much screeching and screaming, reflects this theme. Schrei X was designed as a performance art piece, so when listening to the record the visual qualities are absent. Presumably, these visuals are a large part of the work, and thus in missing them Schrei X, the record, doesn't totally satisfy. Nonetheless, it remains a display of Galas' incredible vocal prowess. (Though it will likely, due to its abrasive nature, send the majority of listeners scrambling for the stop button). 2.5
Diamanda Galas with John Paul Jones The Sporting Life
Diamanda collaborates with John Paul Jones (the Led Zeppelin bassist) here, and the result is, unsurprisingly, the most accessible of her records. It's still got shrieking and screaming, but for the most part it's nowhere near as abrasive as her other work. The problem here is not the accessible approach-- it's that most of these songs are simply templates for Diamanda to vocalize over. The best track on the album is "Dark End of the Street," because it is an actual song and feels like more than just a backing track with Diamanda singing over it. "Sk?toseme" is another that feels like more, but it goes on too long. Overall, a fun listen, but nowhere near what it could have been. 2.8
Dropkick Murphys Going Out In Style
Edge of Sanity Infernal
After Crimson, the rest of Edge of Sanity confronted Swano and had an ultimatum of sorts: they were tired of the progressive stuff, and wanted to get back to their roots. It was out of this dispute that Infernal was born. Unfortunately, the album is wildly inconsistent, and you can tell from listening that it is the product of a band divided. Indeed, the only common thread between the songs here is drummer Benny Larssen, who played on all eleven of them. Swano penned and performed five, and the rest of the band, with guitarist/vocalist Andreas Axelsson taking the lead, wrote the other six. Though there are some decent songs on here- namely "Hell Is Where the Heart Is," "Helter Skelter," and "15:36"- Infernal remains an extremely uneven, and almost uncomfortable, listen. 2.6
Edge of Sanity Cryptic
After the release of Infernal, Dan Swano left Edge of Sanity. The rest of the band, with Andreas Axelsson taking the lead, hired a new vocalist named Robert Karlsson and put out Cryptic less than a year later. Aside from a few cool moments (the end of "Bleed You Dry"), the album is a pretty generic offering. All of the songs sound relatively the same, and the vocals are too quiet in the mix. Overall, Cryptic is a largely forgettable record and nowhere near as good as most of the band's other work. After this album, Edge of Sanity disbanded until 2003, when Dan Swano resurrected the name for Crimson II. 2.5
Enslaved Blodhemn
The intro is absolutely fantastic, and the choir/ambient ending to the last track is cool as well. However, the rest of the album all runs together for me. None of it is "bad," but I can't tell any of it apart.
Enslaved In Times
A big step down from their last two records. In Times feels as though Enslaved is going through the motions. The clean vocals sound bored and the riffs are uninteresting. "Daylight" is a decent closer, but that's the only song on In Times anywhere close to the quality of either Axioma Ethica Odini or RIITIIR. Disappointing. 2.5
Evile Enter the Grave
This record starts out very well, but quickly becomes boring. Opener "Enter The Grave" is fantastic, and the other highlight is the second track, "Thrasher" (of Rock Band 2 fame). Both songs feature incredibly fast and precise guitar playing, yelling vocals, and breakneck drumming, all of which continue for the rest of the album. And continue for the rest of the album. And continue for the rest of the album. Every song is played in the same key, and aside from the slow intro to "We Who Are About to Die," there is almost no variation whatsoever in any of the songs on here. The band obviously had fun recording this, but it's just way too repetitive to be enjoyable in its entirety. Check out a couple of the tracks (preferably the first two), but hold off on buying the whole album. 2.5
Explosions in the Sky Take Care, Take Care, Take Care
Faith No More Album of the Year
With Trey Spruance's departure following the recording of King for a Day, another guitarist was needed to fill the position. Jon Hudson, a former roommate of bassist Billy Gould, was selected. Unfortunately, his performance here is totally devoid of any personality; the solo on "Ashes to Ashes" is great, granted, but it would be so much better were there any passion behind it. The same can be said for the rest of the guitarwork, and indeed, much of the instrumentation in general. That is really the problem with Album of the Year (the title is ironic- the band members themselves were unhappy with the record): it's obvious the band was not as engrossed in the music as before, and thus the final product suffers. Luckily, Mike Patton manages to save some of the proceedings with his fantastic vocal work, and a couple of the songs ("Mouth to Mouth," the aforementioned "Ashes to Ashes") are worthwhile. Unsurprisingly, the band broke up following this album- however, they have reformed, and are releasing a new record next year. 2.8
Fall Out Boy From Under the Cork Tree
Fantomas Delirium Cordia
First of all, this is not your typical album. It's one song that is almost one and a quarter hours long. Immediately all hope of this album ever being accepted into the mainstream or played on the radio is smashed. So, what's left? Well, this album is intended to be the audio equivalent of surgery without anaesthesia- an interesting idea. This record is like a combination of ambiance, metal, noise music, and many other genres. Patton doesn't "sing" in the traditional sense- there are no lyrics to be found here, but rather moans of pain, humming, yelps, and freak outs. The other instruments aren't as upfront as they are on the other Fantomas albums, with the exception of maybe the drums (at 30:30 there is a drum solo). The big problem with this album is replayability. I rarely find myself coming back to it, partly due to the length, and partly because of the weirdness of it. Also, the fact that the final nineteen minutes are the same repetitive tracking noise over and over again is minorly annoying. This is really unlike anything you'll ever hear, both in good and bad ways.
Finch What It Is to Burn
It's simple and poppy and has aged badly. Nowhere near the level of Say Hello to Sunshine. Confusing and upsetting that people actually prefer this to that album. This is essentially power pop with screaming. Granted, some of the cuts are enjoyable (the title track, "Untitled," "Project Mayhem") but the majority is pretty bad. 2.5
Finch Back to Oblivion
Now, I will preface this by saying that deriding this record for the sole reason that it sounds nothing like Say Hello to Sunshine makes you no better than fans who derided that album for sounding nothing like What It Is to Burn. With that said, though, Back to Oblivion is a largely unimpressive record for me, but not only because it lacks the complexity and creativity of Sunshine-- the majority of these songs are simply dull to me, and were it not for the phenomenal vocals of Nate Barcalow, they could be excerpts from the discography of any generic rock band (though there is a lot of Deftones influence on here). As it stands, the vocals elevate the record, but it is nowhere near the musical level that Say Hello to Sunshine was at. Also, why stick the two acoustic songs right at the end, one after another? Bad, bad decision there. 2.7
Fleshgod Apocalypse Agony
Gavin Harrison and 05ric Circles
The drumming and other instrumentation is absolutely excellent. (Nice mix too.) However, the vocals can be very annoying at times, and some of the songs feel like they don't really go anywhere. 2.5
Green Day 1039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours
Ingested Surpassing the Boundaries of Human Suffering
Intervals A Voice Within
This album falls into the trap that a lot of modern prog metal does: it jams a bunch of not unpleasant but similar heavy riffs together song after song and does not differentiate enough between them, save small eclectic moments and touches which are forgotten about after the record ends. Furthermore, the album's marriage between djent and pop doesn't work for me- every time I try to hook on to the poppy melodies, the slow drumbeats and chugging guitars strip the energy away. Good production and performances, but the songwriting leaves a lot to be desired. 2.9
Jimmy Eat World Bleed American
Bleed American is a much simpler record than any of Jimmy Eat World's previous (bar perhaps the self-titled debut). To me, it's too simple, and too predictable, really lacking 'oomph' for much of its duration. The title track is very good, and the closer is heartfelt, but the derivative poppiness of the affair bores me more often than not. Furthermore, the proliferation of female vocals in the second half feels cliched (even if they are well-performed). 2.5
Jimmy Eat World Static Prevails
