Lines In Wax

THIRTEEN YEARS OF UNWANTED OPINION

rock

Iron Maiden – Fear Of The Dark (1992)

The title of this record carries such a high reputation one could be fooled into thinking that this is one of the classic Maiden albums. You would of course, be wrong. Fear Of The Dark is a puzzling affair where the first and last tracks (especially the last!) are great whilst the rest of it is an ocean of bad rock music. Like, I’m sorry but what the fuck is Bruce doing with his voice? The production on Fear Of The Dark is fantastic but it cannot save the sheer boredom that is the majority of its run time.

The Gates / Behrosth – Split LP (2022)

Nice split. The Gates are really solid, with excellent production and a down to earth 70s kinda sound with just the right amount of added flair. The Behrosth side is a little more unstable, which arguably allows for more exploration and expermentation in the black metal meets occult rock style. With both their similarities and also their differences, these two bands match each other perfectly for this split.

Berosth – Оазис (2021)

I’m not entirely sure what to call this whole subgenre of “Black Magick SS worship”, there simply must be a better name for it? Anyway, Berosth, in their recent release of Oasis, if you’ll forgive my heathen anglicisation, is a solid example of how to operate in the genre. Black metal is mixed with kooky occult sounds and a little dollop of Uriah Heep, and voila, she lives! Oasis has the benefit of also being very well produced indeed. There’s a lot of garbage out there in this style (sorry) but Berosth immediately stands out as having their shit together.

Uriah Heep – Salisbury (1971)

Salisbury didn’t resonate with me as much as the debut, with it feeling – if anything – like something of a side-step. The incredible organ playing seems toned back and the vocals are ridiculous in parts. That being said, the production, being clear yet deep with an analogue warmth, is fantastic, and the final (title) track is seriously epic. The band seem to let loose here; organs, flutes, choirs, solos for days. It saves the album, IMO.

Magic Moss – Volume 01 (2018)

Few bands come out the gate with a debut as strong as Magic Moss. Oddly, it’s the b-side which shines the most here, with “We Are the Ones” being a bluesy, psych-heavy romp through an upbeat soundscape of 60s/70s swagger, fuzz and rushes of organ sounds. Production is excellent; warm, balanced and with a decent soundstage. Recommended!

Uriah Heep – Very ‘Eavy… Very ‘Umble (1970)

A great album, but one that is sometimes dragged down by the tedium of tracks such as “Come Away Melinda” or “Lucy Blues”, which really affects the pacing in the middle. It is a crying shame because this thing bolts out the door with its opening track, “Gypsy”, a song that is easily one of the greatest rock songs of all time. In fact, this album is worth it for “Gypsy”’s organ performance alone. Side B again, is excellent, so I try not to be put off too much by the previously mentioned offending tracks.

Black Widow – Return To The Sabbat (1969/1998)

I’m not an expert on early British psych / rock music, but Return To The Sabbat is the supposed original version of the Black Widow debut. I am incredibly glad that it saw the light of day however because this archival recording from the dying embers of the 60s is head and shoulders above anything else that I have heard under the Black Widow name. Granted, I have not heard it all at this point but the difference is night and day. The analogue warmth of the tape recording is to die for, and the general vibe of the session is as smooth as butter, with Zoot Taylor’s organ being a particular highlight. Honestly, every second of this thing is just an absolute pleasure to listen to. I’ve had it on repeat for a few days now, which says a lot. Fantastic stuff.

Wicked Lady – The Axeman Cometh (1993)

Feel good hard rock / proto heavy metal is the order of the day. I’ll be honest with you, I was not aware of the sheer age of the original recordings when I listened to this thing. I am blown away, in that regard. The production should have been a give away, really. The guitars are ear-piercingly thin, but their distorted jangle gives this thing it’s charm, along with the loose feel of the drums and the thrum of the bass. I’m not super fussed on the vocals, which vary in quality and sound somewhat amateurish, but otherwise this is a highly enjoyable listen.

Black Sabbath – Headless In Vienna (Live in 1989) (2003)

Excellent quality show. Even better than the perhaps more commended “When Death Called ‘89” from earlier in the same tour. Sure, there are a few audible artefacts on the recording, but it’s a small price to pay for what is an excellent line-up performing songs from all eras of Sabbath (Gillan and Hughes aside lol). As with other boots in this era, it’s a pleasure just to hear Cozy playing Ozzy and Dio era stuff. This Vienna set is one of the best for this tour though because of the variety and Tony Martin sounds on top form here. Well worth tracking down.

Black Sabbath – Death Called ‘89 (1989)

The best thing about this particular live recording is hearing Cozy Powell play with the band in the arena space; for his three albums with the band his time on the road with them was often fairly limited for various reasons. Hearing his super awesome interpretations of the fills on tracks like “War Pigs” is a real treat. Quality is pretty good here, although there is like a flutter effect that’s appeared on the tape, but what can you do. Considering it’s the Headless Cross tour the band don’t really bother all that much with songs from it, instead playing mainly Dio-era tunes and a few 70s classics. Martin sings mostly in a low register, which is a shame because he could still belt out the vocals back in 1989.

Black Sabbath – The End 4th February 2017 Birmingham (2017)

Wow, this get’s off to a shaky start! The drumming on “Black Sabbath” is so bad (not to mention Ozzy’s appalling singing) that I almost gave up before I started. I’m glad that I did stick with the whole record though, because I missed out on the Birmingham shows in person and felt like I had missed a momentous event in history. However, having consumed this entire live album several times, I don’t feel like I missed all that much. Many have commented on the heaviness here, especially of the low end and the percussion, and admittedly Geezer DOES sound incredible and the session drummer does pull it together nicely after the first song, I can’t shake the fact that Ozzy is well beyond his best and his performance here is painful, to be honest.

Black Sabbath – Asbury Park, New Jersey, 5th August 1975 (1993)

Quite possibly one of – if not the – greatest live album that I have ever heard. The fact that I’ve been listening to Sabbath for over 20 years and have never stumbled upon this recording until this week is nothing short of embarrassing. I feel like I have unlocked some sort of secret. Anyway, the release itself is phenomenally good. The production, for a 1975 live recording, is absolutely fantastic. I’m not sure how much work has been done after the fact to clean it up, but either way, it sounds incredible. The entire band are firing on all cylinders – even Ozzy sounds brilliant – but Iommi’s riffs are just… I have no words. The version of “Symptom Of The Universe” here is off the chart. Forget Live At Last, Reunion and definitely put The End in the bin. This is THE live album for the classic lineup of Sabbath. This particular boot is from 1993 but this thing has been released on the black/grey market a million times.

Black Sabbath – Past Lives (2002)

I’d originally written off Past Lives for being the “official” version of Live At Last but with a bunch of extra shit added onto the end. In some rather dim world views that is perhaps correct, but Past Lives is so much more than that, as I have recently found out. Yes, disc 1 is the same as the Live At Last album so if you’ve heard that, there’s no point in bothering with the first disc at all, really. The reward really comes with disc 2, which is a collection of live tracks that were previously only released in bootleg configurations. Whether those bootlegs have cooler art, release notes etc., I am not here to argue, but Past Lives collects these sessions together in one place and over its two-hour run time I suppose it could be argued that it makes a definitive “classic” Sabbath live album. Some of the sessions on the second disc are just incredible, such as the versions here of “Hole In The Sky”, “Symptom Of The Universe” and “Black Sabbath”. Great stuff.

Black Sabbath – Headless Cross / Anno Domini (2024)

It’s very cool to see the Tony Martin era music start to get some of the attention it deserves. I’ve probably been a bit harsh on some of the material myself. But I gotta say the remaster of both the title track of Headless Cross as well as “Anno Mundi” from Tyr sounds absolutely great. This single has definitely raised my excitement for the rereleases of all of these albums. I’m not going to buy them all again as I spent plenty of time and money hunting down the originals (more fool me), but I’m hoping these remasters bring a new generation of fans to this forgotten era of Black Sabbath.

Earth – Hex: Or Printing In The Infernal Method (2005)

Hex is Earth reborn anew – the dawn of their “clean” period. It started here, reflected backwards with Hibernaculum, and was then arguably perfected on Bees Made Honey… but here is where it all began. Hex is probably one of my least listened to releases from Earth. I’m not really sure why, but the songs have never stuck with me. They are not necessarily bad in any way, in fact they are very much enjoyable, and the production is very well put together.

Scraping Foetus Off the Wheel – Nail (1985)

I’m probably not qualified to talk about this in all that much detail, but what I can say is that Nail is a bizarre collection of sounds, sitting somewhere between Holy Money era Swans, Big Black, Test Dept., Mr. Bungle, The Cramps and Nine Inch Nails, whilst also having the honour of predating most of the bands in that list. It is an album that’s taken me multiple attempts to digest, not because I find it difficult, but because of how much is going on I’m unsure of what the message or intended vibe is. Either way, this is fucking great, and one hell of a sonic journey.

