Average Rating: 3.27
Rating Variance: 0.99
Objectivity Score: 90% (Well Balanced)
Sort by: Rating | Release Date | Rating Date | Name5.0 classicAmerican Football American FootballYou know what? This is a 5. This is an album which is beautiful in every way, even its imperfections- like that one girl you loved then, you love now, and you know you always 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 JudgementJudgement 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.Brand New The Devil and God Are Raging Inside MeBuckethead The Elephant Man's Alarm ClockBurzum BurzumBurzum'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.Casualties of Cool Casualties of CoolDevin Townsend TerriaDevin 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: BiomechIf 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.Devin Townsend InfinityMany 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.Edge of Sanity CrimsonVery 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 DustFinch (US) Say Hello to SunshineNate 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 HoursIn 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...Godspeed You! Black Emperor F#A# (Infinity)Kayo Dot Choirs of the EyeAn 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.Miles Davis Bitches BrewMiles Davis Kind of BlueMr. Bungle CaliforniaMr. Bungle Disco VolanteDisco 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.Neutral Milk Hotel In the Aeroplane Over the SeaIn 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 EnoughOpeth Blackwater ParkOpeth Still LifePorcupine Tree Fear of a Blank PlanetFear 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.Strapping Young Lad CityWhat 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).System of a Down System of a DownSystem 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.The Moody Blues Days of Future PassedUlver Bergtatt - Et eeventyr i 5 capitler4.5 superbAaron Goldberg WorldsAgalloch The MantleAl Di Meola Elegant GypsyAlanis Morissette Jagged Little PillA 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." 4.5Between the Buried and Me ColorsBuckethead BucketheadlandBuckethead Bucketheadland 2Buckethead The Cuckoo Clocks of HellBuckethead In Search Of The - Volume 1: 'I'Buckethead Electric TearsElectric 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. 4.5Buckethead In Search Of The - Volume 6: 'R'Buckethead ColmaBuckethead Pike 13Burzum Hvis Lyset Tar OssCamel MirageClipping CLPPNGNoisy, 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: JudgesConverge Jane DoeConverge All We Love We Leave BehindCryptopsy None So VileA 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. 4.6Cynic Traced in AirDan Swano MoontowerDarkspace Dark Space IIIThis, 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. 4.5Darkspace Dark Space III IDark 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. 4.5Deafheaven Roads to JudahDeafheaven SunbatherBlack metal has been available in Living Colour for years, I dunno what Shane is talking about.
But 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. 4.6Death SymbolicDeath Grips The Money StoreI 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. 4.8Death Grips ExmilitaryExmilitary 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). 4.6Death Grips Government PlatesFeaturing 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. 4.5Devin Townsend Project GhostIf 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. 4.8Devin Townsend Project DeconstructionSince 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. 4.9Devin Townsend Project AddictedOne 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. 4.9Devin Townsend Project KiKi 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. 4.5Diablo Swing Orchestra Pandora's PinataDog Fashion Disco AdulteryAdultery 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! 4.9Enslaved Axioma Ethica OdiniEnslaved RIITIIRRIITIIR 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. 4.5Estradasphere Palace Of MirrorsEstradasphere It's UnderstoodFair to Midland Arrows and AnchorsGiant 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. 4.8Godflesh StreetcleanerGodspeed You! Black Emperor 'Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend!Guthrie Govan Erotic CakesIsis OceanicOceanic 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 of all-time. 4.9Jimmy Eat World FuturesJohn Murphy 28 Days Later SoundtrackOne 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 Six Litanies for HeliogabalusSix 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. 4.7John Zorn AstronomeUPDATE: 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. 3.7Kayo Dot Coffins on IoThough occasionally indulging in overlong extended sections (the outro of "Offramp Cycle, Pattern 22," "Spirit Photography"'s mid-section) and containing one track below the quality of the rest ("Longtime Disturbance on the Miracle Mile"), Coffins on Io is one of my favourite albums of the year. 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 4.5. Though Kayo Dot has been a notoriously inconsistent group, I'm pleased to report that Coffins on Io is fantastic. 4.5Kayo Dot Hubardo2013 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. 4.6Kelly Bailey Half-LifeBrilliant 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.Mastodon LeviathanGranted 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. 4.7maudlin of the Well BathI'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. 4.9Megadeth 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. 4.9Megadeth Rust in PeaceUPDATE: 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 EndgameMegadeth'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. 4.6Meshuggah IMetallica Master of PuppetsMr. Bungle Mr. BungleMr. 