A darkly-tinged and somewhat raw record that is less generic and more indicative of the emo scene than the band's debut. The vocals on this one are split between Jim Atkins and Tom Linton. There is one fantastic song ("Claire") and a couple of pretty good ones (opener "Thinking, That's All", "Episode IV"), but mostly the material here ranges from average to poor. 2.7
John 5 Requiem
John Zorn Moonchild
The first Moonchild release is also their most bare-bones: no musicians apart from the trio of Patton, Dunn, and Baron; less vocals than on later releases; and a much smaller focus. The compositions here are not as interesting as the band's best work, occasionally going on too long (the nearly seven-minute band title track), and the heavy, oppressive atmosphere throughout grows dull long before the finish line. Still, great moments (Baron's cymbal work in the middle of "Ghosts of Thelema," the ending of "Abraxas," the chaotic breaks in "616") redeem the record somewhat. 2.5
John Zorn Ipsissimus
Ipsissimus was one of twelve records John Zorn released in 2010- his goal was to put out one record a month for the whole year. As such, parts of Ipsissimus feel rushed; namely, the three improvised tracks ("Apparitions" I, II, and III). I'm all for improvisation, but these three songs have almost no value whatsoever. Ipsissimus also stumbles on some of the non-improvised tracks: basically, besides the first two songs and "Warlock," nothing else of interest happens here. "Warlock" is utterly fantastic, though; one of my favourite Moonchild songs. Overall, Ipsissimus isn't merit-less, but it is one of the weakest Moonchild records. 2.5
Karnivool Asymmetry
There are some cool ideas in play and some good tracks ("The Last Few," "We Are") however I don't like the production or mix, and the interludes are, across the board, pretty useless and uneventful. Overall, Asymmetry shows potential, but rarely lives up to it. 2.8
Kayo Dot Stained Glass
While not unlistenable, Stained Glass leaves much to be desired. The sections of this massive 20-minute track are all somewhat interesting- indeed, the song starts off very promisingly, with some great vocals from Driver- but the track doesn't really go anywhere, and it ends on a long ambient section that wears out its welcome long before concluding. 2.5
Klaxons Surfing the Void
Lagwagon Blaze
Blaze sees Lagwagon rely strongly on pop punk/punk rock styling while injecting a little bit of other influence into many songs. "E Dagger" features female vocals and soothing, Beach Boys-esque harmonies, "Lullaby" a noisy breakdown, "Burn" a speed metal guitar solo, etc. It loses steam towards the end and it's never got enough grit for me, but Blaze is better than many pop punk records-- which, I suppose, isn't really saying much. 2.9
Light Bearer Silver Tongue
Opener "Beautiful Is This Burden" is absolutely fantastic. It is an 18-minute post-metal extravaganza, with a gorgeous orchestral opening and excellent heavy riffing throughout. Unfortunately, after that the album takes a turn for the worse, delving into dull, unmemorable, plodding numbers for most of its remaining runtime. The closing title track shows some promise, but aside from that and maybe one or two other sections, Silver Tongue is a very dragged out and uneventful listen. Major points for "Beautiful Is This Burden," but the rest isn't as good. 2.7
Machine Head The Blackening
There are lots of riffs on this album, but unfortunately even most of the good ones are repeated ad nauseam. Robb Flynn's bark-like vocals also get grating and irritating after a while; he should do more clean work. With all that said, though, the instrumental performances are excellent (especially the guitars) and the tracks that don't drag on forever ("Aesthetics of Hate," "Now I Lay Thee Down") are pretty good. It's just a shame that most of this album is, despite all the heaviness and energy, boring. 2.7
Masada Quintet Featuring Joe Lovano Stolas: Book of Angels Volume 12
Stolas is... okay. It's competent jazz/klezmer music that sounds a lot like the original Masada (which makes sense, considering more than one of the members of that band play on here). It lacks the excitement of many of the other Book of Angels releases, though. It's certainly not a bad listen, just not particularly distinctive. Zorn plays sax on "Rahtiel," though, which is nice (and that song is also one of the best here). 2.8
Mastodon The Hunter
The Hunter is Mastodon's most accessible and also least interesting record. It's not a bad album- tracks such as "Black Tongue," "Blasteroid," "Stargasm," and "Bedazzled Fingernails" are all possessing of some merit- but it lacks the atmosphere of the band's previous releases. At least this transition to radio-friendly territory doesn't feel disingenuous- however, it isn't particularly exciting either, and makes for the weakest record of Mastodon's discography. 2.8
MD.45 The Craving
NOTE: I have the remaster with Mustaine on vocals. Dave Mustaine was trying to combine punk and metal with this release (MD.45 is considered a side project of his). "Designer Behaviour" is great, and the bonus track "Chutney" is too. Unfortunately, almost every other song is boring and generic. I suppose the lesson here is that combining genres isn't interesting in and of itself. The Craving is chalk full of predictable, dull songs-- though Mustaine isn't in bad form (most of the time). 2.2
Megadeth Cryptic Writings
"Trust" and "She-Wolf" are good tracks, and "A Secret Place" is a successful attempt at something different for Megadeth. Beyond that, there's not much to see here. If you want to hear Megadeth play a punk song, though, check out the extremely out-of-place closer "FFF." 2.5
Megadeth The World Needs a Hero
I really enjoy the title track, and the solos on opener "Disconnect" are great as well. The rest of the album feels sort of... off, though, with Mustaine seemingly trying to please both fans of Megadeth's 'old' and 'new' sounds. To me, this doesn't feel like a return to roots album so much as a diagonal step into middle ground between old and new, never reaching the highs of either but never being horribly bad either (aside from closer "When"). 2.5
Megadeth Hidden Treasures
A collection of mostly average Megadeth tracks ("Go to Hell" is kind of fun, though) and a few, well, mostly average covers. The end of "Paranoid" is hilarious, though.
Merzbow Merzbox (Disc 2) - 1980 – Metal Acoustic Music
Merzbow Merzbox (Disc 4) - 1981 – Collection Era Vol. 1
Meshuggah obZen
Tomas Haake is back behind the drumkit, which is good. Ultimately, there is very little difference between this record and Catch Thirtythree, though. There's less ambience, and the songs aren't combined into one track, but really, this is Meshuggah doing Meshuggah... again. Meshuggah does the low-tuned, mechanical, groovy chugging thing so well that this is okay, but obZen isn't groundbreaking for them. Besides that, the biggest problem with the record is the songs are almost unanimously too long with too little variation. Montony quickly sets in when listening. This is evident with the two biggest hits from the album, "Bleed" and "Dancers to a Discordant System." Both have great grooves, but go on way, way too long. The vocals aren't as variated as past releases, either, contributing to the dullness. Listening to a song or two from obZen interspersed with other bands is a more effective listening experience than hearing the entire album front-to-back, as when doing the latter boredom inevitably sets in. 2.8
Meshuggah Koloss
Michael Angelo Batio Tradition
This album has some cool tracks on it, such as "China," "I Can't Take it No More," and "Voices of the Distant Past." The sheer speed and virtuosity of Batio's playing is also incredibly admirable. However, the whole affair (bajillion notes a second, every second) gets tiring quickly, and almost half of the record is made up of previous songs with the lead lines taken out (to play over, I suppose... but good luck with that). 2.7
Midtown Living Well is the Best Revenge
"Become What You Hate" was one of my favourite songs when I was 12/13, but I didn't get the full album until recently. (I could never find it.) Aside from "Still Trying" and "Like a Movie," the rest of the album is very generic, and mostly boring, pop-punk. Gabe Saporta's fantastic voice and the aforementioned three songs are enough to render this album just average. 2.5
Mr. Bungle The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny
Some cool stuff ("Grizzly Adams," some of the riffs and vocals [the guitar solo on "Sudden Death" as well]) marred by bad production (it is only a demo, but still... the production is bad) and a few weak songs/moments. If you're a fan of Mr. Bungle this is definitely worth checking out, but it's not exactly groundbreaking (like the band's later work). 2.6
My Chemical Romance Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge
A bit of a guilty pleasure record for me. It's a shame Gerard Way's image overshadowed his talent, because he really is a great vocalist. There's not much to this album, but it's a mostly fun ride. 2.8
Mycale Mycale: Book of Angels Volume 13
It's a capella music, and it's lovely. It also gets dull after two or three tracks. Some more variety in the techniques used would benefit this record. There's nothing inherently boring about a capella records, but when all of the songs sound relatively similar-- that's boring. Listening to a track or two (or three) off this is nice in between other songs, but the entire album doesn't hold my attention. 2.9
