Steve Hackett – “At The Edge Of Light”

tUwB7_SkThere are few artists that have accomplished what Steve Hackett already has and yet he still is making arguably the best music of his whole career. And I am including Genesis! “At The Edge Of Light” is yet another masterpiece in what has been a string of them! Starting with 2009’s “Out of the Tunnel’s Mouth,” Steve has been on fire. 2016’s “The Night Siren” is easily one of my favorite albums by him. And “At The Edge Of Light” falls into the same category.

What makes him so good is that he doesn’t limit himself. While Hackett does the whole Genesis Revisited thing, his solo albums aren’t trying to replicate any of that. The music on “At The Edge Of Light” runs the gamut of styles. It’s orchestral, it’s prog, it’s world music, it has a didgeridoo even. One of my favorite tracks on the album “Hungry Years” is basically 60s pop.

There are so many styles on the album and pretty much all works. There’s the lush orchestration of “Beasts in Our Time” and the prog epic “Those Golden Wings” which are two of my favorites. “Descent” reminds me a lot of Holst’s “Mars the Bringer of War.” Not sure how intentional that is, but it segues into “Conflict” which sounds like film music. The only track that perhaps doesn’t quite do it for me is “Underground Railroad” but I’m not into Americana or folk music. Still, it’s done well regardless.

It’s mindblowing to think that almost 69 years old, Steve Hackett is still a major force in progressive rock. While Peter Gabriel is doing who knows what, and the other Genesis members are either shitting out more pop or reinventing themselves as a classical composer, it’s Hackett who has embraced the genre and kept fighting the good fight. “At The Edge Of Light” proves that he is far from done and is the true prog god from the Genesis camp.

Rating: 9/10

Tracklist:

1. Fallen Walls and Pedestals
2. Beasts In Our Time
3. Under The Eye of the Sun
4. Underground Railroad
5. These Golden Wings
6. Shadow and Flame
7. Hungry Years
8. Descent
9. Conflict
10. Peace

Label: InsideOut Music
Release Date: 25 January 2019
Website: hackettsongs.com

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Thrailkill – “Everything That Is You”

Instrumental progressive metal trios are everywhere!  

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thrailkillHow does one decide to listen to fresh new music or sit on your ass waiting for the new Animals as Leaders?  The new recording by Thrailkill (a band which was once called Mammoth and has recorded a handful of CDs before changing their name) – namesake of guitarist Wes Thrailkill – deserves your attention for a number of reasons.

“Everything That Is You” takes the listener on a journey.  When Mario would go underground for level 1-2 you were still playing Super Mario Brothers but you were on a different level, while on a continuous journey.  That’s how I feel listening to this. The tracks are all separate entities but part of a larger whole.

There is a recurring melodic theme that ties this CD together for which I give extra props.  It is first played by guest Ryan Cho on viola on track one and the melody comes back no less than two more times  It is one thing to write fantastic music but to thematically tie the tracks together takes extra forethought and consideration and it kicks my appreciation up a notch.

Plenty of rhythmic diversity and odd time signatures can be found on this CD and drummer Lang Zhao handles all the changes with ease. Yas Nomura plays brilliant basslines on “Everything’s” that reminds me of Jaco Pastorius. “Gone” reminds me of The Aristocrats and you know that is a compliment.

I am pleased to report the prog-metal found within is an instrumental evolution of the Haken/White Arms of Athena/Dream Theater/Between the Buried and Me species as opposed to the djentier flavor which is currently wearing out its welcome on my ears.

Another gripping attribute is the fact that by the time track 8 has expired, I want to start at track 1 again to figure out how the hell I got from tracks 1 to 8.  

37 minutes isn’t very long but I don’t feel short-changed; this seems to be the exact right amount of music.  I suggest you put this in your ear holes and start 2019 off with some engaging instrumental progressive metal post haste.