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. 4.6Naked City Naked CityI 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. 4.9Napalm Death ScumOn 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. 4.9Ne Obliviscaris Portal of INeurosis Through Silver in BloodThis 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. 4.8Nightwish OceanbornOpeth Ghost ReveriesOpeth In Live Concert at the Royal Albert HallOpeth My Arms, Your HearseOpeth MorningriseOpeth OrchidOutworld OutworldPaul Wardingham Assimilate RegeneratePaysage d'Hiver Paysage d'HiverIt 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. 4.5Pig Destroyer TerrifyerTerrifyer 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. 4.6Pink Floyd The Dark Side of the MoonPorcupine Tree In AbsentiaPraxis Transmutation (Mutatis Mutandis)Ray Lynch Deep BreakfastRelaxing and fun computerized new age listen. "The Oh of Pleasure" is absolutely astounding. 4.5Refused The Shape of Punk to ComeScale the Summit The CollectiveScale the Summit The MigrationOn 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. 4.5Septicflesh The Great MassShade Empire Omega ArcaneOne 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. 4.5Slayer Reign in BloodStrapping Young Lad Heavy as a Really Heavy ThingAn 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. 4.8Sublime SublimeSublime'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. 4.5Swans The Seer2012 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. 4.8Swans To Be KindKindly 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. 4.8Thanatopsis AxiologyFantastic 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", "Non Sequitur") aren't quite as engaging as the others, however Axiology is still a very consistent, and enjoyable, record. 4.5Thrice The Artist in the AmbulanceIncredibly 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. 4.7Thrice Major/MinorFantastic 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. 4.6Thrice VheissuVheissu 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. 4.8Trophy Scars Holy VacantsI 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. 4.5Ulver Shadows of the SunA 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. 4.5Ulver Blood InsideI 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. 4.9Ulver 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. 4.6Vangelis Blade Runner SoundtrackOne 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. The ten-plus-minute tracks are a bit too lengthy, but overall Vangelis' Blade Runner soundtrack is one of the best out there. 4.8William Shatner Has BeenWindir 1184Yellowcard Southern Airthose two soundoffs are the same stop cheating >: ( 4.0 excellentA Lot Like Birds No PlaceA very well-done album, with excellent production, interesting songwriting, and fantastic performances all around (aside from the screamed vocals, which get a bit whiny and grating at times). No Place blows the new Dance Gavin Dance album out of the water, and is one of the most enjoyable listens of the year. 4.2Absu AbzuAgalloch Ashes Against the GrainAlcest Les Voyages De L AmeAn Endless Sporadic AmeliorateAnathema We're Here Because We're HereOne 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. 4.1And So I Watch You From Afar GangsAnthrax Worship MusicArsonists Get All the Girls MotherlandAt the Gates Slaughter of the SoulAtheist Unquestionable PresenceAuthority Zero A Passage In TimeAuthority 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. 4.2Authority Zero Rhythm and BoozeI 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. 4.3Behemoth DemigodBehemoth The SatanistUPDATE: 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. 4.2Between the Buried and Me AlaskaBetween the Buried and Me The Silent CircusBetween the Buried and Me Between the Buried and MeBlink-182 Blink-182Borknagar BorknagarBorn of Osiris The DiscoverySure, 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. 4.1Brand New Your Favorite WeaponA 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. 4.0Brand New Deja EntenduI 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. 4.2Breaking Wheel Breaking WheelBuckethead KaleidoscalpJust 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. 4.2Buckethead Giant RobotBuckethead In Search Of The - Volume 2: 'N'Buckethead In Search Of The - Volume 3: 'S'Buckethead Inbred MountainDespite 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. 4.0Buckethead In Search Of The - Volume 5: 'A'Buckethead Monsters & RobotsBuckethead Decoding the Tomb of BansheebotBuckethead It's AliveBuckethead The Shores of MolokaiThis 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. 4.3Buckethead 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. 4.0Burial UntrueBurzum Det Som Engang VarBurzum FilosofemChelsea Wolfe Pain Is BeautyA 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. 4.0Clown Core Clown CoreOne 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. 4.1Coheed and Cambria In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3Converge Axe to FallI like the part where he goes GAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH JDFLKADJSFKJAIDSFADGADFGADFGADFGCop Shoot Cop Ask Questions LaterUnique industrial record. Some tracks are too long and repetitive ("Furnace") but on the whole, it works quite well. 4.0Darkspace Dark Space IAn 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. 4.0Death Grips The Powers That B - Part I: Niggas on the MoonI'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. 4.4Deftones White PonyA damn good record, 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 like you've heard the same track twice, and the album rarely gets boring. 