By Anand Venkitachalam
New Delhi: The year bore witness to a plethora of new material from various metal artistes. As they — old and new, the famous and the underground — decided on innovations and new ideas, it energised a whole genre.
At the same time, rock charts showed little or no creativity by most of the alternative and Indie bands that dominate, rehashing the sound of their past. That, however, does not mean that rock is dead. There were still bands putting out some really cool stuff.
Here’s a look at top metal and rock offerings which made a difference during the year.
10. Metal: ‘Pal’ by Kalmah. The Finnish melodic death metal legends returned with yet another brilliant album after five years. While no means groundbreaking, ‘Pal’ features amazing arrangements, melodies and death metal aggression and technical dexterous precision.
Rock: ‘Eat The Elephant’ by A Perfect Circle. American rock band’s fourth studio album was worth its 14-year wait. This record is more of an atmospheric art rock record and lacks the band’s previous heavier alternative metal sound. But nonetheless, it’s a great piece.
9. Metal: ‘Cobra Speed Venom’ by The Crown. The Swedish melodic death and thrash metallers have come back with added energy. There is a lot of violent fervour, growls, heavy thrashy riffs, melodic leads and powerful drumming. It is a combination of thrash or death metal LP.
Rock: ‘Prequelle’ by Ghost. While definitely not a straight-up pop rock album as it does contain plenty of heavy elements, this is far removed from metal, though it does have a lot going on: Hard rock, pop rock, some prog and for the first time arena rock. Most songs have the element of catchiness due to the openly pop influences here such as ABBA.
8. Metal: ‘The Wake’ by Voivod. One of the most underrated and creative bands, the Canadian progressive thrash metal veterans have released one of the greatest albums of their career. ‘The Wake’ manages to rival their original classics like ‘Killing Technology’ and ‘Dimension Hatross’ while combining modern production.
Rock: ‘Stone Temple Pilots’ by Stone Temple Pilots. The self-titled album of the San Diego legends brings their trademark sound of distortion-filled heavy hard rock riffs, marked by a psychedelic but also grooving melodic atmosphere. New lead singer Jeff Gutt does a splendid job.
7. Metal: ‘Electric Messiah’ by High on Fire. You can always count of Matt Pike if you want something barbaric. This is definitely one of High On Fire’s best. This album descends upon you with a plethora of monstrously heavy riffs and is just straightforward metal.
Rock: ‘Still Cyco Punk After All These Years’ by Suicidal Tendencies. While essentially a near complete re-recording of frontman Mike Muir’s ’96 solo album ‘Lost My Brain’, it is still fully energetic, raw, fast, hard and fun.
6. Metal: ‘Rainier Fog’ by Alice in Chains. The band is renowned for their dark and heavy sound and bleak subject matter. ‘Rainier’ sounds a bit closer to their older stuff while nonetheless having the sensibilities of their newer sound. Another truly brilliant record by AIC.
Rock: ‘Living the Dream’ by Slash Ft. Myles Kennedy and Conspirators. When making a rock’n roll record with heaviness and attitude one can never truly go wrong with the guitar legend Slash and vocalist Myles Kennedy. Bluesy hard rock riffs and passionate soaring vocals, grooving drums and strong bass make this record yet another strong hard rock piece.
5. Metal: ‘Devouring Radiant Light’ By Skeletonwitch. Rather underrated, Skeletonwitch is an American band which plays blackened melodic thrash metal. In ‘Devouring’, there is a change in vocalists and the style is different. The black metal tendencies are less and the music packs progressive tendencies and a powerful atmospheric element.
Rock: ‘Time and Space’ by Turnstile. American punk band’s second album is an instant classic for the hardcore scene. It has pretty much everything you want: raw, loud, aggressive, heavy, short and does not mess around with any experimental tendencies.
4. Metal: ‘Automata Part I & II’ by Between the Buried and Me. A double-part concept album, about a man whose dreams are broadcasted worldwide as a form of entertainment. While the second part of this record is superior, the first is no slouch either. The band beautifully balances their progressive elements with a refined melodic technical death metal sound.
Rock: ‘Ember’ by Breaking Benjamin. Rarely has a band sounded so consistent and yet not managed to grow dull. It has hard heavy metallic riffs, melodic choruses with clean singing and raw screams packed with a dark emotional atmosphere. Nothing different and yet everything sounds fresh and original.
3. Metal: ‘Thunderbolt’ by Saxon. One of the most legendary bands in heavy metal history, Saxon were part of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. Anyone who thought that Saxon’s quality may have dropped as a result of their age is in for a severe shock. This album has everything. Just listen and be transported to Valhalla.
Rock: ‘Book of Bad Decisions’ by Clutch. Full of hard, raw gritty engaging songs, with southern rock and blues influences. And it packs a punch.
2. Metal: ‘Firepower’ by Judas Priest. One of the first metal bands in history and instrumental ‘Firepower’ by Judas is just full-on energy packed, no messing around, straight-up melodic metal. Another masterpiece by ‘The Metal God’.
Rock: ‘Vaxis Act 1: The Unheavenly Creatures’ by Coheed And Cambria. Having influences in hard rock, alternative rock, progressive rock, metal and punk, ‘Vaxis’ is a continuation of the concept based on frontman Claudio Sanchez’s comic book series ‘The Armory Wars’. Engaging to say the least.
1. Metal: ‘Queen of Time’ by Amorphis. It is one of the greatest Finnish metal bands. While their style has changed, Amorphis have come out as an evolved animal, their sound being a unique mix of melodic death metal, heavy metal, folk metal and progressive metal. Everything about it speaks perfection.
Rock: ‘Lost on the Road to Eternity’ by Magnum. What is astounding about the British progressive rock veterans is how inspired Bob Catlin and Tom Clarkin, the creative core of Magnum, manage to sound in their 70s. ‘Lost’ is all you can want — melodic, catchy, progressive and full of pomp.
Metal: ‘Love In Shadow’ by Sumac ; ‘A New Kind Of Horror’ by Anaal Nathrakh ; ‘The Science’ by Sleep ; ‘Our Raw Heart’ by YOB ; ‘Diluviu’ by Obscura ; ‘Sunshine Dust’ by Skyharbor.
Rock: ‘Vicious’ by Halestorm; ‘Resistance Is Futile’ by Manic Street Preachers; and ‘Joy As An Act Of Resistance’ by Idles.