Nevermore In Memory
Nightwish Endless Forms Most Beautiful
Unfortunately, Nightwish as of late seems to confuse epicness with bloatedness. Endless Forms Most Beautiful is trying very hard to be big and epic. It ends up always listenable, but hardly ever interesting. It treads familiar ground for the band, only it does so in an oft corny and overwrought manner akin to their last record. And the familiar pop melodies smattered all across the record's 86-minute (!) runtime don't help those aforementioned senses of familiarity and boredom. On the plus side, Floor has a phenomenal voice, and she is a perfect fit for the band. Hopefully on the next album she is given more room to stretch her chops, and the band stretches their own more, too. 2.6
NOFX Wolves in Wolves Clothing
A lot of underdeveloped ideas on this one, some of which could have been awesome songs if expanded on ("One Celled Creature," "Cantado En Espanol"). The lyrics on here are pretty clever, though, and there a few great tracks ("Leaving Jesusland," "USA-holes," "Seeing Double at the Triple Rock"). 2.8
NOFX Coaster
A couple of great tracks ("Eddie, Bruce, and Paul," which is one of the best songs I've heard by the band, and "I Am an Alcoholic," which is a fun, chilled-out number with some fantastic female vocals and an equally fantastic trumpet solo) but by-and-large Coaster ranges from mediocre to bad. The aforementioned great songs save this record from being a total bore (the production is very good as well). 2.8
None More Black File Under Black
Poppy, melodic punk. Jason Shevchuk's fantastic gravelly voice is what separates this band from a sea of similar artists. "Ice Cream with the Enemy" and "Zero Tolerance Drum Policy" are head and shoulders above the rest of the songs, the former a roaring ride through melodic punk goodness, the latter the heaviest song on the album. "Dinner's for Suckers" is fun, too. Other than that, this is pretty passable, though never terrible. 2.7
OSI Office of Strategic Influence
PainKiller Guts of a Virgin
Great sax playing, and the vocals are awesome too. A nice atmosphere is also present on some of the tracks ("Portent"). However, too much of this record just feels like abrasive randomness, or jam sessions, with little replay value. Maybe I just don't completely 'get it.' Overall, Guts of a Virgin has less variety and is slightly weaker than Buried Secrets, but fans will probably enjoy it nonetheless. 2.9
Paul Gilbert Vibrato
Paysage d'Hiver Nacht
The weakest Paysage d'Hiver album I've heard so far. Though it has some great atmospheric sections, and I commend Wintherr for trying something new with this one (it's themed after night instead of winter), it just doesn't grab me like some of his other records. This is mostly due to the material here being way too repetitive- "Finsternis, Tod und Einsamkeit" is the worst offender, consisting of one guitar riff played over and over again for sixteen minutes with little else going on. "Des Lichtes Sterben - Part II" is really good, though, and the atmosphere can be too- it's just a shame that some of these songs are dragged on for too long, causing the listener to lose interest and, as a result, that aforementioned atmosphere to dissipate. 2.8
Pennywise Pennywise
Phillip Phillips The World from the Side of the Moon
This album has some really great cuts, such as "Man on the Moon," "Home," and "Drive Me," however much of it is dull, generic pop-rock. It is also overlong; the second half in particular really drags. 2.5
Plain White T's Every Second Counts
Porcupine Tree The Incident
Protest the Hero Scurrilous
Queensryche The Warning
Impressive instrumental and vocal work, but the cheesiness of it all, coupled with the subpar production and a lack of standout moments, bring the score down for me. 2.5
Radiohead The King of Limbs
The production is great and the atmosphere is compelling on some of the tracks ("Morning Mr Bagpie", "Feral"). It's hard not to be underwhelmed by this record, though. It took four years to make and is shorter than all of Radiohead's previous LPs; most of the songs are extremely repetitive, in some cases to the point of boredom; and it feels half-hearted in spots. The King of Limbs isn't a bad album, but it's not a great one either, and for a band as established as Radiohead, that is disappointing. 2.9
Rollins Band The End of Silence
While I love Rollins' impassioned vocal performance, and the production is good too, many of the songs on The End of Silence just go on for too long. Half of the record's tracks are over 7 minutes long, and would be more effective at a shorter runtime (the same goes for some of the under 7 minute songs as well). 2.6
Septicflesh Titan
The Great Mass was one of my favourite records of 2011, so naturally my expectations for Titan were pretty high. Unfortunately, in case you couldn't tell from my rating, the record did not live up to them. The problem isn't with the performances, which are (aside from a couple of subpar vocal moments) spot on, or the production, which is once again excellent. No: the issue is the songwriting. A lot of the tracks here are directionless and lack anything really distinctive, which causes the whole album to run together. There is no "Pyramid God" or "Oceans of Grey" this time around. In fact, I'd be hard-pressed to point out any stand-out moments, because the only moments that stood out were those aforementioned vocal hiccups (such as the chanting on "Burn"). The almost total lack of clean vocals hurts the album too. Disappointing. 2.5
Strapping Young Lad Strapping Young Lad
After City, Strapping Young Lad did not release another album for seven years. This was due to Devin Townsend's breakdown leaving him afraid to return to the place he had to go to internally for Strapping's music. Eventually he relented, however he was not really interested in the recording of this album (The Devin Townsend Band's Accelerated Evolution, which he was recording at the same time, took most of his attention) and, aside from certain moments ("Bring On the Young"), self-admittedly based the lyrics around "tough guy posturing," and not what he was really feeling. This results in a disconnected and disappointing album which does not live up to its predecessors, though it's not without its moments. 2.9
Streetlight Manifesto The Hands That Thieve
The most fun album I've ever heard that's bored me so much. Aside from "The Three of Us," which is an admittedly enjoyable ska romp, the rest of the album is just dull. I can admire elements of the record- namely, the production and the musicianship are both top notch- it's just a shame that the songs themselves do almost nothing for me. 2.8
Sum 41 Half Hour Of Power
This is Sum 41 at their youngest and most raw- and I suppose with that mind it shouldn't be any surprise that what plagues this record is also what makes it so fun to listen to: the immaturity. You can tell the band had fun recording this, but it goes wildly up and down in quality like a roller coaster, and is also very short at only half an hour long (hence the title). If you can get past some of the bland ("What I Believe," "Summer") and oddly-placed ("What We're All About," "32 Ways to Die") tracks, then you can find some fantastic ("Machine Gun", "Second Chance For Max Headroom") songs here. 2.8
System of a Down Mezmerize
A step down from their previous releases, Mezmerize shows System of a Down crafting a relatively straightforward record with plenty of vocals from Darren (this is not a good thing) and a lot (too much) repetition. Unlike the self-titled record, and even Toxicity to an extent, most of Mezmerize wears off very quickly. Oh yeah, the bass has all but disappeared too. Mezmerize is not a good album; in fact, it's a very disappointing one. 2.5
The Blood Brothers Young Machetes
Initially I downloaded this album, listened to it once or twice, hated the vocals, gave it a 2.5, and didn't play it again for several months. However, after those several months, I was driving home one night and decided to scroll through my iPod without looking, picking an album at random. This is what came on. "Well," I thought. "I haven't listened to it in a while. Let's see what happens." A lot happened. The first two songs played and the vocals, which I had not liked previously, suddenly worked for me. Yes, they were very grating and high-pitched, but they were effective. Then I got to the third track "Lazer Life," which is absolutely terrible, and that old feeling returned. I also realized that the album is too long, and the decision to stick four short songs together near the end was a mistake. Well, the first two songs were really good-- but they can't totally make up for the rest of the album's errors. The 2.5 remains. 2.5
The Delicious Bread Collection We Have No Fucking Clue What We're Doing
★★ I formerly had a soundoff for this album, but Sputnik doesn't let you delete soundoffs, so I
replaced the soundoff with this. Check out my new account, EasterInTheBatcave, for all of my
soundoffs and reviews, including the one for this album. ★★
The Great Kat Worship Me or Die!