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. My one criticism is that tracks 4-6 aren't on quite the same level as the rest, though they aren't bad in their own right. Overall, White Pony is an extremely unique and varied listen which you should get right now. 4.3Dethklok The DethalbumDream Theater Images and WordsDrudkh Eternal Turn of the WheelThis 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. 4.0Earth Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light I Edge of Sanity Crimson IILike 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. 4.1Emperor In the Nightside EclipseEnslaved FrostEstradasphere Buck FeverThis 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. 4.2Every Time I Die Ex LivesExotic Animal Petting Zoo Tree of TonguesExplosions in the Sky How Strange, InnocenceFantomas The Director's CutFantomas Suspended AnimationBizarre- 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.) 4.1Fightstar One Day Son This Will All Be YoursThere 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. 4.0Frank Zappa ApostropheFuneral for a Friend Welcome Home ArmageddonGaza No Absolutes in Human SufferingGhost B.C. InfestissumamWell-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. 4.0Godspeed You! Black Emperor Yanqui U.X.O.Godspeed You! Black Emperor Slow Riot For New Zero KanadaHaken The MountainRoss 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. 4.2Helloween Keeper of the Seven Keys Part IOne 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. 4.3Infectious Organisms Human ExperienceIsis PanopticonJanelle Monae The ArchAndroidJesse Cook The Rumba FoundationJimmy Eat World ClarityA 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. 4.4John Zorn Filmworks XIII: Invitation to a SuicideI 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. 4.0John Zorn Templars-In Sacred BloodThe 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. 4.4John Zorn The CrucibleOf 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. 4.0John Zorn Music for ChildrenMusic 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). 4.0Katatonia Brave Murder DayIt doesn't always hold my attention, but the atmosphere is very absorbing and the melodies are excellent. 4.1Katatonia The Great Cold DistanceKatatonia Dead End KingsLight Bearer LapsusLo-Pan SalvadorLovage Music To Make Love To Your Old Lady ByLudicra Fex Urbis Lex OrbisMariam the Believer Blood DonationAn 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. 4.3Mastodon Blood MountainBlood 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. 4.0Mastodon Crack the SkyeMike Patton Mondo CaneMorbid Angel Altars of MadnessMuse AbsolutionNaked City Leng Tch'eLeng 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. 4.0Naked City Torture GardenTorture 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. 4.2Naked City Grand GuignolNapalm Death UtilitarianUtilitarian 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. 4.0Ne Obliviscaris CitadelCitadel 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. 4.4Necrophagist Onset of PutrefactionNevermore Dead Heart In A Dead WorldNiechec Smierc w miekkim futerkuNo Use for a Name All The Best SongsNOFX The Greatest Songs Ever Written (By Us)Nyktalgia NyktalgiaDon'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. 4.3Opeth DamnationOpeth DeliveranceOrchid Chaos is MeOSI BloodPaul Gilbert Get Out of My YardPorcupine Tree DeadwingPropagandhi Failed StatesPrototype ContinuumQueens of the Stone Age ...Like ClockworkImagine 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. 4.4Russian Circles EmprosVery 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. 4.4Senses Fail RenacerThis 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! 4.1Septicflesh CommunionShai Hulud Reach Beyond the SunReach 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. 4.3Sigur 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 DrowningSymphony X The Divine Wings of TragedyTesseracT Altered StateThere'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. 4.1That Handsome Devil A City Dressed in DynamiteThe Devin Townsend Band SynchestraThe Devin Townsend Band Accelerated EvolutionAccelerated 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. 4.0The Dillinger Escape Plan Miss MachineThe Dillinger Escape Plan Irony Is a Dead SceneDillinger 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. 4.2The Dillinger Escape Plan Calculating InfinityThe Dillinger Escape Plan One of Us Is the KillerAn excellent record with many fantastic songs. I would welcome more changes from the spastic, atonal stuff Dillinger does so frequently, but regardless, this is still an awesome, awesome album- one of the best of the year. 4.2The Killers Hot FussThe Maine Forever HalloweenCatchy, but at the same time pretty dark and brooding, Forever Halloween is quickly becoming one of my favourite records of the year. 4.0Thee Silver Mount Zion Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light on EverythingThe 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. 4.2Thrice The Illusion of SafetyThough 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 DeadUlver Perdition CityAtmospherically, 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. 4.3Unexpect In a Flesh AquariumWintersun WintersunA 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. 4.2Wormrot DirgeReally fun grindcore record. It's only 18 minutes long, but all 18 are awesome. 4.0X-Ecutioners General Patton vs. The X-EcutionersYellowcard When You're Through Thinking, Say Yes3.5 great3 The Ghost You Gave To MeSuper 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. 3.8Abnormality 2007 DemoAbsu AbsuA 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. 3.7Agalloch Marrow of the SpiritThere 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. 3.9All That Remains The Fall of IdealsAnathema Weather SystemsWeather 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. 