Rating: 8.5/10

Tracklist:

  1. Consciously        1:18
  2. Aware            5:30
  3. Before            4:27
  4. Everything’s        5:13
  5. Gone            9:54
  6. Affirmation        2:07
  7. Interquaalude        4:34
  8. Everything That is You    4:08

Bandcamp: mammothprog.bandcamp.com/album/everything-that-is-you

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Interview with Mick Moss of Antimatter

Black Market Enlightenment

Cover Artwork for “Black Market Enlightenment” by Antimatter. Illustration & Layout by Mario Sánchez Nevado. Art Direction by Mick Moss. 3D Artist: Victor Murillo Jansegers.

The album title “Black Market Entertainment” seems to insinuate that enlightenment is hard to come by nowadays. Was that the idea?

 

The albums title takes a pop at how I used to view LSD and cannabis when I was in my late teens/early twenties, and the irony of how I ended up actually suffering from a deep existential crisis, coupled with psychosis, panic attacks, chronic paranoia, derealisation and agoraphobia, despite the fact that I was convinced those drugs were the path to enlightenment. It took me 5 years to fry my wires. The artwork is also a reflection of that ironic journey. And yeah, enlightenment IS hard to come by nowadays. Religion in the form of Christianity is on the way out… it came in, removing our innate fascination with nature and energy, and then failed, leaving us with literally nothing. When you’re growing up you can get flashes of energy and artificial spiritual experiences from street drugs, and that’s kinda half the journey but a lot of people are blocked off from nature by miles of concrete, and its all pretty fucking unnatural. Wow, that got deep real quick.

 

How did the writing process for this album compare to previous albums? I know you’ve told me that you have s vault of songs in your head but you started from scratch, right? There must have been a driving theme that needed to come out!

 

Yeah, well, when I’ve been getting my songs together for every Antimatter release since ‘Planetary Confinement’, they’ve been a mixture of archive and new songs. And with this being the 7th Antimatter album (and with 7 being a really significant number for me) I wanted to push something out that was incredibly forward thinking. I knew that I couldn’t do this if I reverted back to the method of using a percentage of archive songs, as the old stuff has an old sound. It was frustrating at first because some of my older songs fitted the concept of ‘Black Market Enlightenment’ perfectly, as they were written back when I was still suffering with addiction and existential crises. But I stuck to my guns instead, as I felt that I had to go forward. Push forward and find new textures, new ways of writing, performing, singing. It was the right choice.

 

Were there any leftover songs or ideas? Because you were clearly on a roll here!

 

Totally… I had 13 songs in my list right throughout the working process, and it was like a horse race. Songs would be moved off and back onto the list. In the end I moved four songs off the album, including the title track. This is the first Antimatter album to not have a title track, although the song ‘Black Market Enlightenment’ was there right up until the 11th hour. In fact I moved it off the night before I went to Germany to record the drums with Fab Regmann, and replaced it with ‘Existential’, because I suddenly realised that ‘Existential’ absolutely had to be there, for both musical and narrative reasons. So it was just a case of ”Hey Fab, here’s a song you’ve never heard, but don’t worry, the drums go like this….”, and I played him the demo and he recorded it piece by piece. It turned out fucking great, it was totally the right decision. But this always happens with my albums. I still have 4 songs that didn’t win the race onto ‘The Judas Table’, two from ‘Fear Of A Unique Identity’. And its not that they’re bad songs either, they just had to go because the other songs shaped the overall picture of the album as a whole better. And then, because they’re written around a specific concept, they don’t get to go anywhere else because that concept is done and I’m moving onto another concept for the next album. Most of these songs were fully written, arranged, demo’d… I keep saying it, but I will have to do something with them all soon, because I also have a full albums worth of material of songs that didn’t make it onto ‘Saviour’, ‘Lights Out’, ‘Planetary Confinement’, not to mention my music from 1995-1998. That’s three albums.

 

Musically it’s the heaviest sounding album that Antimatter has done, at least for me it is. I love that! Was that a conscious decision?