Christian Death – Only Theatre Of Pain (1982)

Apathy: the album. The analogue production and the bubbling post-punk (to become “deathrock”) is fantastic but Rozz Williams delivers his vocals in such a way that he sounds like he is already done with this band before it has even begun. Yeah I get it, that’s part of the vibe, but things are delivered with such a nonchalance I’m left wondering why I should ever bother give my time in return to listen to it. Besides, the EP Deathwish, on which I’m sure a few of these songs reappear, sounds much more full of life and energy. IDK, maybe this just isn’t for me. It’s not bad, though.

Swans – Die Tür ist zu (1996)

I’ve always had a stand-offish relationship with Die Tur Ist Zu because well, what’s the fucking point in this thing? “Helpless Child” (slightly extended here) and “All Lined Up” sang in German is little more than a novelty, and the hodge podge of other cuts and live bits are just… well, just there. Considering SFTB is such a gargantuan and groundbreaking album, this “EP” stands entirely in its shadow. Don’t get me wrong, nothing on here is bad, in fact it’s all incredible. I just don’t know why anyone would listen to this over Soundtracks.

Rainbow – Richie Blackmore’s Rainbow (1975)

A stunning debut from this legendary band. Personally, I think the Rainbow sound was perfected on Rising, but there are some frankly excellent songs on this album, including the now immortal opening track, “Man on the Silver Mountain”. The production, seemingly shared between Blackmore and producer Martin Birch, is organic and flows nicely through the various styles of songs present on the album. (Apparently I enjoy listening to this so much that I reviewed it twice, this time on 15th May 2024) Are Rainbow one of the greatest bands of all time? Off the strength of the first two records alone I don’t think that’s too daft of a statement. This thing is loaded to the gills with absolute rock and roll classics, such as the phenomenal opener “Man On The Silver Mountain” and side B’s “Sixteenth Century Greensleeves”. Granted, there are a few tracks here which are good but aren’t really my kind of thing, such as “Black Sheep Of The Family” or “If You Don’t Like Rock N Roll”, but I can’t let this kind of thing detract too much from what is otherwise a good album. Production wise, things sound as brilliant as you’d expect for 1975; fans of warm analogue production should rejoice.

Toad – Stop This Crime (2001)

Stop this crime? What crime? The only crime here is this band’s attempts at ballads. If you wanna go ahead and stop those, I’m with you 100% of the way, my dudes. Toad’s 4th album, released 26 years after the previous studio album, is a bit of a wet fart of a comeback. The production is fantastic, but the album is top-loaded, with excellent numbers at the start, but the record soon meanders off into the mediocrity of blues and power ballads, both of which blow ass and suck as hard as the rock that the group claim to play. All in all, a mixed bag.

Fela Kuti – Why Black Man Dey Suffer (1971)

As a white man in a western country I can only empathise with the themes of this record. That’s not to say Kuti’s music isn’t for me, as music is for anyone who is willing to listen. Knowing the sensitive political situation around Kuti and the severity of the confrontation between him and those that were in power, one can really feel the weight of every word in these epic, sprawling tracks. On top of that, they groove like nobody’s business, so for an occasion where you perhaps want to dance AND expanding your mind consciously to the plight of others, look no further.

Baby Woodrose – Blows Your Mind (2001)

I am undecided on whether the art is fantastic or downright awful. Either way, it was the bold cover that drew me in to the world of Baby Woodrose. I came expecting Harsh Toke – style obnoxious stoner metal but instead found something a bit more nuanced. This debut is a record based primarily in fuzzed out garage rock, but the songs are delivered with a variety of vibes, styles and paces to call Baby Woodrose’s debut a “garage rock album” feels a bit limiting. Either way, I found the songwriting incredibly enjoyable, especially on “Baby Blows Your Mind”, “D’ya Get What You Give?” and “Mind and Soul”.

Jesu – Sun Down / Sun Rise (2007)

How this was released the same year as the cumbersome Conqueror is anyone’s guess; this EP brings out the absolute best in Jesu. Broadrick’s hazy, dream-like songwriting can unfurl in its full glory and really soar. I had this on vinyl for many years, I must have sold it because I can’t find it anywhere, which is a shame as it’s really grown on me in my old age (ha).

Devil Moon – Fucked By The Devil (2023)

If I had to describe this album in as few words as possible I would say: it’s fucking class. Traditional black metal riffery underpins a punky (dare I say) black’n’roll-infused set of songs. I don’t mean BnR as in, endless boring ass d-beats, I mean genuinely sleazy, head-nodding tunes that invoke hazy memories of the exploitation world of the 1970s, helped along of course by the amazing artwork and that inherit Finnish sense of melody that all the bands seem to weasel into their compositions. Like I said, it’s fucking class.

Jesu – Why Are We Not Perfect (2008)

The first few tracks here originally appeared one year earlier on the split with Eluvium, only here they come with a few additional alternate takes to fill out the run time. I can’t help but notice the original split art was a photograph of either the Menkaure pyramid at Giza or perhaps one of the smaller satellite pyramids, yet this EP release has a photograph of the much larger and imposing Khafre pyramid. As someone with an interest in the pyramids of Egypt, and I know how many others invest much spiritual and cosmic meaning into these structures, one does wonder why they were chosen for the covers of these releases. Surely there is more to it than “wow, such pyramid, such wonder”? Anyway, I love this little EP from Jesu. It’s a million miles away from the recent full-length release of Conqueror, with dream-like electronics and soaring shoegazey moments. I find this kind of stuff far better fits the palette of Jesu rather than the more guitar-based stuff, but hey, that’s just me. Don’t take my word for this, have a go. This is a great little release and a good entry point into the project.

Jesu – Conqueror (2007)

Y’know, it’s real sad boy hours when one of the lads throws on Conqueror. That’s the end of the party vibes, my friend. But that’s okay, because generally, Jesu is a very good project. Conqueror, despite hailed as Jesu’s masterpiece in some circles, is a transitional record for the band, as Broadrick led the project from the super-heavy style of the debut through to the lighter, more synth-reliant gazey songwriting that would come. This transition does make Conqueror a bit clumsy in places, but it’s more than made up for by classic tracks such as “Old Year” or the excellent “Medicine”.

Nucleus – Alleycat (1975)

I’ll take jazz records that look like rock and / or metal records please, chief! The veritable concoction of sounds on display here were far from what I expected from such a shitty album cover (which looks like something you’d see on the side of a truck towing a rusty fairground ride). Using my limited palette of descriptive language, in a short sentence I could sum this up as being fairly similar to the “electric” era of Miles Davis’ output (think On The Corner meets Jack Johnson), only yknow, not as good lol (sorry).

Edelweiss – White Flower Power (2020)

Solid but puzzling compilation of “early” Edelweiss stuff, including the White Flower Power / Yeast Of The Mind single, as well as the self titled LP and a few tracks off of the following record, Behind Our Masks. I say it’s “puzzling” because 4 tracks into the run of self-titled tracks, we get the two tracks from Behind Our Masks, before the record closes out with the finale from the self-titled, which makes the track listing a little odd. I guess it might have something to do with this compilation coming out much earlier in 2020 than Behind Our Masks did, which would make the two additional tracks here a bonus to this release. But that still doesn’t explain the running order for me. And hey, let’s be fair, it’s the band’s / DTB’s compilation and they can do what the fuck they want with it, who am I to say otherwise? All in all this is probably a good place to start with Edelweiss as it combines three early sessions. Personally though, I’d go straight to the Yeast Of The Mind EP / single, that shit rules.

Edelweiss – White Flower Power / Yeast Of The Mind (2019)

Side A is a bit kooky, with delivery not quite living up to the imagery and clever name (check out the original tape art for “White Flower Power”), but the B-side “Yeast Of The Mind” is absolutely brilliant. It is a really cool occult rock song, and genuinely sounds like it is from another era. Comparisons to BMSS are perhaps too easy, but I’ll throw it in just incase the sleeve of this EP doesn’t give you a good enough impression of what this sounds like. Worth it for side B, for sure. A great track

Edelweiss – Edelweiss (2019)

Interesting vibes, deeply entrenched in the BMSS / Assassination school of “Nazi hippy” occult rock stuff. On this debut full-length, there are some very strong moments for sure, but it feels like things could fall apart at any moment. Any sense of timekeeping or togetherness as a band “unit” feels very fragile indeed, but oddly that’s almost part of the charm.