3.7Anathema A Natural DisasterThere 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. 3.8Anathema Distant SatellitesThe 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. 3.7Anneke van Giersbergen Everything Is ChangingAnneke van Giersbergen DriveAnneke 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. 3.5Arsis We Are the NightmareUndeniably 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 LifeAsh Borer Cold of AgesAsh Borer Ash BorerAtari 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. 3.8Atheist JupiterAugury Fragmentary EvidenceAugust Burns Red Sleddin' HillA fun listen, though I would have liked to see a little more variation in beat/tempo across the album.Austrian Death Machine Total BrutalA 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. 3.6Austrian Death Machine A Very Brutal ChristmasAuthority Zero AndiamoBad Rabbits American LoveGreat 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. 3.8BADBADNOTGOOD IIIWhile 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. 3.7BATS Red In Tooth and ClawBehold... The Arctopus SkullgridBetween the Buried and Me The Great MisdirectNot as good as Colors, but still has some cool songs. It's grown off me since its release, though (writing this in January 2013).Bjork BiophiliaBomb the Music Industry! VacationBoris Heavy Rocks IIBrand New DaisyBuckethead Bermuda TriangleBuckethead In Search Of The - Volume 4: 'E'Buckethead Look Up ThereTwo 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. 3.5Buckethead Electric SeaBuckethead Teeter SlaughterBuckethead 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. 3.5Burzum HlidskjalfCannibal Corpse Hammer Smashed FaceCarcass Surgical SteelVery 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"). 3.8Cloudkicker ]]][[["%" 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. 3.9Cloudkicker BeaconsSome 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. 3.8Cobra Strike 13th ScrollCoheed and Cambria The Afterman: AscensionColin Stetson New History Warfare Vol. 3: To See More LightI 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. 3.7Darkspace Dark Space IIDark 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.) 3.9Dead Can Dance The Serpent's EggI 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. 3.8Deftones Koi No YokanThere 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, feel tacked on and out of place much of the time. I do like the atmosphere and production of the record, though (great cover art as well). 3.7DevilDriver The Last Kind WordsDevin Townsend Project EpicloudDeconstruction is one of his most popular and well-received albums? Huh?Dog Fashion Disco Sweet NothingsDropkick Murphys BlackoutEdge of Sanity Until Eternity EndsThe 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." 3.5Edge of Sanity UnorthodoxA 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. 3.8Edge of Sanity The Spectral SorrowsEdge 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). 3.6Edge of Sanity Purgatory AfterglowOne 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. 3.9El Stew The RehersalA 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! http://www.buckethead-coop.com/downloads.html 3.5Enslaved VertebraeWhile 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. Enslaved The Sleeping GodsEnslaved EldEvanescence EvanescenceExplosions in the Sky The Earth is Not a Cold Dead PlaceFaith No More King for a Day... Fool for a LifetimeInner 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. 3.7Fates Warning Darkness in a Different LightAside 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. 3.7Foo Fighters Wasting LightFuneral for a Friend ConduitA 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. 3.8Gordian Knot EmergentGreen Day American IdiotI 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. 3.7Ihsahn EremitaImmolation Majesty and DecayIn Flames ClaymanI 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. 3.7Jeff Loomis Zero Order PhaseJohn Carpenter Halloween 20th Anniversary EditionThe 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. 3.9John Zorn Locus SolusFour 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. 3.5Marissa Nadler JulyGreat 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. 3.6Masada AlefI 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. 3.6Mastodon Once More 'Round the SunOnce 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. 3.6Megadeth 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. 3.5Megadeth Countdown to ExtinctionDespite 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. 3.7Megadeth The System Has FailedWhile 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. 3.5Michael Angelo Batio No BoundariesThe 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. 3.7Michael 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. 3.5Michael Romeo The Dark ChapterMike Patton Crank: High VoltageMike Patton A Perfect PlaceMike Patton The Solitude of Prime NumbersMogwai Hardcore Will Never Die, But You WillAn enjoyable record, but the last three tracks don't do as much for me as the first seven do.My Bloody Valentine m b vNicely 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. 3.9Napalm Death Smear CampaignNecrophagist EpitaphNeko 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. 3.7No Use for a Name Keep Them ConfusedThis 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. 3.9Noise Lounge Have A Seat Take In The Smooth Sounds Of...Opeth WatershedOpeth HeritageOSI Fire Make ThunderPaysage d'Hiver Die FestungWhen 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. 3.5Pelican Forever BecomingForever 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. 