This is a deliberately over-the-top record which should be taken as a parody of the metal genre. The production isn't great, and the songs themselves aren't really either, but the key to enjoying, or at least understanding, Worship Me or Die! is to not take it too seriously. With that said though, the joke gets old after the first few songs, and since they aren't very good it's difficult to enjoy the record as a whole. While it isn't the masterpiece that Kat (jokingly) claims all of her material to be, Worship Me or Die! is far from the bottom of the barrel the other ratings on here would imply. In fact, I'd call this one of her best releases (for what that's worth). 2.5
The Great Kat Beethoven On Speed
Probably Kat's most accomplished record. Beethoven on Speed is less parodical than Worship Me or Die! and features better production and songwriting as well. A couple of the originals ("Gripping Obsession," "Total Tyrant") are actually decent, and the interspersing of classical covers throughout makes for a more interesting listen than the debut. As a guitarist, I find Kat overrated- she's a little sloppy and I don't care for her tone. However, you won't find her in better form anywhere than Beethoven on Speed, so if you're inclined to check out her material, start here. 2.6
The Kindred Ms. Mary Mallon
Thrice Identity Crisis
Identity Crisis shows hints of what Thrice would later become (interlude "The Next Day," the end of "Ultra Blue") but is a pretty derivative, albeit not unlistenable, record on its own. The production is decent, though the bass is overpowering in spots, and the performances are sloppier than on future releases. Overall, Identity Crisis isn't totally without merit, but is nowhere the level of Thrice's later work. 2.8
Tomahawk Oddfellows
Oddfellows is not a terrible record, but many of its songs feel underdeveloped and either don't go anywhere or end too abruptly. Some of the lyrics are pretty bad too. There are a lot of great ideas in play here, but not a lot of great songs. 2.7
Ulcerate Vermis
I feel similarly about this record as I do the new Gorguts. However, this one is less interesting and features even less relief than "Colored Sands" from its heavy, dissonant assault. Some might see this as a positive, but for me it's too much: some space would be welcome either in between or during these 7 minute death metal onslaughts. "Vermis" has its moments, but you'd be hard-pressed to remember any after the record ends because it all blends together. 2.5
Ulver Vargnatt
Various Artists Rock Against Bush Vol 2
Whitechapel This Is Exile
This Is Exile is an album full of the traditional deathcore stuff: drop-C guitar chugging, blast beats, ineligible vocals, and breakdown after breakdown after breakdown. Granted, Whitechapel doesn't overuse the breakdown quite as much as some other bands in their genre, but honestly: what is the point of starting a song with a breakdown? Oh, and while on the point of things which have no point, the bassist might as well have stayed home during the recording of this record, seeing as you can't hear him anyway. Moving on... there are also two instrumental tracks on here that try and break things up a bit- the first, "Death Becomes Him" is a pointless chugging exercise, but the second "Of Legions" actually features some cool sound effects- it's just a shame that there is so much repetitive chugging on top (I wouldn't mind it if there was some variation). Closer "Messiahbolical" is one of the highlights, though they are few and far between. Don't bother with this.
Yellowcard Lights and Sounds
Yes Relayer
NOTE: I have the 2014 remix by Steven Wilson, which comes with single edits of "Soon" and "Sound Chaser." Some great stuff (the intro and instrumental breaks in "Sound Chaser," the end of "The Gates of Delirium"), but this is just so dated. The vocals, in particular. They reek of '70s panache. Oh, and the closer: it starts well, but drags on. Maybe I just don't 'get' Relayer, or maybe it's just not my cup of tea. Either way, it's not an album I turn to often. 2.8

2.0 poor
Agalloch Tomorrow Will Never Come
Track one is a remix that sounds basically the same as the version on The Mantle, and track two is an okay acoustic number with a rambling, bizarre sample overtop. This EP came about due to guitarist Don Anderson's fascination with schizophrenia (hence the sample on the second song). Pretty pointless listen, though, and hardly necessary for Agalloch fans. 2.3
Agalloch The Serpent and the Sphere
The first, and hopefully only, big disappointment of 2014. The Serpent and the Sphere is a tedious and mostly uneventful listen whose moments of occasional excellence only serve to highlight how good the record could have been had the band not surrounded them with such boring ones. The album is confusing structurally, and the lack of clean vocals is disappointing, as it robs the record of much dynamic potential. I suppose the three dull instrumental guitar cuts were meant to appease this, but that's just it: they're dull. The production is subpar too: the exclusively harsh vocals are hard to decipher. An enormous letdown. 2.3
Anal Cunt Top 40 Hits
Anal Cunt Fuckin' A
Anathema The Crestfallen
Really boring release. But I like "Everwake." 2.0
Atreyu Lead Sails Paper Anchor
Authority Zero 12:34
Sadly, this is a disappointing release from an otherwise fantastic band. While there are a couple of great songs on here, like "No Regrets" with its excellent bass line, and the power ballad "Talk Is Cheap", the rest of the album doesn't have any sort of spark at all. Authority Zero seems to have abandoned most of the ska-influence from their previous albums with 12:34, instead going for a more pop-punk-ish sound. It can work at points- the title track is one instance where the band manage to combine fast verses with a catchy chorus- but unfortunately, the rest of the time it just comes out sounding dull and un-inspired. The one other track worth mentioning is the penultimate "Broken Dreams" which has a great guitar solo and almost metal feel during parts of it. This is not really worth checking out unless you're a die-hard fan of the band, and if you are, I warn you- you may be disappointed. 2.2
Between the Buried and Me The Anatomy Of
Buckethead In Search Of The - Volume 10: 'F'
Buckethead The Boiling Pond
Look, I love a good riff as much as the next guy. Unfortunately, that's all this pike is- riff after riff after riff. They can be outstanding (see tracks 1, 2, 4, and 5) but it's just not very interesting to listen to. These don't sound like complete "songs." The second half is pretty draggy, too. 2.3
Buckethead Celery
Celery (love that album name) is one twenty-nine minute jam song. Buckethead sticks mostly to slower, more rock-influenced soloing this time as opposed to shred (though he does a bit of that too) and there are some excellent moments (such as around the nine-minute mark). The song gets boring after a while, though, as there isn't much variation in the playing, and the backing instrumentation is always kept mid-tempo. 2.1
Burzum Dauði Baldrs
Burzum Belus
Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band Trout Mask Replica
This isn't a case of me not 'getting it,' this is a case of me getting it and not really liking it. I am a huge fan of avantgarde, experimental, 'weird' music-- if it's good. This isn't good. Tuneless, directionless instrumentation with unintentionally off-time vocals for 80 minutes? No thanks. Granted, it's not all bad (hence the two stars): some of the lyrics are interesting, Beefheart's voice has heft and presence, and I like a couple of the tunes ("Hair Pie: Bake 1," "When Big Joan Sets Up"). Overall, though, Trout Mask Replica isn't what the hype would have you believe. 2.3
Coheed and Cambria The Afterman: Descension
Overrated and dull, The Afterman: Descension is both a pretty bad listen and a disappointment. "Number City" is excellent, and "Gravity's" has good moments, but besides that there's not much here. The second half in particular is boring as hell, with only the catchy parts of "Dark Side of Me" leaving any sort of impact. Furthermore, the spacey spoken word stuff feels tacked on this time around (as opposed to Ascension, where it worked), and there's an irritating air of sappiness for much of the album (especially the aforementioned second half). 2.3
Deftones Adrenaline
Bad production, underdeveloped songwriting, and the first five songs blur together. "Engine Number 9" is the best track here. "Root" and "7 Words" are fun, too. Overall though, this is the weakest Deftones album. It can be safely skipped and you won't miss much. A chore to slog through. 2.3
Deftones Covers
There are so many great songs I would love to hear Deftones cover. Covers is mostly disappointing, though. The Cars and Drive Like Jehu covers are good, but the rest is pretty throwaway. Well, the Santo & Johnny cover is interesting, I guess. But none of the covers are as good as 95% of the Deftones' originals, and most of the covers were on B-Sides and Rarities anyway. 2.0
Dream Theater A Dramatic Turn of Events
Edge of Sanity Nothing But Death Remains
A below average death metal record with very little variation between the songs. As a result, this sub-30 minute album feels three times as long. The production is bizarre, with songs getting randomly quieter in spots, as though the volume was turned down or something. One of the band's weakest efforts. 2.3
Emmure Speaker of the Dead
Finch Steel, Wood and Whiskey
Yeah, it's free, but still, I can't help but be disappointed in this. It only features two tracks from Sunshine, and one of them ("Bitemarks") is totally screwed up. The songs that work best acoustically are actually the ones from Back to Oblivion ("Anywhere but Here," the title track, "Murder Me"). The What It Is to Burn tracks are as cringeworthy as ever. 2.2
Godflesh A World Lit Only by Fire
The constant mid-tempo, pounding rhythms on this album actually gave me a bit of a headache (and not in a good way). I found this overall a very tedious listen; some of these songs would be cool on an album with more stylistic variation, but as it stands A World Lit Only by Fire is essentially the same thing ten times in a row. I like some of the rhythms ("New Dark Ages") and I can appreciate the heaviness, but as a whole this is a dreadfully boring, and at times unpleasant, record to endure. 2.1
Grumblecunt Grumblecunt
Jad Fair & Kramer Roll Out the Barrel
Bizarre collection of Captain Beefheart-esque tunes from two musicians I've never heard of. The only reason I got this is because John Zorn plays sax on it, but he's not actually featured much. Most of the songs are short, and the vocals are terrible ("Eye of the Hurricane"). Some of the tunes are hilarious ("Twist and Shout," "King Kong"), some are enjoyable in a way ("California," "Best Left Unsaid"), but I can't help but feel that I just wasted an hour of my life listening to this. 2.2
Jimmy Eat World Damage
Awfully dull and uneventful, and the vocals are too quiet for much of the record. An album like this really relies on its lyrics, and when you have to struggle to hear them, that's a huge problem.