 

It was a conscious decision to write away from the acoustic guitar as much as possible, in order to draw out new musical forms from myself. That then meant that I was spending less time with an acoustic and more time with an electric guitar in my hands, writing, experimenting. ‘Between The Atoms’ would never have come into the world if I’d have had an acoustic guitar in my hands that day. I love that about this track, its so far removed from anything else I’ve done, and that’s exactly what I was aiming for, fresh meat.

 

The album opens with the menacing The Third Arm. I think it’s an incredible opener. Help me out with the meaning.

 

It’s my own expression, and it comes from conversations I’ve with people where I’ve tried to describe to them what my own past addiction felt like, the processes I went through. How I always used to put it, was that I would start each day with a blank canvass, and try, day in day out, to not reach for my stash. But at some point during each and every day, no matter how tightly I held my arms by my side, some inner, third arm would reach out and grab it. It’s a really bizarre title, and not self-explanatory at all. I did try to come up with some other title that was more revealing to the listener, but it absolutely had to be ‘The Third Arm’.

 

Partners in Crime is often a term that is romanticized but here it has a totally different meaning. Fuckers…leeches…

Yeah, I’m focussing on the seedy relationships that form between users, and I say seedy because these relationships are based primarily upon getting together and being deviant, and not about any real personal connection. It happens all over. We have a saying in the UK, ‘Birds of a feather flock together’, and it’s true – people with common interests, common ground.. except these interests are completely squalid. Be it a pair of heroin addicts, a troupe of alcoholics, a flock of teenagers with a shared interest of a particular substance, its all about one thing – enabling, and fuck all about actual friendship. And its very, very hard to break out of a social framework, especially when that framework doesn’t want you to break out, for their own selfish reasons.

 

There’s some amazing musicians on the album, present company excepted. The sax in particular just works so well. Sanctification is one of my favorite songs and the sax makes that even more powerful. Wow. How do you work out arrangements?

 

I love this part. What I’ve always done is record an album and then get soloists in at the end to play in specific places. What they play varies from song to song and person to person. Sometimes I know exactly what melody I want, sometimes I have a ballpark melodic idea and sometimes I just let them go in blind on multiple takes. For the sax on Sanctification for example, I had the melody for the first 8 bars in my head, and then after that Paul just went off on his own tangents. I recorded about 12 takes, got it home and then spent 2 days editing the solo, going fucking nuts. But that’s where you get the really good stuff, and Paul is a complete professional by the way, so I had the run of multiple fantastic pieces to go off. My OCD brain always manages to find patterns, and then link them up from start to finish in a journey that makes total sense in terms of development. I’m quite nerdy in that regard.  

 

I know you’re very close to your songs but tell me about some of your favourites on the album. How do these hold up against some of your older ones?

 

I’m in love with ‘The Third Arm’, for me its one of my best songs. Some people might agree or disagree, but personally, I love it. And its a good feeling to be like 23 years into my writing and come up with something that sits at the top of my pile, in my own humble opinion.

 

You are releasing this album independently which is a first for you. Why did you decide to do this and not go through Prophecy Productions?

 

I’ve been watching young bands on social media making E.Ps/albums, pressing small runs and working on getting sales, and something inside of me has been getting increasingly envious of people going down this route. It looked incredibly exciting, hands-on and rewarding. I’ve had my label for ten years now, which I’ve used to release little live things here and there on the side, and the DVD ‘Live Between The Earth & Clouds’ that I released last year did okay, so I just instinctively knew that this was the way I was gonna release the new album. Prophecy did want to re-sign me, and I made sure that they knew it was nothing against them, it was all about this urge inside of me. As it turns out, I think I made the right decision. I’m super fucking busy these days with all the packing and posting, but it really feels right, like a grass roots cottage industry or something.

mick moss

Where can folks buy the album?