Crow – Crow Music (1969)

Crow – Crow Music (1969)

Let’s be honest, the only reason I found this record was because of Sabbath’s cover of “Evil Woman”. Either way, I’m glad for that bridge for bringing me to the world of Crow’s Music (see what I did there?). Either way, this is a glorious time capsule to explore, taking you deep into the worlds of blues and hard rock, where the style was converging slowly to become something else entirely. Such a pleasant and endearing listen. Highly recommended.

Mahavishnu Orchestra – Visions Of The Emerald Beyond (1975)

Mahavishnu Orchestra – Visions Of The Emerald Beyond (1975)

I’ve become rather fond of this album over the last few months. I love the floaty, ethereal nature that’s pinned down by the warm 70s full band production. This limitation does stop the band drifting too far off into the ether, but at the same time they refuse to stay still. Across the multitude of songs and vibes on this thing, it’s difficult to pin down the performers to commit them to a groove or motif. This can lead to parts of the record sounding underdeveloped as the band flit from idea to idea, but it’s a small price to pay.

Earth – The Bees Made Honey In The Lion’s Skull (2005)

Earth – The Bees Made Honey In The Lion’s Skull (2005)

In my somewhat worthless opinion, this is where the second phase of Earth really took off. Sure, we had Hex and then Hibernaculum which reimagined some old stuff in the new style, but I feel like Earth MK2 really took off with the success and reception of The Bees Made Honey In The Lions Skull. The artwork by Arik Roper is a perfect representation of the sound on offer here: bright, vivid, yet with an undercurrent of decay. Something that I will never ever forget is learning to drive around about when this album came out. I got the CD from Southern Lord’s webbed site, the version with the black slipcase (was there any other version available?). My dad would take me up onto the open roads in the Brecon Beacons in my mother’s rickety Rover 75 (maybe he secretly hoped I’d total it so that we could get a decent car instead?) and we’d have this fucking thing on the stereo as we wound our way through the mountains and trees. “Has it not got any words in it, then?” Dad asked. He wasn’t impressed. “Not really a song then, is it?” But yeah – if I am in the mood then Bees… is an almost perfect run all the way through. It can be a bit repetitive in parts but I guess that’s kind of the point. The only bit I don’t really like is the first half or so of “Miami Morning Coming Down II (Shine)”, where the guitar loop sounds like a valiumed up version of a bad polyphonic ringtone from the mid 2000s, y’know, the type of piece of shit mobile phone that you’d lose on a “night out” when you’re 15 and you’ve just necked your mate’s girlfriend on the local trainstation and then you got into a wicked nasty fight about it where nobody really landed any punches but it was enough to make you throw up the six cans of cider that you’ve drank. “Miami Morning Coming Down II (Shine)” sounds like the ringtone that weakly plays from somewhere in the nearby thorny bushes filled with rats and glass bottles because the fucking phone came flying out of your hoodie pocket when you were scrapping and now you have to crawl in there and get it back. So fuck you, “”Miami Morning Coming Down II (Shine)”. But yeah, this album is pretty good.

CKY – An Answer Can Be Found (2005)

CKY – An Answer Can Be Found (2005)

CKY’s third album and the beginning of the end IMO. An Answer Can Be Found isn’t a bad album by any stretch, in fact the single released for this record, “Familiar Realm” and opening number “Suddenly Tragic” are both up there with some of my favourite CKY tracks. Unfortunately I cannot speak so highly for the rest of the album, as well made as it is and as good as the riffs are none of the songs are memorable enough to stick with me and it facilitated my loss of interest in the band at the time of its release. Returning to it now all these years later I feel much the same, and the ballad-like closing track feels like a bit of a cheap attempt to recapture the success of “Close Yet Far”, which leaves a bad taste at the close of play, not exactly inspiring me into further repeat listens. RIP CKY either way.

Earth – Angels Of Darkness, Demons Of Light Part II (2012)

Earth – Angels Of Darkness, Demons Of Light Part II (2012)

What part one should have been, IMO. Also, I’m not really saying that you could just take the best bits of both these albums and make one really fucking good album, but yeah, you could TOTALLY take the best bits from both parts and make a far more compelling and interesting record. On the surface, part two comes across initially as even more bare bones and sparser than its predecessor. I don’t think we even get any drums until the third track, for example. But this thing loves. This thing breathes. Despite its almost identical dark, meandering theme, Angels Of Darkness part two is vibrant, alive and most importantly, interesting. Not every track is hamstrung by the same plodding beat like some smacked up version of AC/DC. The long and short of it all is that I think this two part album project was somewhat of a failure. Despite that, some of Earth’s songwriting is not to be sniffed at. Opener “Sigil Of Brass” and the track “A Multiplicity Of Doors” are just absolutely stunning examples of Earth at their very best (and “The Rakehell” isn’t far behind).

Earth – Angels Of Darkness, Demons Of Light Pt 1 (2011)

Earth – Angels Of Darkness, Demons Of Light Pt 1 (2011)

Angels Of Darkness… (Pt 1) took the “new” sonic template established on Bees Made Honey… and took it to a more dark, smoky world. As beautiful as tracks such as “Old Black” and “Hell’s Winter” are, the runtime of some of these behemoths, coupled with their sparse, minimal structures and inherent similarities, makes this album a slog to listen to unless it is just playing in the background somewhere. I can’t give it a low score, because sonically it is fantastic, the musicianship is fantastic and the production is stellar. But in some of the longer songs I am really, really struggling to stay engaged. It doesn’t help that it feels like every single song has the same beat to it. I think the Earth overstretched themselves with the first part of this double album. TLDR: excellent highlights, but drags in the middle sections.

Korn – Evolution (2007)

Korn – Evolution (2007)

Pointless single which in it’s 7″ form (that I got for 99p brand new, bargain) pairs “Evolution” (where J Devil’s voice strains hideously against a wall of computer generated auto-tune effects, uch!) with the Korn II album closer, “I Will Protect You”. What a fucking weird decision for the B-side, but hey, at least it’s not a crappy remix like the CD version of the single.

Rainbow Grave – No You (2019)

Rainbow Grave – No You (2019)

Imagine if Chat Pile came from the Midlands, then you’d have something very similar to Rainbow Grave. Boasting line-up royalty with members having played in Doom, Napalm Death and Scorn, Rainbow Grave’s debut churns your guts with disgusting bass guitar led hymns of misanthropic venom. Wailing, screeching guitars and even a saxophone bolster the noise element of this bare bones attack on your senses, whilst the vocals mock and chide you into submission. Hideous shit!

Hawkwind – Hall Of The Mountain Grill (1974)

Hawkwind – Hall Of The Mountain Grill (1974)

Rock music that sounds like it was recorded inside a wind tunnel. There we go, that’s my expert opinion. Nah, for real though, this is some chilled out shit. Beautiful old school production, well balanced and infinitely repeatable (just let the album play over and over!). A highlight for me is “You’d Better Believe It”. Great stuff.

Judas Priest – Unleashed In The East: Live In Japan (1979)

Judas Priest – Unleashed In The East: Live In Japan (1979)

This doesn’t sound like a live album at all. In fact, going in blind, all I could think of was that this was one of those “fake” live albums which are recorded in a studio. It seems I was half-correct, with the vocals being re-recorded at a later date. To be honest, they should have just scrapped the whole thing if it came to this, but whatever, live albums don’t exactly have a history of being transparent and honest with the music consumer. As for the material? Well, it’s classic Priest 70s stuff, of course, captured as the band were finding their stride in more straightforward songwriting. An interesting document of course, especially in light of the whole vocal situation, but one that I could only really recommend to completionists. There is no reason for a new fan of Judas Priest to be listening to this thing.

Tony Martin – Scream (2005)

Tony Martin – Scream (2005)

As nice as it is to explore the back catalog of Tony Martin, one of my favourite Sabbath singers, Scream really just misses the mark. The production is muddy, the songs are mostly mediocre at best, and beyond bad at worst (I’m looking at you, “The Kids Of Today”). It’s really cool that Geoff Nicholls is on this thing too, providing keyboards, and I believe some of the songs were built from Cozy Powell drum tracks, but honestly, this album just isn’t very good, I’m sorry to say.

Tony Martin – Thorns (2022)

Tony Martin – Thorns (2022)

Thorns is the very recent full length album by once-Sabbath vocalist Tony Martin. With Sabbath, and I’m guilty of this myself, his output is often overlooked, which is a shame because albums like Headless Cross have gone on to be my favourites from Black Sabbath. Anyway, let’s talk about Thorns. Thorns has a stacked line-up, and a polished, modern sound. This gives Martin’s rock numbers a shot in the arm, essentially I guess this is Martin’s version of Painkiller (lol). Never thought I’d hear LD.50-era Mudvayne slap bass on a Tony Martin song but hey, life is full of surprises. Most of the songs here are very, very good indeed, and I’m very to happy to see that Tony Martin has such a strong and unique voice, even into his old age. Age is no doubt the enemy of heavy metal vocalists, especially those who have legacies built in hitting the higher notes. I’m not saying that Martin can still belt out the chorus to “Headless Cross”, but he’s still got a fantastic range, and his voice is very balanced. What draws points from Thorns however is some of the most awful songs I have ever heard in my entire life. One of these was on Tony’s last album, Scream, and there is – of course – one here too. I’m talking about “No Shame At All”, with some of the cringiest lyrics I’ve ever had the displeasure of hearing, and on top of that the song itself sounds like something Mushroomhead would have created in 2010, which is uhhh, not great, folks. This album is also front-loaded, with all the best stuff at the front. Oh, and that art. Good heavens above!