John Zorn Taboo and Exile
The second in Zorn's Music Romance series. The first was Music for Children which, funnily enough, represented childhood. This one (according to Allmusic, at least) is about that space in between childhood and maturity where everything is uneasy and you are caught between two worlds (the record title is thus illuminated: taboo, in that inhibitions are ingrained in this period of development, and exile, as in the feeling often associated with it; also, perhaps that taboo creates exile? I'm getting carried away here...) The music is, suitably, darker (for the most part) and more hypnotic than on Music for Children, but it still cycles through genre after genre effortlessly. The problem here is that the songs simply aren't very interesting. Almost nothing on this record grabs me, and, unlike Music for Children, it has a sort of cobbled together feel. Mike Patton shows up for vocals on the quick hardcore blast "Bulls-Eye," and "The Possessed" is an extremely atonal saxophone showcase for Zorn. Otherwise, not worth the time. 2.3
John Zorn The Book of Heads
The Book of Heads is a solo guitar record composed by Zorn and performed by Fred Frith. There are thirty-five mostly short songs (referred to as 'heads') on the record that utilize 'extended techniques,' such as playing the guitar with balloons until the balloons pop, wrapping pipe cleaners around strings, using pencils as extra bridges, playing with rice, holding talking dolls up to the microphone, and pulling strings out of the bridge. I would love to see this performed live; on record, it's less satisfying, and sounds like nonsense more than anything else. But the sounds are cool, and I would love to see exactly how they are performed. Overall, The Book of Heads would be a fascinating live show, but as an album it's not particularly satisfying. 2.0
Kayo Dot Blue Lambency Downward
Most of Blue Lambency Downward doesn't really do it for me, flowing by in a kind of haze, too slow and meandering. Toby Driver has stated that with this record he was attempting to make meaningful crescendos without resorting to tempo/volume increases or layer additions, and I'm not sure he fully succeeded. It's difficult to say whether these songs crescendo or not, which, I suppose, means that they don't. I appreciate how Driver isn't repeating the same album over and over, but the bottom line is that I just don't find this particular effort a very interesting or enjoyable one. 2.3
Kayo Dot Coyote
Coyote is frequently regarded as Kayo Dot's weakest effort. I think it's about on par with their last release, Blue Lambency Downward. That isn't a good thing, because I didn't really like that album either. The issue with Coyote is that it is just, well, kind of boring. Most of these songs paddle around, directionless, and then end. Maybe that's because this is supposedly a long-form composition; either way, it's not very interesting music. Opener "Calonyction Girl" is the exception-- it has some cool riffs, and though the violin is a little nauseating at times, overall the song works. 2.2
Kayo Dot Gamma Knife
Not my cup of tea. The production on the three middle songs just sounds bad (and not in a good, lo-fi manner) and the fact that the songs don't seem to go anywhere doesn't help matters. I do like opener "Lethe", though, and the closing track is interesting. 2.3
Megadeth So Far, So Good... So What!
Home to both a horrendous cover of "Anarchy in the U.K." and some of Mustaine's worst vocals ever ("Hook in Mouth"), So Far, So Good... So What! is nowhere near Megadeth's best, though it does admittedly contain a couple of good tracks (the first two). NOTE: implement staff ratings for everyone PLEASE!! 2.3
Megadeth Risk
Not the complete train wreck everyone says it is... don't get me wrong: it's still a train wreck, just not a COMPLETE one. Risk has good guitar work and some catchy hooks, and I do admire the band for taking a chance with their sound. Unfortunately, this was a chance that should never have been taken, as the record is fraught with horrendous lyrics and lazy, generic songwriting. However, the biggest problem with Risk is that- other than if you're a Megadeth collector or just want hear the band at what many consider their worst- there's no real reason to listen to it, as this style has been done better by dozens (and probably thousands) of other bands. 2.2
Megadeth Super Collider
Though it has some nice sections ("Off the Edge," the title track), the awful lyrics and unoriginality of Super Collider ultimately condemn it to a place near the bottom of Megadeth's discography. 2.4
Megasus Megasus
"Megasus" is an excellent track, but the rest of this disc disappoints. The biggest problem with it is that the songs go on for waaaay too long most of the time, churning out dull drop B riff after dull drop B riff. Closer "Iron Mountain" and the infamous "Red Lottery" are the worst offenders here. Furthermore, the lack of guitar solos (which, when utilized, are fantastic) is off-putting. The production is low and muddy, which can work for this style of music- here it just gets grating on the ears after awhile. "Megasus" is head and shoulders above the rest- nothing else on here is worth your time.
Meshuggah Catch Thirtythree
Catch Thirtythree is one forty-seven minute song, and thus must be listened to in its entirety to have impact. Basically, it's the same idea as the I EP, except stretched to LP length. Catch Thirtythree is nowhere near as good as I, though. Firstly, where I was literally one track, Catch is split arbitrarily into 13 sections, many of which are under two minutes and should have been connected to the preceding or following track, or both. Secondly, the fact that the record must be heard in full diminishes its replayability significantly. Thirdly, there two major ambient sections tacked on to the end of the longest songs here, and they are dull and uninteresting. Lastly, I have mixed feelings about the programmed drums-- on the one hand, they make sense, tying into the mechanical atmosphere Meshuggah have always set. On the other, it feels like a cop out. 2.3
Meshuggah Psykisk Testbild
Meshuggah's first EP, somewhat unsurprisingly, sounds nothing like the band's later work. Imagine Metallica with more chugging and way worse vocals (seriously, Jens would improve leaps and bounds on subsequent releases). Nothing worth hearing here except for curious fans. 2.0
Meshuggah Selfcaged
A precursor EP to Destroy Erase Improve. It contains three songs that appear on that album, and a live version of "Gods of Rapture" from the None EP. The studio songs are good, but just get the full album. The live track isn't special enough to warrant getting this too (and it has some weird fuzzy patches). 2.0
Metallica Reload
Michael Angelo Batio Holiday Strings
A collection of rather blase Christmas tunes. There's nothing "wrong" with this CD, but there's nothing very interesting about it either. Just a note: there's no shredding, but rather it's all acoustic, with cheap-sounding symphonic backing tracks. 2.0
Michael Angelo Batio Intermezzo
For an album containing some of today's best shredders (Rusty Cooley, Guthrie Govan, Joe Stump, and of course MAB himself, among others) Intermezzo is incredibly boring. The lightning speed guitar work is entertaining for a song or two, but gets old fast. The mostly bland backing riffs don't help matters either. In the end, it's the songwriting- not the performances- which kill Intermezzo. Not every song needs a 450 MPH solo, even on a guitar virtuoso record. If everything is going so fast, then the fastness becomes normal, and normality gets tedious quickly. 2.1
Midtown The Sacrifice Of Life EP
Mike Patton Adult Themes for Voice
Muse The 2nd Law
Album cover looks like broccoli _______________________
Naked City Heretic, Jeux des Dames Cruelles
For Heretic: Jeux des Dames Cruelles, Naked City split up into improvisational duos and trios and recorded (mostly) short songs as a soundtrack to a BDSM porno film (titled Jeux des Dames Cruelles, or, translated, Ladies Cruel Games). Were the band watching the porn while recording? I'm not sure. What I am sure of is that this is easily the group's weakest record yet. The majority of these improvisations are uninteresting, go nowhere atonal noise fests; occasionally there is an interesting cut ("Sweat, Sperm + Blood," "Slaughterhouse/Chase Sequence," "Fire and Ice (Club Scene)," which is the only song here featuring all six band members) but, with the record clocking in at over 56 minutes, they are few and far between. 2.1
Nightingale Retribution
Generic and cheesy gothic rock record. Not sure what others are seeing in this. I am a huge Dan Swano fan, and his voice sounds great here, but the whole thing is just so over-the-top. Couple that over-the-topness with predictable song structures and a bevy of really corny moments and you have a record not worth your time. 2.3
Nitro Nitro II: H.W.D.W.S.