 

The main outlet is the official webstore https://antimatter.bigcartel.com and I’m also setting up shop with distributors/shops in Germany, Poland, Netherlands and hopefully UK too. Pretty much all of my time these days is spent getting CDs into parcels and getting them shipped off, which is great, but fuck me, I would like something resembling a week off sometime soon. That doesn’t look realistic though!

 

I hope you’re touring! What’s next for you?

We just finished the first leg of the ‘Black Market Tour’ which was the most successful Antimatter tour so far. I think it was really bolstered by the new song and video, and its been great to look out these days and see more and more people with their eyes closed singing along… Next up were off to Dubai, which will be the first time in the middle east, so, again, things are growing, developing. The ‘Black Market Tour’ second leg kicks off in March where we will do some eastern European cities.
As for the studio side of things, Luis and I are in the early stages of getting the next Sleeping Pulse album together, and I have a number of options as to what will be the next Antimatter release. I’m showing no signs of slowing down. It’s all good!

 

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Evergrey – “The Atlantic”

651458-smallcoverI’ve always liked Evergrey. But I’ll admit they’ve been kind of hit or miss with me. The Inner Circle was my first exposure to them and what an incredible album that was/is. It has remained my favorite of theirs all these years later. Until now… But first, I’ll admit, I’m a sucker for all things beach/ocean related. So this one seemed right up my alley from the start. But that takes backseat to what they’ve brought to the table with this release.
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While I liked the last album, The Storm Within, I didn’t fully love it. This time around, the band has realized something that I didn’t realize I had been hoping for. An excellent amalgamation of old and new Evergrey. Like if they combined Inner Circle/Recreation Day Evergrey with Storm Evergrey. And it works.
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With A Silent Arc, we start things off right with a grindy, djenty riff that chugs with appropriate heaviness and then flows into a melodic and catchy chorus. I’ll repeat that phrase in this review as this album is full of them. I kept finding myself wanting to sing along with that chorus. The sense of sadness is still there in the tone of the music, so don’t worry about that! And a funny thing here… when i imported the promo to my player, the tracks got out of order and this one was last. And I must say, it seems to work a lot better there than being the lead in track. Try it this way and let me know what you think.
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Weightless cranks back in with the metal (god, the groove on this one) and then dialing it back for the verses. Aaannndddd we have another chorus that’s catchy as hell with the music propelling you along like you’re flying (sailing?) to your destination. I love this track. And it would work great as the opener, which is perfect because, like I said, the opener would work better as the closer. To me anyway.
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We hit our first “ballad” with All I Have. Full of emotion. Still heavy. Between the subject and the composition, this song is a bit emotionally draining.
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The riffage rips back in again with some heavy chugging in A Secret Atlantis. The pre-chorus here is actually a bit catchier than the chorus. The harmonies on this album are fantastic. There are some samples on this one, but I can’t tell what they are. First ones I have ran into like that so far?
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Between Atlantis and Silence, we get a nice little ambient piece ala daft punk with The Tidal. I dig it. And End of Silence is a great track that invokes classic Evergrey. Especially that chorus. Love it.
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Currents brings us yet another great sing a along chorus. The jangly, metallic bass line adds that extra something to the low end. Again, classic Evergrey.  And then Departure follows it with a beautiful ballad, while the Beacon gives us a great mid-tempo rocker.
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This Ocean ends the album and tears back into the cinematic grind. And yep! Another chorus that will have you singing along.
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And here is where I think A Silent Arc works better. You get a moment of silence after This Ocean and then some ominous radar pings like there is an impending battle about to take place. And the song itself ends like it wants to close an album.
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Anyway…holy crap, what a ride. The crew still have it in them. If you’ve been on the fence about them or felt you haven’t really gotten into them in a long time, do yourself a favor and check this one out.
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Excellent production on this one too, I might add.
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836198-bandsmall
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Joining Tom once again are:  Henrik Danhage (guitar), Johan Niemann (bass), Jonas Ekdahl (drums) and Rikard Zander (keyboards). The same cast and crew from the The Storm Within.
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Rating: Holy Moly Pastroli!
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Tracklisting:
01. A Silent Arc
02. Weightless
03. All I Have
04. A Secret Atlantis
05. The Tidal
06. End Of Silence
07. Currents
08. Departure
09. The Beacon
10. This Ocean
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What I feel the tracklisting should be:
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01. Weightless
02. All I Have
03. A Secret Atlantis
04. The Tidal
05. End Of Silence
06. Currents
07. Departure
08. The Beacon
09. This Ocean
10. A Silent Arc
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Label: AFM Records
Release Date: January 25th, 2019
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Top 20 Albums of 2018: The Sue Edition