3.7Peter Holmgren Exotic Island EPPrimordial Redemption at the Puritan's HandProtest the Hero KeziaPunky Bruster Cooked on PhonicsQueensryche Queensryche EPQueensryche Operation: MindcrimeOkay, 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. 3.8Rise Against Siren Song of the Counter CultureSaul Williams Volcanic SunlightSenses Fail Still SearchingAn 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. 3.9Silverstein Discovering the WaterfrontA 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. 3.9Soundtrack (Film) Nightmare Before Christmas: 2-Disc Special EditionSoundtrack: 5/5 - Bonus disc: 1.5/5 - Total: 3.5/5Spiral Architect A Sceptic's UniverseSteven Wilson The Raven That Refused to SingThe 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. 3.8Storm Corrosion Storm CorrosionStrapping Young Lad AlienTownsend 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. 3.8Stratovarius ElysiumA 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 EarthSystem of a Down ToxicityToxicity 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. 3.8T.R.A.M. Lingua FrancaTesseracT OneThe Dillinger Escape Plan Ire WorksThe Dillinger Escape Plan Under the Running BoardThe Living End Modern ArtilleryThe Mount Fuji Doomjazz Corporation AnthropomorphicThe Ocean PelagialUPDATE: 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. 3.4Thrice The Alchemy Index Vols. I & IIThe 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 as a whole the disc has flaws, it hits 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" (which should have been the opening track), "Backdraft," "Digital Sea," and the instrumental "Night Diving" being my personal favourites. While not a total success, Volumes I and II of The Alchemy Index are still enjoyable listens and testaments to Thrice's admirable ambition. 3.9Tomahawk TomahawkTomahawk Mit GasTony Sly 12 Song ProgramTransplants TransplantsNicely 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. 3.7Ulver KveldssangerUlver Nattens MadrigalUlver Wars of the RosesUlver Silence Teaches You How to Sing EPUlver Lyckantropen ThemesIt'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). 3.5Unexpect Fables of the Sleepless EmpireUnida Coping With The Urban CoyoteVarious Artists Short Music For Short PeopleVintersorg JordpulsWintersun Time II 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. 3.7Witherscape The InheritanceIt 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. 3.6Wolves in the Throne Room Diadem of 12 StarsYellowcard Ocean Avenue3.0 good+44 When Your Heart Stops BeatingAbigail Williams BecomingAlcest Ecailles De LuneFantastic 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). 3.4Alcest ShelterShelter 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. 3.4Alkaline Trio DamnesiaAnathema SerenadesAnathema Pentecost IIIDefinitely 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. 3.1And So I Watch You From Afar All Hail Bright FuturesIt'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. 3.0Animals As Leaders The Joy of MotionSo 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. 3.1Autopsy The Tomb WithinI'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 EternalAvenged Sevenfold Sounding the Seventh TrumpetBar Kokhba Lucifer: Book of Angels Volume 10Well-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. 3.4Between the Buried and Me The Parallax: Hypersleep DialoguesBeyond Creation The AuraUndoubtedly, 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. 3.2Billy Talent Billy TalentBlink-182 Dude RanchBloodbath The Fathomless MasteryBootsy Collins Christmas Is 4 EverBox Car Racer Box Car RacerBrown Brigade In the Mouth of Badd(d)nessBuckethead 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 SpaceBuckethead The Silent Picture BookBuckethead RacksBuckethead PumpkinI'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!) 3.2Burzum FallenBurzum AskeBurzum Sol austan, Mani vestanA 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. 3.3Cannibal Corpse Evisceration PlagueCannibal Corpse TortureTorture 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. 3.3CHON Newborn SunSome 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. 3.3Cloudkicker FadeCrosses CrossesI 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"). 3.4Crowbar Sever The Wicked HandDance Gavin Dance Downtown Battle Mountain IIDarkspace 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. 3.0Darkthrone The Underground ResistanceA 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. 3.3Devin Townsend PhysicistThough 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. 3.4Devin Townsend Ziltoid the OmniscientDevin Townsend Ass-Sordid Demos INOTE: 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 on here 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. 3.0Earth Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light IIEnslaved Vikingligr VeldiEnslaved ThornEstradasphere QuadropusEstradasphere The Pegasus Vault EPAnyone 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. 3.3Every Time I Die From Parts UnknownGreat 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. 3.4Fantomas FantomasGob Foot In Mouth DiseaseGorguts Colored SandsGreat 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. 3.4Guns N' Roses Chinese DemocracyHugh Laurie Let Them TalkIn Flames Sounds of a Playground FadingIn Vain AenigmaAEnigma 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. 3.4Jimmy Buffett Songs You Know By HeartJohn Dineen SentientCool release, ranging from piano balladry to ambient to electronica.John Zorn O'oIn 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. 3.4John Zorn The GiftThis 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 (one of my favourite songs by this group), "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. 3.3John Zorn The DreamersA 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. 