Norma Jean Redeemer
Pig Destroyer Book Burner
Book Burner just feels... lackluster. It's technically proficient, but comes off as very dry, lifeless, and recycled. Almost none of the riffs are memorable, the samples (aside from the openings of "Sis" and "The Bug") add nothing to the album, and it is oftentimes just flat out boring. The second half is slightly better than the first, but still nowhere near the level of Terrifyer. The production is okay too (a little more guitar would have been nice), but that's it- just okay. Terrifyer had a basically perfect production job. A disappointment. 2.3
Protest the Hero Kezia
Fails as a full-length album due to the boredom induced by repetitive drumbeats and an insufficient number of slower or otherwise more dynamic parts. The band is instrumentally talented, but that talent is not applied into a series of satisfying songs. "Blindfolds Aside" is the best track here. 2.4
Queensryche Hear in the Now Frontier
A departure from Queensryche's previous work. Hear in the Now Frontier is more hard/alternative rock than progressive metal, and this change is not for the better. Though there are some good riffs and moments across the record, it's overall a very generic listen lacking in both energy and excitement. 2.4
Serj Tankian Harakiri
Silverstein Rescue
Boring; really, really generic. The whole thing just comes off as lazy to me, probably because it all sounds like rehashed ideas that other bands, and even Silverstein themselves, have done better before. The lyrics are bad too. At least the production is decent, and there a couple of okay (as in mildly attention-grabbing) moments. 2.1
Symphony X Iconoclast
System of a Down Hypnotize
It's got a couple of good songs (the title track, "Vicinity of Obscenity") but overall Hypnotize is the probably the weakest System of a Down album. This is due mostly to the overabundance of Darren's vocals- he's only bearable in small doses, and the tracks where he takes centre stage (such as "She's Like Heroin" and "Kill Rock N' Roll," which are also the two worst songs in System's entire discography) are absolutely atrocious. Why, when you have a frontman as accomplished as Serj Tankian, would you relegate him to a background role? The answer: ego. No wonder Serj isn't anxious to make another System record. 2.2
Testament Dark Roots of Earth
The Black Dahlia Murder Deflorate
Incredibly dull and boring basically sums up The Black Dahlia Murder's latest effort. Despite the addition of Arsis guitarist Ryan Knight, the songs all feel very flat and uninspired- while there are moments which show promise, and the instrumentation is all fantastic, the album is a chore to listen to in full since all of the songs run together.
The Contortionist Intrinsic
This is one of the most frustrating albums I've ever heard. There are so many great ideas in play here, but they're all thrown together haphazardly and there is no flow to the album at all. Furthermore, the production is a little thin and the harsh vocals are, for the most part, underwhelming. Intrinsic shows a ton of potential, but is nowhere near the sum of its parts. 2.3
The Great Kat Bloody Vivaldi
Kat's cover of "The Four Seasons" is not only her best classical cover ever, but also her best song ever, period. Though the mix could use some work, it's actually a really good track. However- unfortunately- the rest of the EP doesn't live up to it. "Torture Chamber" is good for a laugh- it's basically the sounds of Kat acting as a dominatrix over some guy screaming, with music as a backdrop. Next up is "Blood," a short, pointless exercise in noisy spam. The last track is a cover of Sarasate's "Carmen Fantasy," and it is not as as successful as "The Four Seasons," mainly because the guitar and violin don't sound good together and it is, again, not well mixed. Thus, the track becomes more annoying than enjoyable to listen to. The best of Kat's EPs. 2.2
The Used In Love and Death
The Young Gods The Young Gods
This album bores the Hell out of me. Mostly awful vocals and repetitive instrumentation combine for a very poor release. "Did You Miss Me?" has the best potential of anything here, but the horrendous vocals ruin it (look up the live version, with Mike Patton on vox, for something fantastic). The opening track has its merits too (the vocals actually work here), but overall, The Young Gods just doesn't do it for me. 2.1
Three Days Grace One-X
Trivium In Waves
Tyler, the Creator Goblin
Ulver Metamorphosis
This is alright, I guess. Electronica and ambient combine here for a very eclectic Ulver release. Music-wise it's not very interesting, aside from certain sections (opener "Of Wolves & Vibrancy," the soft guitar on "Gnosis"). This was the band's first release after their 'folk/black metal' phase- imagine being a fan of those records, and then picking this up. 2.4
Ulver Rehearsal
Uri Caine Moloch: Book of Angels Volume 6
It's a solo piano record, and it's over 70 minutes long. Moloch is well-performed, to be sure, but I'd be lying if I said it held my attention. There are some nice melodies ("Domiel") and technically the playing is outstanding, but to put it simply, this just isn't my cup of tea. Thus, take my rating with a grain of salt. If you are into solo piano albums, this is probably right up your alley. 2.3

1.5 very poor
Aiden Disguises
Alestorm Back Through Time
At their best, Alestorm are fun, entertaining, enjoyable metal. Their problem has always been how to maintain listener interest in their pirate-y ways across the span of an entire album. Unfortunately, this album does not tackle that problem. In fact, Back Through Time is the band's weakest effort yet, featuring a combination of generic new tracks and songs that sound as though they could be b-sides from the previous album. Granted, the title track is good, however the others are pretty much indistinguishable from not only each other, but songs from previous albums. 1.6
Anal Cunt 5643 Song
Anal Cunt Morbid Florist
Angels and Airwaves We Don't Need to Whisper
Apparently, sticking a bunch of two-minute twinkly space ambiance passages in front of generic pop-rock songs constitutes 'epic' to Tom DeLonge. For the rest of us, it just constitutes a shitty album. "The Adventure" is a guilty pleasure, but forget about the rest. Equal parts boring and pretentious. 1.5
Arsonists Get All the Girls Listen to the Color
I can appreciate some of the humour on this record ("Balloon Battle" in particular is hilariously awesome), but overall Listen to the Color comes off as unfocused and most of the heavy parts (which make up the majority of the album) blur together. Also, I don't like the second vocalist. He sounds like a somewhat better version of the guy from Longshot, but in this case 'somewhat better' still means 'somewhat annoying.' 1.7
Avenged Sevenfold Hail to the King
I can safely say, without hyperbole, that Hail to the King embodies almost everything I hate in music. Sure, there's no autotune (that I can decipher), but that's because they didn't have autotune in 1987. See, Hail to the King is some shitty attempt at being "retro" and "going back to the roots." Avenged Sevenfold's bassist Johnny Christ said in an interview about this record: "It's just the next progression." Guess what? If the band's idea of "progression" is going back twenty-six years, then count me out. Hail to the King is one of the laziest, most irrelevant records of the year. I don't care what Johnny Christ says- you can't rip off Guns N' Roses, Metallica, or [insert 80's metal band here] and try and pass it off as a 'progression.' Progression is moving forwards, not backwards. Hail to the fucking king. 1.5
Behold... The Arctopus Horrorscension
This album is completely random and atonal, but not in a good way like much of Skullgrid. The band was trying way too hard to be faster and more extreme or something, because this is effectively a bunch of unlistenable noise. Every so often something will stand out (a lightning speed solo or a melody) but it only lasts for a second (or two, if you're lucky) before disappearing into a mess of noise again. Very disappointing and, quite frankly, bordering on abysmal. 1.5
Buckethead In Search Of The - Volume 13: 'E'
Buckethead KFC Skin Piles