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Here’s some of the new music I enjoyed the past year. There’s no particular order here, it’s just a list. There are links to reviews found on PMP where applicable. And, yes, not all these releases fit the theme of this website, but this is my post and I ask you to expand your mind just a tad and check out some of the albums listed. That’s fairly easily to do on the Modern Internet, isn’t it?

I also like to note that I own physical copies of all these releases. I’m a fan of streaming, but if I really love an album, I will try to buy the vinyl or CD edition. That helps the musicians a bit more.

Thanks for reading. Looking forward to what music 2019 has in store for us.

The Fierce And The Dead – The Euphoric (my review here)
Low – Double Negative (experimental rock)
Soft Machine – Hidden Details (my review here)
Regal Worm – Pig Views (progressive rock)
Jon Hopkins – Singularity (techno)
Spiritualized – And Nothing Hurt (indie rock)
Nik Bärtsch’s Ronin – Awase (modern jazz)
Prefuse 73 – Sacrifices (hip hop/beats)
The Rock*A*Teens – Sixth House (indie rock)
Precision Surgery / Bass Communion – Kurzwellen 8 (Bass Communion is Steven Wilson’s electronic ambient project)
Johnny Marr – Call The Comet (indie rock from the guitarist of The Smiths)
God Is An Astronaut – Epitaph (instrumental rock)
Long Distance Calling – Boundless (Rob’s review here)
Adam Holzman – Truth Decay (jazz rock from Steven Wilson’s longtime keyboard player, features appearances from SW, Nick Beggs and Craig Blundell)
The Nels Cline 4 – Currents, Constellations (modern jazz)
John Zorn – Insurrection (experimental jazz)
Sleep – The Sciences (stoner metal)
Kino – Radio Voltaire (Rob’s review here)
Chris Carter – CCCL Volume One (experimental electronic)
Laurie Anderson & Kronos Quartet – Landfall (classical/performance piece)

Here’s a track from Adam Holzman’s Truth Decay, called Picking Through The Wreckage

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Rob’s Recommendation Roundup: Volume 7

For my seventh recommendation column, there’s some music here that will challenge the term “prog” and yes I acknowledge that Soilwork is not a prog metal band. I do think many fans of prog metal and extreme metal like or would like Soilwork. Since I love them, I decided they belonged on my site.

Soilwork_Verkhligheten_cover_artAfter their last album “The Ride Majestic” was a disappointment for me, I was wondering if they would reverse course or not. The two albums before that, “The Panic Broadcast” and “The Living Infinite” were my two favorite Soilwork albums. I liked the B-sides compilation from 2016, Death Resonance but I really was concerned for the next album. Add in that longtime bassist Ola Flink AND drummer Dirk Verbeuren had left the band!

Finally after four years, Soilwork is back with “Verkligheten.” And wow, are they back! “Verkligheten” is easily one of their best albums and considering all the change the band has gone through, it’s nothing short of amazing. The music is both heavy and yet incredibly catchy too. “Full Moon Shoals” was the first track I heard before getting the promo so I knew the album had hooks but every song has hooks, including the brief title track instrumental.