3.2John Zorn Spy vs. Spy: The Music of Ornette ColemanOne 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. 3.4Kayo Dot Dowsing Anemone With Copper TongueThe 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 flashes of brilliance. 3.4Lagwagon BlazeLeonard Nimoy Mr. Spock's Music From Outer SpaceMachine Head Unto the LocustUnto 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). 3.2Megadeth United AbominationsThere 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. 3.0Megadeth Th1rt3enTh1rt3en 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. 3.2Megadeth YouthanasiaThe 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. 3.3Merzbow MerzbeatMerzbow 1930Merzbow Merzbox (Disc 3) - 1980 – Remblandt AssemblageMeshuggah ChaosphereMichael Angelo Batio Hands Without ShadowsBoth 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. 3.0Michael Angelo Batio Planet GeminiThis 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. 3.2Mike Patton Pranzo OltranzistaNada Surf The Stars Are Indifferent to AstronomyNaked City RadioFor 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. 3.3Neurosis Honor Found in DecayWhile 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. 3.3Nevermore Dreaming Neon BlackNightwish ImaginaerumNone More Black This Is SatireNone More Black File Under BlackOm 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. 3.3Opeth Apostle in TriumphOpeth Pale CommunionWhile 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. 3.4PainKiller Buried SecretsA 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. 3.3Paysage d'Hiver EinsamkeitA good ambient effort, though it gets a bit dull at times and the screaming on "Kraft" feels out of place. 3.4Peeping Tom Peeping TomGreat 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. 3.3Pennywise All or NothingPraxis MetatronA very odd album by Praxis. Their previous effort, Transmutation (Mutatis Mutandis) I consider to be one of the greatest experimental albums of all-time- here, however, the material is even more all over the place. 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 in, the album gets very avant-garde in spots- the ambient "Cathedral Space (Soft Hail of Electrons)" and the chilling "Double Vision" are just 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 here with "Cannibal (Heart Shape of the Iron Blade)", though it's more dark and experimental than the funk featured on Transmutation. Pick this one up if you like experimental works or were a fan of any of the other Praxis releases, but be warned- this is an odd one. 3.4Queensryche EmpireHonestly, 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. 3.0Relient K MmhmmThere 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). 3.1Rings of Saturn DingirSenses Fail Let it Enfold You-Special EditionA 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. 3.4Silencer (SWE) Death - Pierce MeI 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. 3.0Soen CognitiveStormtroopers of Death Speak English or DieA 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." 3.4Strapping Young Lad The New BlackSum 41 Does This Look Infected?Sum 41 ChuckSwain HowlA 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. 3.3System 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. 3.4That Handsome Devil The Heart Goes to Heaven, The Head Goes to HellThe Dillinger Escape Plan The Dillinger Escape PlanNot 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. 3.0Thomas Giles PulseUlcerate The Destroyers of AllWilliam Shatner The Transformed ManWolves in the Throne Room Two Hunters2.5 averageA Million Dead Birds Laughing XenAbysmal Dawn Leveling the Plane of ExistenceA 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. 2.5Aerosmith Devil's Got A New DisguiseAlestorm Black Sails at MidnightAlien Ant Farm ANThologySpotty 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. 2.6Alkaline Trio My Shame Is TrueThe 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. 2.6Amber Damned Echoes - EPPretty 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 DieAnathema Alternative 4The 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. 2.6Anathema EternityI 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. 2.6Anathema A Fine Day to ExitAside 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. 2.5Anathema The Silent EnigmaAnathema'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"). 2.5Animals As Leaders WeightlessAs Blood Runs Black AllegianceAustrian Death Machine Double BrutalAuthority Zero The Tipping PointThere 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." 2.8Avenged Sevenfold Avenged SevenfoldBenighted Asylum CaveBetween the Buried and Me The Parallax II: Future SequenceBlack Flag DamagedI 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. 2.7Blind Witness Nightmare on Providence StreetBlink-182 NeighborhoodsThe 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. 2.7Borealis Fall From GraceA pretty average and unremarkable power metal album, though it does have some good performances and a nice production job. 2.5Boris Attention PleaseBorknagar UrdBuckethead Slaughterhouse on the PrairieBuckethead'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. 2.7Buckethead In Search Of The - Volume 11: 'T'Buckethead Spinal ClockOne 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. 2.6Burzum From the Depths of DarknessCynic Kindly Bent to Free UsCynic 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. 2.8Dance Gavin Dance Acceptance SpeechAcceptance Speech has some cool parts and a couple of good 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 a bit annoying at times. 2.9DevilDriver BeastDropkick Murphys Going Out In StyleEdge of Sanity CrypticAfter 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. 