It's hard to rate this EP since it was designed to be remixed and scratched by DJs. However, from a listener's perspective, it's pretty terrible, ranging from way too jumpy to way too repetitive. The samples are great though. 1.8
Buckethead Underground Chamber
Buckethead The Mark Of Davis
A very poor Pikes release. The whole thing just feels cobbled together; the ten-and-a-half minute centrepiece "Chickephant" is bitterly disappointing, and the fifty-one second closer "Elephchicken" is totally pointless. None of the other songs are much good either, aside from a riff or two. 1.7
Burzum The Ways of Yore
Boring as hell. The truly awful chanted/spoken vocals by Varg do nothing to help matters. Furthermore, the decision to end the album with re-records of two songs from previous records is just lazy. I get that "To Hel and Back Again" is noticeably different from its predecessor, "Til Hel og tilbake igjen," but that song was just released on Fallen 3 years ago. Recycling such recent material just screams laziness to me- unless there's some big "concept" connecting the re-recorded songs to their predecessors (which I doubt). A few cool effects save The Ways of Yore from a 1... barely. 1.5
Dance Gavin Dance Downtown Battle Mountain II
Dance Gavin Dance Acceptance Speech
Acceptance Speech has some cool parts and a couple of decent songs ("Doom & Gloom," and the title track- aside from the pointless and totally out of place rapping at the end which kills the vibe of the song). However, it also has some terrible lyrics ("Let's get fucking naked!"), the guitars are slightly too low in the mix, and the vocals (both clean and unclean) are so god damn annoying. 1.8
Dance Gavin Dance Instant Gratification
The production is clear and the record is mixed well, but the songwriting does nothing for me. Every track just feels like a series of sections placed back and forth clean vocal and screamed, with little consideration for flow or dynamics. Because of this, they all blur together in a sea of guitar dweedles. And the clean vocals are just horrible. They are unbearably over-the-top and the melodies are from B-rate bubblegum pop territory. It gets points for the production and some of the instrumental sections, but overall Instant Gratification is obnoxious, sugary, pop-core nonsense with some ghastly clean vocals and lyrics. 1.8
Deftones B-Sides and Rarities
Like most B-sides records, this is wildly inconsistent. B-Sides and Rarities consists of three acoustic versions of previous Deftones tracks (one of which is a live recording), a bunch of covers that were-- mostly-- later released on the band's Covers record, and a couple of originals (including a hip-hop track). Besides the acoustic versions of "Change" and 'Be Quiet and Drive," which are just as good as the originals, there is nothing of note here. Avoid. 1.8
DragonForce Ultra Beatdown
Dreka Dreka Dreka Faceless, Robotic, Government Thugs
Some cool sounds can be found here, but for the most part this is just your typical harsh noise album. That cover art is truly terrible though (as can be said for most Smell the Stench releases).
fresh beatZ The Life Of A Scholar
fresh beatZ The Misunderstood
fresh beatZ Premo BeatZ EP
Green Day Insomniac
Hoobastank The Reason
"The Reason"-- the song-- is a huge guilty pleasure for me, so I got this album. I made it through three songs, at which point I realized I was completely wasting my time. This is perfectly competent but also perfectly uninteresting radio rock. I think the title track is great, but the rest... 1.8
Jimmy Eat World Jimmy Eat World
An earnest, but extremely forgettable and badly produced, pop-punk record. There are three parts of this record that are memorable: the hilarious ending to "Cars," the opening instrumental half of "Scientific," and the violin-laden ending to "Usery" (which is also the only hint of what the band would later become). Most of the vocals here are sung by rhythm guitarist Tom Linton, not Jim Adkins as on later records (but you can't make out most of what he's saying anyway). 1.7
John Zorn The Classic Guide to Strategy
A compilation record featuring the first two volumes of "The Classic Guide to Strategy," which were two of Zorn's earliest records (released in 1983 and 1985, respectively). Both volumes are solo Zorn. He plays alto and soprano saxes, Bb and E-flat clarinets, and performs game calls. And, unsurprisingly, he does not use traditional techniques. He dunks his sax in water, makes it sound like a duck, and... you get the idea. These records prove that Zorn is an utterly fantastic player-- but that's it. The tracks sound cool for a little while, but at a combined time of seventy-seven minutes, they wear out their welcome. Live, this would be fascinating to witness. On a recording, though, the novelty of: "How is he doing that?" only goes so far. 1.7
Justin Bieber My World
Justin Bieber My World 2.0
Merzbow Merzbox (Disc 1) - 1979 – OM Electrique
Metallica St. Anger
Michael Angelo Batio Lucid Intervals and Moments of Clarity
Batio's weakest solo album. The whole thing feels really long and drawn out, and virtually nothing of interest happens across the almost hour-long runtime. 1.8
Morbid Angel Illud Divinum Insanus
Mystic Fugu Orchestra Zohar
The Mystic Fugu Orchestra consists of John Zorn and Yamantaka (Yamatsuka) Eye. This is their only release: eight songs inspired by the music of historic Judaica. To simulate the sound of a gramophone recording (and thus make the whole thing sound more 'ancient'), a heavy layer of surface noise was added on top of the music. What results is not unpleasant, but is also pretty worthless. The surface noise dominates the mix-- what's underneath sounds nice enough, but it's almost indecipherable. And the whole thing is only 23 minutes long. Apparently, Zorn and Eye tried to trick people into thinking this was some long lost 'ancient recording' when it was really just them dicking around in the studio with some noise added overtop. A funny gag-- but then we're left with the music, and it's just dicking around in the studio with some noise added overtop. 1.5
New Found Glory Catalyst
Nickelback Dark Horse
The only reason this gets a 1.5 and not a 1 is because of the song "Just to Get High." I have to admit that this song is great, especially by Nickelback's standards- the good ambient guitar intro combined with a semi-shred guitar solo (!) make this by far one of the best songs done by the band. The rest of the album, unfortunately, is the same generic garbage that Nickelback seems to fill every one of their albums with. Add in some truly abhorrent lyrics about sex (see "S.E.X") and you get this album. Download "Just to Get High", to hear a decent Nickelback song for a change, and forget about the rest of the album- unless for some perverse reason you want to hear Chad Kroeger sing "Sex is always the answer." I know I don't. 1.5
Nitro O.F.R.
Panic! At the Disco A Fever You Can't Sweat Out
Paramore Riot!
Sleep Terror Probing Tranquillity
This sounds basically like a longer version of Paraphile, and so it baffles me as to why the average rating is so much higher. The points given are for some of the parts, which are cool; unfortunately, they're all jammed together randomly and none of the songs work as a result. Furthermore, the production- while admittedly better than on Paraphile- is still very poor, which doesn't help matters. 1.6
Sleep Terror Paraphile
Does thirteen minutes of badly produced death metal riffs, guitar shredding, and jazz parts all thrown together haphazardly sound appealing? If you answered yes, then boy, do I have the album for you! 1.5
Solefald Black For Death: An Icelandic Odyssey Part 2
Bad production (see the first song), some of the worst harsh vocals I've ever heard (see the second song), and a complete lack of focus (random jazz instrumentals and foreign language spoken word segments with no connection to anything else). The instrumental work is solid (hence the .5), but not even it can save this horrendous record. 1.5
Suicide Silence The Cleansing
Sum 41 Screaming Bloody Murder
Screaming Bloody Murder's ambition is commendable, but it is overlong and many of the tracks are just plain boring. The title track is kinda cool, and there certain moments that show promise, but this is overall a tedious record that doesn't live up to the expectations it sets upon itself.