“When the Universe Spoke” and “Stålfågel” are probably my favorites but that will change I am sure since, the whole album is great. New drummer Bastian Thusgaard kicks the band in the ass and seems to give them new life as well. And of course Speed is one of my favorite singers on the planet. The guy has a great harsh vocal and an incredible clean vocal that is instantly recognizable. All in all, “Verkligheten” which means “Reality” is an amazing way to kick off 2019!

Label: Nuclear Blast
Release Date: 11 January 2019

nailedtoobscurity-blackfrost-cover-smallAlso coming out on Nuclear Blast is “Black Frost” by German progressive doom metallers Nailed to Obscurity. They remind me a bit of bands like old Opeth, November Doom and Paradise Lost. Since I love all of those bands, it was easy enough to get into “Black Frost.” Only downside for some people might be the somwhat atonal harsh vocals of Raimund Ennenga. I do wish he made more use of his clean vocal.

But I think that’s quite minor really. All 7 tracks are epic as fuck and yes PROGRESSIVE. Tons of atmosphere plus dynamics. It’s an outstanding album by a band that hopefully won’t be nailed to obscurity for much longer. Yes I know that was terrible but I couldn’t resist!

Label: Nuclear Blast
Release Date: 11 January 2019

EvergreyFinally, an album that I am completely SHOCKED by. I’ve tried over the years to love Evergrey and for every album that I like, there’s another that I am very disappointed in. I even offered their new album “The Atlantic” to one of my contributors, Matt for review. He is going to do a review but I couldn’t pass up adding this album to this column. IT IS THAT GOOD!

My problem tends to be that Evergrey isn’t quite proggy or heavy enough and frontman Tom S. Englund often sounds quite whiny when he sings. The good news here is that all of that is resolved on “The Atlantic.” PLUS, all of the songs are great. Even the quieter tracks aren’t overwrought and still have a heaviness to them.

I have quite openly called Evergrey overrated. But this album changes that. “The Atlantic” is easily my favorite album by them and ranks with their best work like “Recreation Day” or “Torn.” It has made me also give another listen to the albums that I didn’t care for, which tells you how good “The Atlantic” is. I won’t go into it much more since Matt loves it as well. Check out his review soon!

Label: AFM Records GmbH
Release Date: 25 January 2019

Posted in atmospheric metal, black metal, death metal, extreme metal, melodic death metal, progressive metal | Tagged | 2 Comments

Top 20 of 2018 – The Chris Edition

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When I was asked to make a list of my top twenty albums from 2018, I was a bit worried that there wouldn’t be enough that I liked to fill out the list. Probably because this year seems like it has drug on forever, but after looking at what I’d been listening to, I realized “oh wow, I thought (insert album here) came out in 2017. Sweet!”

Yeah, this is how my brain works. Welcome. It’s about as out there as some of my music choices. While some of these are very much NOT “prog” (looking at three albums in particular), they are albums that have been played a lot. Either in the car, or on Spotify/Bandcamp. This list really isn’t in any particular order until about half way through, then it becomes much more solidified.

20. “Terra Solus” by Sergeant Thunderhoof (Stoner Metal)
I managed to get my paws on Sergeant Thunderhoof’s discography not long ago, and finally gave it all a listen after them being on my list for some time. Terra Solus is a great fourth album from these fuzz-heavy rockers. Not going to lie, the name caught me at first, and I am kicking myself for not listening to these guys when I first heard of them. Start from the beginning, and you can thank me later.

19. “Wasteland” by Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats (Psych Rock)
I already said a few words about this album in the review. To summarize, it’s a great album that tackles a version of the future that we could find ourselves in. Where mindless zombies roam the streets attached, literally, to their phones. Wait a second…


18. “For A Black Tomorrow” by Deathwhite (Doom/Goth Metal)
My best friend and I have this thing we’ll do sometimes where we will fall down the rabbit hole that is Bandcamp, in search of new music. She’ll find something and toss it my way if she thinks I’ll like it. Deathwhite fills the void that is currently left gaping open by Katatonia’s hiatus. “For a Black Tomorrow” is a powerful first full-length album for these guys.