Judas Priest – British Steel (1980)

Judas Priest – British Steel (1980)

Perhaps a bit silly, and a bit flimsy on the production end, but damn is this a classic. Stuff like “Living After Midnight” is what I’m referring to here, but there’s a place for that kind of thing (shit rock bars hahaha). I’m joking of course, but I’m more interested in some of the other songs on this record like the amazing “Grinder”, “Metal Gods” or the legendary “Breaking The Law”. My most recent listen of this was in a hired Mazda CX-5 whilst careening down coastal roads in Pembrokeshire. Really good fun. I don’t know what to say about this album that hasn’t been said a thousand times, but if you are looking for an “in road” to Judas Priest this is probably a good a place as any.

Judas Priest – Point Of Entry (1981)

Judas Priest – Point Of Entry (1981)

A bit of a weaker entry into the extensive Judas Priest catalog, but not an album without it’s charms. Supposedly written after Halford relocated to Arizona, Point Of Entry is the perfect driving album. I decided to try that out, and being stuck in traffic on the M4 wasn’t exactly the perfect vision I had in mind, but I could not deny the tunes coming from my car stereo. My biggest complaint with this is that it seems like such a step back from the personality the band were creating for themselves with albums like Killing Machine and British Steel.

Judas Priest – Killing Machine (1978)

Judas Priest – Killing Machine (1978)

I find it mad that in the 70s it seemed almost common place for big mainstream acts to drop more than one album in a year. It is the only time Priest do this (I think), and the slight drop in quality perhaps shows, as this was a bit of a rush job? IDK, it’s really not that bad, and quite endearing, even though they would hit the nail on the head with this style much better in British Steel. The most damning thing about this album is that it was released in the same year as Stained Class, and whilst it isn’t necessarily the better album (Killing Machine is far more digestable), Stained Class reeked of individuality. This doesn’t. Either way, “Hell Bent For Leather” is one of my favourite Priest songs. Inversly, “Evil Fantasies” has to be one of the worst songs ever recorded in the history of time.

Judas Priest – Stained Class (1978)

Judas Priest – Stained Class (1978)

Man O Man is that fuckin’ cover art something, huh? I’m not sure what it is about it exactly that is so endearing to me but I really like it. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same about Stained Class, for as brilliant as it is, it fails to strike a chord with me as much as Sin After Sin or Sad Wings… did. Despite this, this is fantastic record with that lovely 70s rock production. It’s so warm and cozy that it comes out of my stereo and wraps around me like a blanket. Stand-out tracks for me are “Exciter” and “Invader”. Also some of the riffs in “Heroes End” are doomy as fuck.

Judas Priest – Sin After Sin (1977)

Judas Priest – Sin After Sin (1977)

Sin After Sin, sounding absolutely massive and glorious in all of it’s golden-era analogue production, is another fantastic early offering from the legends that are Judas Priest. Personally, this doesn’t reach the heights of the sheer VIBE that is Sad Wings but I will note the stunning production (as above) as well as Rob’s vocals sounding particularly incredible here, case in point being “Here Come The Tears”, which is just absolutely phenomenal.

Discharge – Grave New World (1986)

Discharge – Grave New World (1986)

My God, those vocals….please make it stop! Holy fucking Mother of Kazan is this bad!??? Like, I knew Discharge had some less-than-popular albums in their illustrous career but this really takes the biscuit. Grave New World, honestly, has to be one of the worst albums I have ever heard in my entire life, and that really is saying something. Gone is the punk / d-beat that the band pioneered (and gone is the band, mostly), with a skeleton staff going on to develop a new…. fucking glam metal sound? lmao I feel like I’ve stepped into an alternate universe.

Venom – At War With Satan (1984)

Venom – At War With Satan (1984)

I won’t lie to you, I’ve avoided this album for about 15 years, only because Venom doing a 20 minute song has never really been something that has appealed to me. However, the joke’s on me becuase this shit fuckin’ rules. Also, generally, across this whole record, the production is fantastic. The sound isn’t a million miles away from the other earlier albums, but the guitar tone is just so goddamn sick and crunchy. I’m all about that, for sure. “Rip Ride” has gotta be my favourite song here. Aaaaargghh!

Vampyress – Order of the Dragon (2021)

Vampyress – Order of the Dragon (2021)

I love Vampyress(SS?)’ aesthetic and vibe but the reality is that Order Of The Dragon is a mixed bag of inconsistent quality. The artwork is fantastic, and I love the mix of the grainy b-movie still and the more vibrant styles used by Assassination / BMSS etc: these two things work very well together I find. “Tales From The Ghoulag” (compiled here from the 7″) is probably the highlight of the record, IMO, although the original demo version of “Realm Of My Heart” is pretty fuckin’ good too.

Vampyress / Billy Odal – Emascula / Death Machine (2022)

Vampyress / Billy Odal – Emascula / Death Machine (2022)

Vampyress (VampyreSS?) play in a brilliant occult rock style, definitely in the BMSS school of thought for sure, but never the less the composition is brilliant. The whole vibe and sound is just fantastic, and as a first impression, I’m really into this and looking forward to checking out the other EP / compilation. Billy Odal takes a little more warming to, but it’s still well made. Kinda reminds me of King Dude, but a bit less flakey and more in the occult rock style.

Black Magick SS – Panzerwitch (2013)

Black Magick SS – Panzerwitch (2013)

Lo-fi, low-key beginnings for the excellent BMSS. Spooky, dusty, cavernous vibes are the order of the day, a far cry from what the band would go on to do with stuff like Rainbow Nights and Burning Bridges. I also never knew these guys released anything on At War With False Noise, so I guess every day is a learning experience. Highlight of this thing has to be the closing creeper that is the title-track, which is split into two distinct parts.

1/2 Japanese – 1/2 Gentlemen / Not Beasts (1980)

1/2 Japanese – 1/2 Gentlemen / Not Beasts (1980)

The only thing I can compare this to is some sort of band on a punk version of the whole Captain Beefheart thing. Like, the original incarnation of Anal Cunt is an extreme evolution of this shit right here. Am I right in thinking that this is so punk that its not punk anymore, in fact it is even barely music? Like someone gave The Cramps far too many horse tranquilizers and a bad tape recorder as the only advance towards their next album. Honestly, I had a band with my friends when I was 12 that sounded just like this. But, because 1/2 Gentlemen / Not Beasts was terrible on purpose then I suppose there’s a whole new level of artistic integrity that I’m supposed to lap up, especially as a fan of noise, jazz and other seemingly formless, experimental shit? Hrmmm. I don’t know about that. I do hate the Beatles though, and I do like going to the zoo, so perhaps I have more in common with this group than I would like to admit. (Yes I did listen to the entire thing lol)

Black Magick SS – Burning Bridges (2023)

Black Magick SS – Burning Bridges (2023)

An interesting but perhaps natural evolution for the band, Burning Bridges sees the once kvlt-as-fvk esoteric black metal band now plunge headfirst into synth pop and/or rock. Comparing this to something like Panzerwitch and the change is surprising, but put it up against something as recent as Rainbow Nights and the gradual change makes much more sense. That being said, I think Burning Bridges perhaps strays too far from what makes Black Magick SS such a good band. There has always been a cheeky balance, but here the scales are tipped, and too far in the synth pop direction. That’s not to say there aren’t some great songs here (“Dinosaurs” is great), but for me, the spooky magic of BMSS is missing from the record, what with the cleaner, brighter direction of both the music and the production. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that this is a bad album, there’s clearly been a lot of thought and talent that’s gone into making it, but this is just not the kind of thing that I come to this band for. There is an interesting “secret track” at the end that seems to send the band full circle back to their original demo style, which is pretty cool, but generally this album is just not for me, as well made as it may be.

Assassination – Circles Within Circles (2019)

Assassination – Circles Within Circles (2019)

Annnnd this mushroom is for you! Chomp chomp, motherfucker. What do we call this genre? Surely it’s not BlackMagickSScore? Either way, it’s fucking great. Assassination’s full length isn’t the strongest offering from this scene but that’s not to mean that Circles Within Circles does not have its moments. I can’t escape the fact that the drums sound very fake, like it’s an out of the box VSTi, but all of the other instruments (and vocals) are great.