The Great Kat Digital Beethoven on Cyberspeed
This EP starts off with the atrocious 5-minute dominatrix anthem "Goddess." Then come four tracks under two minutes: the quick but forgettable "Cyberspeed," a terrible cover of "Ride of the Valkyries," and "Paganini's Caprice #9" and "Bach's Partita #3." The Caprice #9 cover is the best track on the EP, featuring some cool violin playing. It's also the only song here worth hearing (and it's fifty-four seconds long). 1.7
The Great Kat Rossini's Rape
Once again we have one track worth checking out (in this case, the opener, a cover of Rossini's "William Tell Overture") and a bunch of other crap. "Sodomize" and "Castration" are two of the worst Kat originals ever, distinguishable from one another only because of the frantic keyboard playing on the latter. The other cover, Bazzini's "The Road of the Goblins," is mixed badly, with everything but the violin and lead guitar relegated to an irritating background hum, and this renders the track rather terrible. 1.5
The Great Kat Guitar Goddess
This time around we have a disastrous "The Barber of Seville" cover- Kat's tweedly guitar just gets annoying- and two barely listenable originals titled "Dominatrix" and "Feast of the Dead." The latter attempts to spice things up with some tribal drumming, but it comes off a little tacky and isn't integrated well into the song. Lastly is "Sarasates Gypsy Violin Waltz," which is the only track worth hearing. The recording quality is kinda grainy on this one for some reason. 1.8
The Sound of Animals Fighting Lover, the Lord Has Left Us...
The Used Imaginary Enemy
A terrible record. "Cry" is catchy and "A Song to Stifle Imperial Progression" has its moments, but Imaginary Enemy consists mainly of disingenuous attempts at 'radio' songs with overblown choruses and hackneyed, done to death melodies. Some cliched 'political' lyrics only exacerbate the record's badness. "Generation Throwaway" is the worst song I've heard all year. 1.8
Waking the Cadaver Real-Life Death
On the absurdly titled Real-Life Death, Waking the Cadaver manage to put out a few decent riffs, and the drumming has definitely improved since their debut (the last record I heard from them). Unfortunately, the mix is atrocious, with the awful snare and vocals drowning out everything around them, and the songs are all very similar to one another, consisting mainly of dull riff parades before terrible breakdowns. It's better than Perverse Recollections of a Necromangler, but is still terrible. 1.5
Weezer Raditude

1.0 awful
Abide No Coming Back (EP)
Yeah, no. Some of the riffs/parts in these two tracks are good (the ending of "Trials"), but they are slapped haphazardly around breakdowns, more breakdowns, and lazy chugging riffs which sound like breakdowns. 1.4
Arnold Schwarzenegger Total Body Workout
With Total Body Workout, Arnold turns you into a Running Man-- a Predator capable of enduring the Red Heat of Pumping Iron. Total Body Workout takes an Eraser to your Expendable fat without causing Collateral Damage to your muscle mass. By the 6th Day, you'll be so proud of your progress that you'll start perpetually going Commando and looking for any excuse to drop your pants. Total Body Workout is no Raw Deal. Take out your change and Jingle All the Way to your nearest record store. You won't regret it. 1.1
As Blood Runs Black Instinct
As Blood Runs Black took five years to make Instinct, and the result is an album that sounds almost exactly like the first one, but without any of the occasional cool parts that made the first one somewhat enjoyable. I'd say more, but I've removed this thing from my computer since last listening to it (which was a long time ago) and I don't want to subject myself to it again. 1.3
brokeNCYDE BC 13
This is very close to being unbearably bad. In fact, it is so terrible that you almost feel embarrassed for the guys who recorded it. I can't think of a single positive thing about this EP. The artwork is bad, the track titles laughable, and when you get to the songs themselves... well, I think you can see the pattern here. Most of this release is terrible screaming over looped electronic drumbeats, featuring some of the worst lyrics ever written. Avoid at all costs. 1.0
Burn Victim Demo
Burzum Umskiptar
Carbonized Gnawing Mandible Harvested and Disposed
DoomThrone Skeleton Veiled in Flesh
Down With Webster Time To Win Vol. I
Drifting Icon Submerged in the Andromeda
Exoskeleton Plutonian Herd
Exoskeleton's "Plutonian Herd" has the distinction of being perhaps the worst album I've ever listened to. Let's start with the vocals. Whoever the hell this guy is, he has one of the most painful voices I've ever heard. All he does is randomly scream into the microphone at totally inappropriate times throughout. What he is trying to do here, other than make everyone who listen's ears bleed, I don't know. The drumming here is incredibly basic. He mostly sticks to crash + snare beats while occasionally deviating to do fills. Unfortunately, what little talent this guy has is completely ruined by the travesty that is the guitar playing. Possibly the worst-sounding guitars I have ever heard- it sounds like they are retuning during the songs at points. The tone on these things makes them sound like nails on a chalkboard- and not just any nails: 5-inches long and razor sharp. As to whether there's a bass player on the album, I don't know, because he's totally inaudible (if he's even there at all). This record is total agony and should be avoided at all costs... unless you want a laugh. In that case, check out the second track "Death Orgasm." 1.0
Grumblecunt I Piss Shit
Happy Days A World of Pain
Easily some of the most inept black metal I've ever heard. The mix is completely dominated by the badly performed vocals, and the instruments are relegated to a fuzzy background hum. In rare instances where you can hear the instruments (the vocal-less first track), they are so badly performed you realize why they pushed them so far back. Lo-fi is one thing. Unlistenable is another. 1.1
Hasan Land of the Unknown
Lou Reed and Metallica Lulu
MetaL BrotherS Thunders - Demo
The internet is responsible for many great things. Providing a vehicle for twelve-year olds to release their shitty music is not of them. 1.0
MetaL BrotherS Demo Whiskey in the Jar
Millionaires Bling Bling Bling!
All of the beats are terrible, the vocals are unbearable, and the songs are abysmal. This whole EP a disaster. Listening to this is like trying to swim through quicksand; it feels like it's never going to end. I can not think of a single positive thing to say about it. Without money, our society would probably disrupt into chaos- or we could just play this album non-stop in the streets. That would probably do it too. 1.0
Nickelback The Best of Nickelback Volume 1
I don't what's worse: the fact that Nickelback has released a "greatest hits" collection, or the fact that the title implies a second volume is on the way. 1.4
Simple Plan No Pads, No Helmets... Just Balls
The Delicious Bread Collection Tales from the Yeast Side
I didn't find this very funny (aside from a couple of moments) and so all I'm left with is some intentionally awful music. 1.3
The Great Kat Wagner's War
Kat tries her hand at "The Ride of the Valkyries" again with the opening track here. The symphonic elements, including operatic vocals, are welcome, but the awful lead guitar playing ruins everything. Beyond that, we have four Kat originals (which are in her typical vein: short, loud, and pretty incoherent) and two other classical cover tracks which show promise, but are just annoying to listen to. The muddy drum mix is absolutely terrible as well. The worst Kat EP- almost unlistenable at points. 1.3
Waking the Cadaver Perverse Recollections of a Necromangler
William Hung Inspiration
Wu-Tang Clan Once Upon a Time in Shaolin
I can't believe I spent 5 million dollars on this shit
Xardas Chapter I
Some guy jamming on a guitar for fifteen minutes and thirty-seven seconds. It could have worked out, maybe, if there was some variety in the playing on here, but there isn't. Essentially the same riff repeated constantly for fifteen long and dull minutes. The sad thing is that some of the noodling on here seems to have potential- it's just repeated over and over again until you go into a coma. Luckily this is a free download- had I paid money for this, I would have been seriously annoyed. Oh yeah, did I mention there's a Lebanese TV show playing in the background the entire time? 1.0

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