2.5Edge of Sanity InfernalAfter 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. 2.6Enslaved BlodhemnThe 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. Evile Enter the GraveThis 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. 2.5Explosions in the Sky Take Care, Take Care, Take CareFaith No More Album of the YearWith 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. 2.8Fall Out Boy From Under the Cork TreeFantomas Delirium CordiaFirst 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 (US) Back to OblivionNow, 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. 2.7Fleshgod Apocalypse AgonyGavin Harrison and 05ric CirclesThe 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.Green Day 1039/Smoothed Out Slappy HoursIngested Surpassing the Boundaries of Human SufferingIntervals A Voice WithinThis 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. 2.9Jimmy Eat World Static PrevailsA 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. 2.7Jimmy Eat World Bleed AmericanBleed 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). 2.5John 5 RequiemJohn Zorn MoonchildThe 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. 2.5John Zorn IpsissimusIpsissimus 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. 2.5Karnivool AsymmetryThere 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. 2.8Kayo Dot Stained GlassWhile 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. 2.5Klaxons Surfing the VoidLight Bearer Silver TongueOpener "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. 2.7Machine Head The BlackeningThere 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. 2.7Mastodon The HunterThe 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. 2.8MD.45 The CravingMegadeth 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." 2.5Megadeth Hidden TreasuresA 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.Megadeth The World Needs a HeroI 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"). 2.5Merzbow Merzbox (Disc 2) - 1980 – Metal Acoustic MusicMerzbow Merzbox (Disc 4) - 1981 – Collection Era Vol. 1Meshuggah KolossMichael Angelo Batio TraditionThis 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). 2.7Midtown 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. 2.5Mr. Bungle The Raging Wrath of the Easter BunnySome 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). 2.6My Chemical Romance Three Cheers for Sweet RevengeNevermore In MemoryNOFX CoasterA 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). 2.8NOFX Wolves in Wolves ClothingA 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"). 2.8OSI Office of Strategic InfluencePainKiller Guts of a VirginGreat 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. 2.9Paul Gilbert VibratoPaysage d'Hiver NachtThe 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. 2.8Pennywise PennywisePhillip Phillips The World from the Side of the MoonThis 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. 2.5Plain White T's Every Second CountsPorcupine Tree The IncidentPraxis SacrifistProtest the Hero ScurrilousQueensryche The WarningImpressive 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. 2.5Radiohead The King of LimbsRollins Band The End of SilenceWhile 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). 2.6Septicflesh TitanThe 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. 2.5Strapping Young Lad Strapping Young LadAfter 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. 2.9Streetlight Manifesto The Hands That ThieveThe 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. 2.8Sum 41 Half Hour Of PowerThis 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. 2.8System of a Down MezmerizeA 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. 2.5The Blood Brothers Young MachetesInitially 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. 2.5The Delicious Bread Collection We Have No Fucking Clue What We're DoingI can only rate "intentionally bad" music so high, but you could do a lot worse than this release. The Nickelback cover in the last song is absolutely hilarious. 2.5The 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 SpeedProbably 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. 2.6The Kindred Ms. Mary MallonThrice Identity CrisisIdentity 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. 2.8Tomahawk OddfellowsOddfellows 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. 2.7Ulcerate VermisI 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. 2.5Ulver VargnattVarious Artists Rock Against Bush Vol 2Whitechapel This Is ExileThis 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 Sounds2.0 poorAgalloch The Serpent and the SphereThe 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. 2.3Anal Cunt Top 40 HitsAnal Cunt Fuckin' AAnathema The CrestfallenReally boring release. But I like "Everwake." 2.0Atreyu Lead Sails Paper AnchorAuthority Zero 12:34Sadly, 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. 2.2Between the Buried and Me The Anatomy OfBuckethead In Search Of The - Volume 10: 'F'Buckethead The Boiling PondLook, 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. 2.3Buckethead CeleryCelery (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. 2.1Burzum Daudi BaldrsBurzum BelusCoheed and Cambria The Afterman: DescensionOverrated 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). 2.3Dream Theater A Dramatic Turn of EventsEdge of Sanity Nothing But Death RemainsA 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. 2.3Emmure Speaker of the DeadGodflesh A World Lit Only by FireThe 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. 2.1Grumblecunt GrumblecuntJimmy Eat World DamageAwfully 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 ExileThe 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 extremely atonal saxophone showcase for Zorn. Otherwise, not worth the time. 2.3Kayo Dot Gamma KnifeNot 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. 