OPM – Heaven Is A Half-Pipe (2001)

OPM – Heaven Is A Half-Pipe (2001)

Expanding on my recent comment, I figured I’d do a review as I owned the CD – This gets a 3 star because it was one of the first CD singles I ever bought. I wanted the album, because I knew a lot of OPM stuff had swears in it, and as an 11 year old, that was just the coolest shit ever. However, there was something about the absolute dogshit artwork on the album that stopped me from buying it, and I’ve never heard it, even to this day. Heaven Is A Half Pipe was EVERYWHERE in the UK. Realistically, its not that great of a song, but damn was it catchy. I remember buying this CD, putting it into my Walkman, and having my mind blown by the skating sounds going from left to right, right to left, like there was someone skating a pipe inside my head. That shit was cash. I listened to this track for the first time this month in 22 years. It really hasn’t aged well. For some reason the band re-recorded it in 2011, and this is much, much worse than the original. Weird.

Gorillaz – 19 / 2000 (2001)

Gorillaz – 19 / 2000 (2001)

I had this CD single as a kid. I thought that the artwork was absolutely killer and way better than the actual album. I don’t really know why I bought this, as I already had the full album and I didn’t really like the sped-up remix by Soulchild. Still, I played this thing to death over the 2001 summer holidays and Left Hand Suzuki Method is still burned into my brain 22 years later. I’ve no idea where this CD is now, but it will also be important to me in memory.

Black Magick SS – Rainbow Nights (2020)

Black Magick SS – Rainbow Nights (2020)

I’ve been struggling to find the words to review this one for a while. It is also worth mentioning that Rainbow Nights has been in my regular rotation for a while now as well. There is just something so perfect about the balance of sounds here. I’ve never really been one much for 60s/70s rock or the recent occult rock revival movement, but this thing builds off of those two elements brilliantly, as well as adding lots of 80s style synthesizers and hard rock / hair metal style melodies. Add that to the usual Black Magick SS roots of psychedelic black metal and all of this on paper should be a complete disaster, but honestly, this is slowly becoming one of my favourite albums. I love all of the songs, but the title track’s chorus is a highlight of the record, as is the track “Mother’s Lullaby” which really comes out of left-field and ups the electronic elements in such a bizarre and also rather moving way. The production on Rainbow Nights is also a considerable step up from the previous works from the band, and some listeners may not be too happy with the stripping back of the “black metal” elements, there are less growly vocals here than ever before, for example. As for the elephant in the room, we’re not exactly dealing with NSBM here but there is an element to the esotericism that BMSS put forward that has an obvious undertone to it that may not exactly enthuse some people. I’m still developing my thoughts on it, having only recently deciding in the last year or so to always listen to something objectively regardless of its political / personal alignments – keeping that switch on would have caused me to miss out on this beautiful music – but if you have somehow missed the subtle nods inside BMSS’ music and artwork, just be aware of what lurks just below the surface.

Swans – The Beggar (2023)

Swans – The Beggar (2023)

The Beggar has taken up quite a lot of space in my life recently as I have tried to form an opinion on this thing. I think its now been long enough and that I have let it settle in. The first thing that I noticed about The Beggar was how similar it sounded to Leaving Meaning. I felt Leaving Meaning was a bit of a disappointment (moreso because it was following up something as insane as The Glowing Man than because it was terrible), so the first impressions were not great. But, this thing has absolutely grown on me. Much focus is given to “The Beggar Lover (Three)”, and whilst this isn’t as good as similar stuff from Soundtracks For The Blind or even the Body Lovers CD, it’s still one hell of a trip and I commend Gira for including something like this on the album. It almost acts like a reprise, a medley even, but at the same time is something new and experimental. As for the album tracks featuring the whole band, my favourites include “Michael Is Done”, “No More Of This” and “The Memorious”. Musically, tracks seem to have a bit more “go” in them than the ones on Leaving Meaning, the drums hit a little harder etc.etc. – but like I said above the same meditative, ritualistic qualities are equal across both of these albums. There is also a streak of finality through the album’s lyrical themes, which gives an unsettling edge to the otherwise mostly peaceful and serene compositions. Finally, I’ll round this out by saying as always the production is absolutely fucking gorgeous. I wanted to make note of the track but I’ve forgotten – there’s a bit in one song where a grand piano comes in over the cacophony and it’s so beautifully recorded I just wanted to fucking cry. Honestly, the production on this thing is perfect, a phenomenal job of the highest quality and infinite props need to go the studio engineers Ingo Krauss and Doug Henderson. Where Does A Review End? Why, right here. Cheers.

Swans – Anonymous Bodies In An Empty Room (1990)

Swans – Anonymous Bodies In An Empty Room (1990)

Anonymous Bodies… has always been my least favourite Swans release. It is the live album that followed The Burning World, and contains tracks from that era as well as some rought outlines of stuff that would come soon after on White Light From The Mouth Of Infinity. Whilst it is interesting to get a view into how the stifled tracks from The Burning World unfolded in a more natural way on the live stage, one cannot escape the fact that this is just a bad bootleg made semi-official. The sound quality is incredibly poor – clear enough perhaps that you can make out what is going on but bereft of any impact or feeling. Therefore, this leads me to conclude this short review by saying that this is an interesting document for those who are extremely interested in the development of Swans’ sound over this period, and nothing more.

Swans – The Gate (2015)

Swans – The Gate (2015)

I saw Swans on every UK tour that they did between 2010 and the end of the “trilogy” line up in 2017 (or 2018 – I forget). I got a copy of every live album they did too off the back of these experiences (except Deliquescence, which had sold out by the time the tour date nearest me rolled around, goddamn it). You could easily argue that The Gate captures “peak Swans”, who are at this point nuts deep in touring the To Be Kind record and are developing the huge slabs of noise that would soon become The Glowing Man. Whilst The Glowing Man is my favourite of the three trilogy studio albums for capturing this live essence the best, the Glowing Man songs in their rawer more unhinged forms here are equally as amazing if not moreso. Whilst the live funk of “A Little God In My Hands” offers a much snazzier live version of the song, tracks like “Frankie M” and “Bring The Sun / Black-Eyed Man” (which are both nearly half-hour long) are absolutely momental pieces of music that in this current form on this record are some of the greatest pieces of music Swans ever recorded – in fact, ANY artist has recorded. For the two tracks mentioned above, this CD is worth the price of entry alone. I was lucky enough to buy this at retail price from Young God Records but I’m going to soon shell out for a physical copy of Deliquescence (the ultimate Swans live album IMO) because the quality on these discs is just absolutely absurdly good. I recently relistened to The Gate in my car at an incredibly unreasonable volume, and it was one hell of an experience. There are some points here that make The Gate far from absolute perfection, however. The track “Apostate / Cloud Of Unforming”, which went on to become The Glowing Man’s “Cloud Of Unknowing”, at least in this current form, drags far too long and relies too heavily on the residual “The Apostate” melody / motif that it is built around (many 2010s era Swans songs are created in this way – from ashes of other pieces). “The Apostate” in it’s original form(s) was a part of 2012’s The Seer and a highlight of live sets from that time. Similarly, the demo tracks tacked onto the end of the CD version do leave a bit to be desired. I understand that the majority of the Swans material is concieved on the live stages (unlike say, My Father…. which had a stunning demos album in the form of I Am Not Insane), but there is not much to work with here. The quality of the Gira-sung version of “When Will I Return?” (his wife Jennifer sings the album version) leaves a lot to be desired, and the majority of the other demos are not even really worth writing about. There is an exception of course, and that is the excellent acoustic version of “Finally, Peace”. “Finally, Peace” is one of my favourite songs by Swans, and a stunning and fitting end to the trilogy of mammoth albums that this era of Swans brought us. In fact, if Swans’ studio output ended permanently with this track then I would have been more than happy. So, hearing this beautiful song here in its raw acoustic form once again after all these years was a real treat. “Your glorious mind…. your glorious mind….”