17. “Hymn Of The Cosmic Man” by Fire Down Below (Stoner Metal)
Fire Down Below is another Bandcamp trip find. I fell in love with their first album “Viper Vixen Goddess Saint”, so when they released “Hymn Of The Cosmic Man”, I was all over it. Instead of the sands of the desert, the album takes one up into the cosmos for a stoner metal-filled journey. They only improved from their first album, and I cannot wait to see how these guys grow in future albums.

16. “Prequelle” by Ghost (Metal)
Yes, I am a Ghost fan. I like the campy “Scooby Doo” metal (as one of my friends calls it). Prequelle sees the installation of Cardinal Copia in Papa Emeritus’ place, and brings a slightly more 80s influence. The songs are still catchy, and over the top when it comes to videos, but “Prequelle” has a special place in my heart.

15. “Longing To Be The Mountain” by King Buffalo (Stoner Rock)
I. Love. King. Buffalo. Having seen them live, and getting that musical “high” from their music, “Longing To Be The Mountain” is a favourite. To hear their sound improve vastly from their first album “Orion” fills my heart with joy. These guys deserve more attention, so please, check out this album, and don’t pass on their EPs or first album either.


14. “Cosmic Blues” by Black Elephant (Psych Rock)
Heavy 70s metal meets 90s riffs… What isn’t to love? Another Bandcamp find from this year that has nestled itself into my ever-growing collection of psych and stoner rock. The album itself has a live sound to it, like it was taken straight from the soundboard and thrown onto an album. There’s something to love about that sort of sound, really.


13. “Howling Sycamore” by Howling Sycamore (Prog Metal)
This album dominated my spotify listening earlier this year when it was first released. Absolutely dominated. I couldn’t get enough of it, and even now it slips in at times to remind me “Hey, this is a great first album.” It’s pounding, there’s a saxophone, and there is so much potential in this band going forward.

12. “Gateways” by The Vintage Caravan (Psych Rock)
Another album I was able to review for this site, and will summarize right quick. A great blend of garage rock and blues, wrapped in a lovely stoner rock package, and a great cruising record for the open road.

11. “With The Beyond” by Deathbell (Stoner Rock)
Fuzzy, eerie, and heavy. Deathbell is everything I love about great psychedelic and stoner rock rolled into a band. Perhaps because I have been a huge Blood Ceremony fan for a few years now, and these guys are like them… But heavier. So much heavier. Walking that veil between the living and the dead in their music. With perhaps so dark magic being brewed in the forest.

10. “Wasteland” by Riverside (Prog Metal)
If ever I wanted an album to play the game Fallout to, this would be it. It is a comeback album, and while on shaky feet, it is a good comeback for the band. A dark album of a post-apocalyptic land, that takes a turn from their previous two albums. I didn’t find the time to really sit and listen to it until recently, but it is in my top three albums they have released so far. There’s a lot of raw emotion and internal demons being exorcised from the tragedies that have befallen them in recent years, which lends to the idea behind the album’s setting.

9. “Life In The Punch Line” by Fifth Species (Prog/Art Rock)
If there were ever a band that deserves more exposure, it would be the North Carolina outfit Fifth Species. I was introduced to these guys through a member of a band that will show up later on this list, and I am forever thankful for his little instagram videos of music suggestions. Fifth Species captures the spirit and sound of the Canterbury prog scene, while also being heavily influenced by bands like Phish.

8. “Together Through Time” by TWRP (Synthwave/Funk)
These four funky guys from the far reaches of space and time that live in Canada (pretty much their backstory since their real faces and names are unknown to all) released an all around amazing album with guest appearances by The Protomen (“Phantom Racer”), Planet Booty (“Tactile Sensation”), Dan Avidan of Ninja Sex Party (“Starlight Brigade”), and more. It’s an upbeat, feel good album teeming with vox box, synthesizers, amazing guitar, pounding drums, and the best damn bass ever. There. I said it on the internet. Sue me, I’m a changed person after seeing them perform parts of this album live.