2.3Kayo Dot Blue Lambency DownwardMost 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. 2.3Kayo Dot CoyoteCoyote 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. 2.2Megadeth RiskNot 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. 2.2Megadeth 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 Super ColliderThough 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. 2.4Megasus 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.Metallica ReloadMichael Angelo Batio Holiday StringsA 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. 2.0Michael Angelo Batio IntermezzoFor 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. 2.1Midtown The Sacrifice Of Life EPMike Patton Adult Themes for VoiceMuse The 2nd LawAlbum cover looks like broccoli _______________________Naked City Heretic, Jeux des Dames CruellesFor 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. 2.1Nitro Nitro II: H.W.D.W.S.Norma Jean RedeemerPig Destroyer Book BurnerBook 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. 2.3Queensryche Hear in the Now FrontierA 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. 2.4Serj Tankian HarakiriSilverstein RescueBoring; 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. 2.1Symphony X IconoclastSystem of a Down HypnotizeIt'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 EarthThe Black Dahlia Murder DeflorateIncredibly 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 IntrinsicThis 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. 2.3The Great Kat Bloody VivaldiKat'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. 2.2The Used In Love and DeathThe Young Gods The Young GodsThis 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. 2.1Three Days Grace One-XTrivium In WavesTyler the Creator GoblinUlver RehearsalUlver MetamorphosisThis 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. 2.41.5 very poorAiden DisguisesAlestorm Back Through TimeAt 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. 1.6Anal Cunt 5643 SongAnal Cunt Morbid FloristAngels and Airwaves We Don't Need to WhisperArsonists Get All the Girls Listen to the ColorI 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.' 1.7Avenged Sevenfold Hail to the KingBehold... The Arctopus HorrorscensionThis 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. 1.5Buckethead KFC Skin PilesIt'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.Buckethead In Search Of The - Volume 13: 'E'Buckethead Underground ChamberBuckethead The Mark Of DavisA 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. 1.7Burzum The Ways of YoreBoring 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. 1.5DragonForce Ultra BeatdownDreka Dreka Dreka Faceless, Robotic, Government ThugsSome 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 Premo BeatZ EPfresh beatZ The Life Of A Scholarfresh beatZ The MisunderstoodGreen Day InsomniacJimmy Eat World Jimmy Eat WorldAn 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). 1.7Justin Bieber My WorldJustin Bieber My World 2.0Merzbow Merzbox (Disc 1) - 1979 – OM ElectriqueMetallica St. AngerMichael Angelo Batio Lucid Intervals and Moments of ClarityBatio'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. 1.8Morbid Angel Illud Divinum InsanusNew Found Glory CatalystNickelback Dark HorseThe 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. 1.5Nitro O.F.R.Panic! At the Disco A Fever You Can't Sweat OutParamore Riot!Sleep Terror ParaphileDoes 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! 1.5Sleep Terror Probing TranquillityThis 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. 1.6Solefald Black For Death: An Icelandic Odyssey Part 2Bad 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. 1.5Suicide Silence The CleansingSum 41 Screaming Bloody MurderScreaming 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 Rossini's RapeOnce 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. 1.5The Great Kat Guitar GoddessThis 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. 1.8The Great Kat Digital Beethoven on CyberspeedThis 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). 1.7The Sound of Animals Fighting Lover, the Lord Has Left Us...The Used Imaginary EnemyA 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. 1.8Waking the Cadaver Real-Life DeathOn 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. 1.5Weezer Raditude1.0 awfulAbide 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. 1.4As Blood Runs Black InstinctAs 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. 1.3brokeNCYDE BC 13 EPThis 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. 1.0Burn Victim DemoBurzum UmskiptarCarbonized Gnawing Mandible Harvested and DisposedDoomThrone Skeleton Veiled in FleshDown With Webster Time To Win Vol. IDrifting Icon Submerged in the AndromedaExoskeleton Plutonian HerdExoskeleton'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." 1.0Grumblecunt I Piss ShitHappy Days A World of PainEasily 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 UnknownLou Reed and Metallica LuluMetaL BrotherS Thunders - DemoMetaL BrotherS Demo Whiskey in the JarMillionaires Bling Bling Bling!Simple Plan No Pads, No Helmets... Just BallsThe Delicious Bread Collection Tales from the Yeast SideI didn't find this very funny (aside from a couple of moments) and so all I'm left with is some intentionally awful music. 1.3The Great Kat Wagner's WarKat 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. 1.3Waking the Cadaver Perverse Recollections of a NecromanglerWilliam Hung InspirationXardas Chapter ISome 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
Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z