The Body Lovers / The Body Haters – Compilation CD (1998/1999/2005)

The Body Lovers / The Body Haters – Compilation CD (1998/1999/2005)

I’ve had this CD for donkey’s years but broke it out recently after the annoucement of the track listing for the new 2022 Swans album, The Beggar. The CD version of this album contains the apparent third part of the Body Lovers’ trilogy (part 2 being the “Look At Me Go” suite on disc 2 of My Father… from 2010 – which I also need to revisit). I’ve never been that hot on The Body Haters disc, although there is nothing really at fault here, but it doesn’t jump out and grab me like The Body Lovers does. On the surface of it, The Body Lovers is more of the enormously moving and beautiful yet terrifying drones that we got a taste of on Swans’ Soundtracks For The Blind. As The Body Lovers doesn’t really break into “music” (except for a short refrain of the 1990s version of “I Crawled”), and it certainly doesn’t have any vocals or lyrics, the more visceral element of these droning beasts can be truly appreciated. As I’ve kind of already said, it is as touching as it is horrifying, and I would recommend this as listening to any Swans fan, particularily of the Soundtracks… era. Listening to this thing on full pelt again for the purposes of this review I am struck by how much of this sounds like a soundtrack to a film that never was. Anyone who follows Michael Gira will know of his deep love of film and literature, and it immediately struck me as odd that the man has never worked on some sort of soundtrack or score. Records like this or Soundtracks (or To Be Kind or Glowing Man haha) prove that he is more than capable to do so, so I have started to wonder why it hasn’t happened. Anyway – TLDR – if you’ve not heard this thing, please try it out. It will reward your attention enormously, like most Swans or Gira work.

Dio – Holy Diver (1983)

Dio – Holy Diver (1983)

Holy Diver was an excellent way to kick off the “solo” effort of Ronnie James Dio, riding hot off the success of both Sabbath records, Heaven And Hell and Mob Rules. Dio Sabbath isn’t my favourite thing in the world, but I heavily appreciate the work that the group did together with Dio (and not to mentioned, Dehumanizer is awesome and under-rated!). With Vinny Appice being onboard this doesn’t sound a hundred miles away from the Mob Rules stuff, but obviously Jimmy Bain and Vivian Campbell are a completely different stringed section than Butler and Iommi, this goes without saying. The production on this thing is fantastic, the perfect balance for early 80s hard rock / metal. Phenomenal sound. The opening one-two punch of “Stand Up and Shout” and “Holy Diver” is just absolutely timeless. Another favourite of mine is “Rainbow In The Dark” with the addition of what sounds like stringed instruments. The only real dud here is “Don’t Talk To Strangers”, which just sounds really childish and odd, but even this song properly kicks off into a hard rock stomp when it wants to. Excellent stuff.

Leaf Hound – Growers Of Mushroom (1971)

Leaf Hound – Growers Of Mushroom (1971)

I love this album and return to it quite frequently. It isn’t something I would ever have found on my own; I have their annoucement for Roadburn festival about 11/12 years ago to thank for forcing me to check out their records. But, I’m glad to be here. At first, when the opening riff of “Freelance Fiend” comes forth from the speakers, it sounds kinda weird and hollow, and you may be forgiven for thinking that the production on this thing is about to be absolutely horrible, but you would thankfully be incorrect. The treble is a little high for sure, but otherwise, Leaf Hounds psych-heavy rock is held in the perfect balance of clarity and distortion. Hey, for a rock record with distorted guitars from 1971, I’ll mark this one as a successful production job! Top effort. Song-wise, the opening track is probably my favourite, but to be honest, I like them all, including the title track which has a bit of a silly chorus. The 8-minute “Work My Body” starts to outstay its welcome, but only just. Otherwise, what you’ve got here is some decent rock and/or roll with psych elements, and a really enjoyable record to get your teeth into.

October Noir – Fate, Wine & Wisteria (2021)

October Noir – Fate, Wine & Wisteria (2021)

Type O Negative is one of my favourite bands of all time, and Peter Steele is one of the most unique artists of all time. Therefore, every bone in my body wanted to like this, for the cover art, for the vibe, for the flat out Type O worship, but alas, it’s just not very good. “Windows” is by far the best track (and its not as good as people are making out) but the further along I get into this the more it just grates on my patience. Life’s too short for Type O clones. Just listen to the real thing. (If you really must listen to Type O clones the “Summertime Sadness” cover on YouTube right now is pretty much on the money – but it wasn’t done by this band)

Nine Inch Nails – With Teeth (2005)

Nine Inch Nails – With Teeth (2005)

I listened the shit out of this album, not in 2005 when it came out (even though “The Hand That Feeds” got a lot of plays from me and my school mates), but in 2015 when I was in my mid 20s working shifts delivering for the local kebab shop, desperately trying to claw together some extra money for me and my partner. This CD never left my car. I’m not the biggest fan of NIN generally, and With Teeth does sound a bit like a completely disjointed mixed bag of ideas, there are indeed some excellent ideas present here. I love the opening duo of tracks, “Only” and my favourite on the entire album, “Every Day Is Exactly The Same”. Great production, great sounds, but a few missed steps for sure.

Muse – Origin Of Symmetry (2001)

Muse – Origin Of Symmetry (2001)

Ah, Muse, Muse, Muse. Blimey. How hard can a band fall off? Why, just ask Muse. Origin Of Symmetry is a stunning sophomore effort from a promising band who, on their debut, showed a side to them which had a lot of promise, but perhaps conformed to dare I say somewhat regular songwriting for the time. Many have pointed out the similarities to Radiohead, and I don’t take much stock in this, because I love Muse but fucking hate Radiohead (lol). Origin Of Symmetry is a document of a band perfecting their sound whilst still fairly early in their career, and riding that wave then into full-on commercial success. There’s no doubt that most of the success is reliant on the multi-instrumentalist and vocalist of the band, Matt Bellamy, with his bizarre solos, effects, transitions and of course those instantly recognisable vocals and lyrics. This is not to detract from Dom and Chris, but it is clear who the star of the show is here. Origin Of Symmetry is one of those rare albums where every song is a banger (I can take or leave the cover of “Feeling Good” but I associate it so much with this era that taking it out feels just as weird as leaving it in). The first half of this thing gives us huge, sing-a-long anthems and the second half treads into darker, sometimes heavier and sometimes more twisted territory. Closing track “Megalomania” is an absolute treat in pomp and bombast, with enormous keyboards and cryptic lyrics howled at the top of Matt’s range. Insanity, in the best possible way. Honestly, I love this thing. I haven’t heard it for years so I’m gonna go put it on now.

Head Of David – Dustbowl (1987)

Head Of David – Dustbowl (1987)

It’s one thing to be produced by a legend such as Steve Albini, but quite another thing to sound very, very similar to one of his bands. In this case, Head Of David’s Dustbowl is not a million miles away from the dissonant ramblings and clanking bass of Big Black, which is extremely disappointing considering the line up of this band, and as I say, the producer on board too. Putting aside the accusations of being a bad carbon copy of a brilliant band, the songs are rather interesting, I will give them that. Some are rather short, others are laid out in a puzzling way, but almost all of them conform to the same kind of sound, with thumping drums all over the top. Of note is the original “Dog Day Sunrise”, which Fear Factory famously covered on Demanufacture. I gotta be honest, I think I prefer that version. Can’t help but be disappointed by this, as I said. Perhaps some hidden “gems” are best left unearthed.

Swans – Children Of God (1987)

Swans – Children Of God (1987)

Swans are one of those special bands that sound completely different on each record. The early stuff is some of the hardest music you can possibly want to hear. You could also argue that the sound began thawing on Holy Money or Greed, albums that came before this, but the way I see that instead is that the band added more elements to their work, rather than stripping back their work. Children Of God was however, IMO, the time where Swans finally took their foot off the Brutality pedal, if only just a little. The band has also done cleanly-produced before COG, but here it is stepped up even further. The sound is bigger, making Swans’ dirging, repetitve drones sound almost like anthemic bangers. Nowhere is this more apparent than opening track “New Mind”, which is far catchier than it deserves to be. The full-band sound comes to an abrupt stop however, with some Jarboe-fronted piano pieces as well as some gentler tunes featuring the full group. The shifting focus to these kinds of compositions featuring so heavily in the whole of the work is, to me, the important element in how Children Of God changed the trajectory of Swans going into the next decade. Not that immense, all-encompassing, and stupidly heavy songs like “Sex, God, Sex” or “Beautiful Child” would have you think Swans were reigning it all in a bit. Essential listening for fans of heavy music.

Papa Roach – Infest (2000)

Papa Roach – Infest (2000)

I absolutely loved this album when I was a kid. Back then, in the golden year that was 2000, where the world was changing and looking forward to a brand new millenium (what a dissapointment, eh?), 10-year-old me and one of my best friends, Alex, went to the local Woolworths, money burning a hole in our pockets, and we bought our first ever albums. I bought Linkin Park’s Hybrid Theory (the first album I ever owned – but the first album I ever heard was either S/T Gorillaz or Eminem’s Marshall Mathers LP), and Alex bought Papa Roach’s Infest. “What’s that?” he asked me, looking at my CD in disgust. “That looks terrible. Mine looks class.” I always remember this little exchange because for a long time, Papa Roach faded into obscurity with sub-par albums whilst Linkin Park (not that I remained a fan for long) went on to break through the stratosphere and mature their sound constantly until their untimely end. Anyway, Alex soon got sick of Infest, after listening to “Last Resort” and “Blood Brothers” (because it was on Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2) about 50 gazillion times. One day, I borrowed the CD from him to copy it, and, well, I never gave it back. I’ve reached the point in the review where I should probably talk about what the album sounds like. And this is what is really interesting to me: for something that is as over-produced and homogenised as Infest, it really still does have it’s own unique sound. You can tell instantly whilst listening to it, despite a million other bands sounding like this at the time, that you are listening to Papa Roach and you are listening to Infest. Maybe I’m looking at this with rose-tinted glasses, but there are some bangers here. I can unironically listen to this whole album all the way through and not really start to lose interest until “Binge” comes on towards the end. Infest is just loaded with banger after banger after banger. Nu metal classics for the masses, for sure, as well as some deeper cuts like “Revenge” and “Snakes”, which are both so fucking bad that they are downright amazing (“Rememba da gurl, abused wit forks, knives an’ razor blades!”, or “I got a problem wit da snakes that are crawl-in’, thru my area when da darkness has fall-en’” lmao). I dunno, I clearly have a lot of nostaglia for this thing, hence the long, glowing review. Objectively, it’s incredibly well produced, almost as clean as a pop record, and in reality its probably not a very good record, but I enjoy the absolute shit out of this, even today.

Voivod – Voivod (2003)

Voivod – Voivod (2003)

Notable for being the first album of Voivod’s to feature Jason Newsted on bass (who?), and to include the return of original vocalist Snake, after Eric Forrest’s departure. I’m a bit unclear on whether Eric left or whether Voivod 2.0 disbanded, before reforming with Snake and Newsted. Either way, this self-titled record was the product of the new line-up for the new millennium. Despite the incredibly strong staffing on this record, Voivod S/T begins something of a downward trend in Voivod studio albums, at least within the decade of the 00s. I’m sure Piggy’s death contributed massively to this, in many ways. There must be a reason why Voivod S/T (when Piggy was alive) is a solid album, and Katorz and Infini (a similar style of music using Piggy riffs but released / assembled after he had died) are not so good. Anyways, if you love Voivod’s dissonant riffing and interspliced headbanging sessions, but perhaps in a warmer, hard-rock kinda way (like Angel Rat but not as weird or tied to a particular place in time), then there is no reason that you shouldn’t enjoy this. But, you cannot escape from the fact that there are far, far better Voivod records out there.

Voivod – Infini (2009)

Voivod – Infini (2009)

Suffering a similar fate to that of Katorz, Infini falls a bit flat by treading in slightly safer territory than the band’s usual frenetic thrash or prog-metal output. Is Infini bad? Absolutely not – some would have you believe that this era of Voivod needs wiping from the face of the earth, but I am not one of those people. There is, however, a reason why this period of Voivod languishes as the least favourite for most. Is Infini better than Katorz? My answer would probably vary day-to-day. From a technical stand-point thought I will just quickly say that the record is well produced, with a warm and what feels to be analogue sound (but you never know these days). Long live Voivod, either way, and RIP Piggy.

Voivod – Katorz (2006)

Voivod – Katorz (2006)

It pains me to rank a Voivod album so low (not that 3 is particularly dog-rough). I struggled for years to get into the Newsted-era / final Piggy releases but have returned to them now with a greater appreciation for the wider Voivod discography and history. It is a shame then that I still generally am not that into this era of the band; Katorz is fairly inoffensive and also rather “safe” for Voivod (they’ve had “safe” albums before, like Angel Rat, but even there it radiated with the band’s unique sound and charm). It has a more of a hard rock / metal direction, with a looser, warmer sound, which works for some bands but none of the above things are particularly what I come to a Voivod record for. RIP Denis

Kitten – Cut It Out (2012)

Kitten – Cut It Out (2012)

This isn’t usually my bag but I was drawn in by the incredible vocals. Ended up sticking around for the whole EP, which is at points as dark and weird as it is poppy – the songs are crackling and alive with the spark of youth (lol) and I’d be very excited to hear more from this group to find out where they ended up taking things.

Faith No More – The Real Thing (1989)

Faith No More – The Real Thing (1989)

The Real Thing is one of those records that reveals itself to you more and more the longer you spend with it. It has been surely said a thousand times but Faith No More really were a special band, and whilst perhaps you could argue that the sound on this record is a little dated now, it is still a pleasure to return to and a highly recommended listen for anyone into rock and metal music. The production is fantastic, infinitely clear with heavy, pounding drums and incredible bass playing. The guitars are a little hollow in the mix, but goddamn are the riffs amazing. The breathing room in the sound stage is plugged up by the keyboards, which are just as much as responsible for carrying these compositions forward as the guitar – they are not added as an afterthought or mood enhancing device as used by most bands. Finally, there is Mike Patton. What can I say about Mike Patton? His vocal style is not as matured perhaps, as it would be in his multiple future outputs, but there is a youthful energy to the performance here. All in all, rock solid.

Black Sabbath – Paranoid (1970)

Black Sabbath – Paranoid (1970)

What can I say that has not already been said before. Often times when confronted with reviewing something as gargantuan as this I can find myself lost for words. Luckily, the music more often than not will speak for itself and do most of the work for me. Black Sabbath’s self titled record changed everything, at least in my opinion. It set the entire world of rock music onto a different course. One cannot understate the importance of that early record, but it was on the quick follow-up record, Paranoid, that Black Sabbath perfected their early sound. There is a good reason why people still listen to this thing religiously, even 53 years later. Fuck – that’s a long time ago. I won’t list stand-out tracks. I don’t need to. This entire thing is an absolute MUST for any fans of music, be it heavy metal or the wider gamut of musical styles. This is more than just a recording – this is a piece of history.

Black Magick SS – Spectral Ecstasy (2018)

Black Magick SS – Spectral Ecstasy (2018)

Spectral Ecstasy is the perfect and I suppose logical continuation of the sound first presented on Kaleidoscope Dreams. This album is thirty minutes of fantastic psychedelic rock with small amounts of doom influence, as well as a larger dollop of black metal influence too, although this is definitely more restrained here than in the past. The production is mostly the same as what came before but there have been leaps and bounds made in the songwriting. Everything just feels so much more solid and individual elements flow beautifully into one another. The title track is an excellent example of this, as is closing track “Hymn Of Pride”, which is a brilliant closing piece to the album. There is a magical energy crackling with this one, which makes the listen a very exciting one indeed.

Alice In Chains – Facelift (1990)

Alice In Chains – Facelift (1990)

Facelift hits a lot harder than I ever would have thought (or given Alice In Chains credit for). Featuring a slightly rougher production that its more well-known follow-up Dirt, Facelift for me is the better album, with heavier riffs and generally just better songs. Y’know, there are probably more “stand out” songs on Dirt but Facelift works better as an album, in my opinion (not that its worth much). Never would have thought after all these years I would be a convert to the works of Alice In Chains, but hey, stranger things have happened. RIP Layne Staley.

Alice In Chains – Dirt (1992)

Alice In Chains – Dirt (1992)

I’ve never been a big fan of pretty much anything in the grunge style (perhaps Kyuss or Melvins come closest) but I checked out a bunch of Alice in Chains stuff recently after replaying GTA San Andreas, which pumped “Them Bones” into my head about 500 times in the space of six weeks. And I’ve got to be honest, I enjoyed this far more than I thought I would. I don’t know enough about the genre (or band) in general to offer much more than my opinion on the sound, but Dirt is a very well made record, which takes the band’s debut and cleans it up a little, with a slight boost to the production. I will admit that I listened to the 2022 remaster, so perhaps the additional loudness made this pop more for me (I don’t usually like remasters and prefer at least at first to check out the originals). Some of my favourite tracks include “Dam That River”, “Rooster”, “God Smack” (lol) and “Down in a Hole”.

Oil – The Gold Tape (1997)

Oil – The Gold Tape (1997)

Before CKY, there was Oil. CKY have a rich and varied history, but the band Oil was basically CKY in all but name. Granted, this is pre-Ginsburg, but by listening to this 1997 release (also known as The Gold Tape) you are listening to an old CKY demo, rather than material from another band the guys were in beforehand. A lot of these tracks never made it in the future, but this demo contains one of the best versions of “Human Drive In Hi Fi” (here as “In Hi Fi”) and its worth a goosey for that track alone. A dusty relic that I’m glad I unearthed.

Dark Quarterer – Dark Quarterer (1987)

Dark Quarterer – Dark Quarterer (1987)

My first impressions of Dark Quarterer were that of a poor man’s Messiah-era Candlemass. But, I gave this record a chance and damn, did it grow on me. What an interesting display of sounds. The production is garbage, the vocals are just… weird and the overall vibe is of classic or occult rock but after few grams too many in the pot whilst making the mushroom tea. It’s like, aliens observing from space saw rock and doom and all that, and decided to make their own. I mean that in the best way.

Pussies – Pussies (2023)

Pussies – Pussies (2023)

Weirdly unsettling stuff, with a backdrop of sexual menace. Imagine Big Black and Filth-era Swans fighting at a Ramones gig. I dig the retro art though, I really love those old sleazy vibes. I’m not sure if Pussies is for me but I’ve never really heard anything quite like this, so I’ll give them points for that!

Tusmørke – Nordisk Krim (2021)

Tusmørke – Nordisk Krim (2021)

Nordisk Krim gives me interesting vibes, like a twist between old prog rock and the more recent group, Goat. It’s not entirely in my wheelhouse and I find some of the aspects a little tiresome, but I can respect the musicianship and the quality of the production. The subjects of the songs is also very interesting, I’m not just in love with the finished album.

40 Watt Sun – Wider Than The Sky (2016)

40 Watt Sun – Wider Than The Sky (2016)

As much as I want to be a grown-up music reviewer and as much as I want bands and artists to naturally grow and evolve, I simply gotta say: goddamn I miss it when 40 Watt Sun was heavy. Distortion-filled 40 Watt, both live and on-record, is some of the best stuff that I have ever witnessed.  Not that I do not appreciate what Patrick Walker is doing here, of course. I saw 40 Watt Sun live before this came out, and the stripped back sound initially took me aback, but I was confident that things would work out. I’d be lying, even through my own distortion-loving prejudice, if I said things didn’t work out for 40 Watt Sun on Wider Than The Sky. It is, if I may say so, a damn fine album.  It is however, an album that is dominated by it’s colossal opening tack, “Stages”, which I didn’t get past during the first three or four listens. The album has grown on me however, and I would say “Another Room” and the closing track “Marazion” are some of my favourites. Marazion is also a really cool place, you should visit it if you get the chance.

The Handsome Family – Odessa (1995)

The Handsome Family – Odessa (1995)

I may be something of a novice when it comes to the Handsome Family, getting into them through them being featured as the theme song to the first season of True Detective, but damn, this stuff is unsettling. I’ve enjoyed the band’s misty, unnerving country music immensely, so I was shocked to fire up Odessa and find a brand of music more in line with the grunge. The guitar work hits incredibly hard though, and punctuates a playful yet menacing song writing style that continues though-out. The more acoustic elements typical of the country style do bleed through now and then but this was a whole new journey for me. Bizarre, and highly enjoyable.

Europe – The Final Countdown (1986)

Europe – The Final Countdown (1986)

The Final Countdown is the title of this album, of course also the single, and its also the title of the band’s ‘best of’ album too. For a group that apparently doesn’t like to milk their biggest hit, that’s a bad look. I understand there’s probably a ton of label meddling in these decisions, but still. I’ve always loved the title track, since I was a wee lad studying music in school. So I figured it was high time to check out the full album and give these guys some real time and effort. Unfortunately, it’s just not very good. I’m sure this album has its fans, and I must admit the warm analogue production is an absolute pleasure to hear, but the songs are generally very uninspired and the ballads are best forgotten about. It’s not for me.

Killing Joke – Democracy (1996)

Killing Joke – Democracy (1996)

I have to say off the bat that I find Democracy underwhelming. I’ve listened to it twice now, and it just doesn’t jump out at me. It’s not bad, but it’s just very uneventful. The mix is very wishy washy and everything gets lost and buried. Kinda like the shoegaze hoover effect, but not in desired way. Democracy, unfortunately, sees Killing Joke on auto-pilot. This is a crying shame after the return to form thay was Repressed Emotions and even Pandemonium. However, closer “Another Bloody Election” has a fair bit of go in it which leaves things on a favourable note, despite the experience that precedes it.

Faith No More – Angel Dust (1992)

Faith No More – Angel Dust (1992)

The Real Thing blew Faith No More up. Angel Dust, which followed, seemed to weird a lot of mainstream media and fans out, if what I read on the Internet is true. I can kinda see this, as Angel Dust can get quite obtuse in moments. Songs like “Jizzlobber” and “RV” are of course going to hit a bit on the nose, but fans of Patton et al will of course no doubt instead revel in this kind of humour. Angel Dust has some stunning moments however, from opening track “Land Of Sunshine” with the soaring synths underlaying the pummelling, grungey groove, to the legendary “Midlife Crisis”, which, honestly, I didn’t realise how weird this song is, having heard it a million times playing GTA San Andreas.

The Blood Divine – Mystica (1997)

The Blood Divine – Mystica (1997)

This is the second and final album from The Blood Divine, the band featuring several members of Principle-era COF, as well as Darren White from Anathema. Mystica is a refreshing journey, actually. The first album is a solid and fine lesson in 90s British doom (arguably the best doom?), but Mystica goes off in several unpredictable directions. There are a lot of rock and blues parts, and the keyboard playing is absolutely excellent in this regard, with some really suave organ sounds on the go. It’s odd for a gothic doom metal band to go this way, but honestly it really works and this lost gem is a fabulous listen.

Killing Joke – Outside The Gate (1988)

Killing Joke – Outside The Gate (1988)

This is arguably the catalyst for the initial destruction of the original run of the band in the 80s. I’ve seen it called a band unravelling, a misled attempt at a solo project, or also the work of intense vanity from certain members of the group. But how does it sound? To my knowledge, Geordie and Jaz go it alone on this effort, with a hired band of session musicians. It sounds… like a really super polished version of Night Time. To be fair, the songwriting is pretty good, and whilst this is easily the most wishy washy release the band ever did, the instrumentation and vocals are spot on for the kind of genre and atmosphere the record aims to create. The one place where Outside The Gate fails however, is it is missing that Killing Joke identity. Whatever style of music the band has put its hand to over the last several decades, it still sounds like Killing Joke. Outside The Gate does not. Sure, Jaz Coleman is unmistakable. But that’s it. And that’s a big deal. So, in conclusion, this isn’t anywhere near as bad as some people make out. I would however definitely start elsewhere if you are new to Killing Joke.

Killing Joke – Brighter Than A Thousand Suns (1986)

Killing Joke – Brighter Than A Thousand Suns (1986)

What I would define (if possible) as Killing Joke’s “poppy” period is probably my least favourite era. That being said, Night Time is a banging album, but Brighter Than A Thousand Suns continues in this vein, but with less urgency and with more sprinklings of New Romantic style pomp. That’s not to say the songs aren’t sprawling or lush or anything like that, but elementally, things just come together differently, and therefore hit differently, especially in this time period of releases.

Genesis – Invisible Touch (1986)

Genesis – Invisible Touch (1986)

I’ve never listened to Genesis before. Of course, their shit is all over the radio, but never to the point have I sat down and enjoyed one of their albums. I also can’t help but feel like Patrick Bateman listening to this shit. Anyways, it’s a very poppy, very synthesizer-heavy roundup of songs from Genesis. There’s some absolute bangers, and then there’s some tracks that just kinda blur on by with nothing to say for themselves. I’m not sure what I went into this expecting, but I found it quite pleasant, in most cases.

Graveyard – Innocence & Decadence (2015)

Graveyard – Innocence & Decadence (2015)

I’ve never been the biggest fan of Graveyard, but I have friends who adore them. So when this dropped, I added it to my To Do list, and I typical Lines In Wax fashion, it’s taken me 6 years to get around to giving it a proper listen and commit it to the virtual collection. I’m getting better, and as I get older my ducks are more and more in a line but there’s still a bunch of releases that slipped through the cracks. Anyway, this is a warm production with a full sound, which lends itself fantastically to the music. It took me a while to get used to those vocals but they fit perfectly. I love the guitar tone and I love the softer moments (surprisingly) more than the rockier parts. Great stuff. I’ll have to fish out some more Graveyard one day.

Killing Joke – Killing Joke (2003)

Killing Joke – Killing Joke (2003)

Is there a comeback album as perfect as this? How many bands go away and then return better than ever before? The 2003 self-titled release from Killing Joke was also the first experience most people of my generation had with the band, too. Personally, I was never really that into it, I loved “Asteroid” and had heard “Loose Cannon” but I was 14 at the time so was neck deep in other types of music. This is the album that Dave Grohl drummed on, in what seemed to be an intense few years of sessioning (Queens Of The Stone Age and Probot also spring to mind). That aside, Youth is back, joining Geordie and Coleman for this excellent rejuvenation effort. Some of my favourite Killing Joke songs are here; the aforementioned “Asteroid”, as well as “Zennon” and the fathomless “Death And Resurrection Show”. Production wise, this is clearer than say, Hosannahs or even Absolute Dissent, but still has the ability for that massive wall of guitar to blow you the fuck away. Amazing.