7. “The Killing Place” by American Murder Song (are murder ballads considered a genre?)
While this album isn’t one of new songs by the duo Terrance Zdunich and Saar Hendelman, two of them are covers from other bands, this album takes the songs from their previous two albums “Murder Ballads of 1816: The Year Without A Summer” and “The Donner Party” and gives them a completely new spin. Making them new songs altogether. On here is also a renewed version of the song “In All My Dreams I Drown” from the movie The Devil’s Carnival (which Terrance helped create and played The Devil in). Some of the songs have a swamp rock feel, others an almost industrial edge, while also intertwining songs from teaser videos they had released in anticipation of the albums. If you are a fan of the darker side of history, American Murder Song is a fantastic group, and The Killing Place is a good start. I’m still hung up on the new version of “The Last Americans” and “In All My Dreams I Drown”. As well as their dark cover of “Jenny Was A Friend Of Mine” by The Killers.

6. “Of Blood And Wine” by The Necromancers (Stoner/Doom Metal)
Three words. Satanic. Stoner. Metal. My best friend discovered these guys while we were on a Bandcamp search binge, and let me tell you… I am forever thankful for a new Halloween go-to artist and album. Upon first listen, I was just floored by the great stoner rock sound, but upon listening more closely to the lyrics it became quite obvious the general theme behind their music. I’m not put off by it, of course, but I know some people can be. “Secular Lord” is my favourite hands down. Perhaps because it explores the legend behind Vlad Tepes, aka Vlad The Impaler, who has always fascinated me.

5. “Simulation Theory” by Muse (Rock)
This latter half of year for me has honestly been dominated by my love for synthwave and retrowave music, so when I heard the track “Thought Contagion” from Simulation Theory, I knew I was going to be in love with the latest release by Muse. A concept album inspired by the show Black Mirror (quoting Matt Bellamy from an interview I happened to watch), it is a new push at the boundaries of their music while also having a taste of what I loved from Showbiz and Origin of Symmetry. Honestly their best since The Resistance, for me. An album that can be danced to, as well as hold some meaningful lyrics. Perhaps my favourite track is “Propaganda”, which a very different sound for the band, yet fits well with the theme of the album lyrically.

4. “The Sacrament of Sin” by Powerwolf (Power Metal)
Another band who has released their best album to date. The Sacrament of Sin lends an even bigger sound to what Powerwolf already wields, and is made to be performed live. The production on this album is top notch, and the sound is even more powerful than their previous releases. While some songs are just catchy, like “Demons Are A Girl’s Best Friend”, you have gems like “Stossgebet”, “Incense and Iron”, and “Venom Of Venus” that truly are the treasures of this album.

3. “Sometimes The World Ain’t Enough” by The Night Flight Orchestra (80’s-inspired Rock)
I hate the fact I just now discovered this band. This album didn’t actually hit my radar until a few weeks ago, thanks to a friend of mine. It quickly skyrocketed to the top of the list for the sheer fact that it is exactly what I have been into lately. That glorious sound of the 80s in a well produced modern package. It’s something I can crank up and rock out to, whether in the car or just doing things around the house. “Turn To Miami” and the title track “Sometimes The World Ain’t Enough” are definitely my favourites, but the entire album is absolutely fantastic.

2. “Used Future” by The Sword (Stoner Rock)
This album, as well as the previous mentioned on this list, were the two albums I was most looking forward to at the beginning of the year. Used Future takes the new sound that The Sword have been experimenting with to a whole new level. Finding their feet in it, and running with it in a loose concept of a future devoid of greenery. It’s darker than their previous release High Country, but no less amazing. There’s hints of that metal sound of their older albums, but wrapped nicely with that new synth-y sound they’ve adopted.

1. “Cool Patrol” by Ninja Sex Party (Comedy Rock)
I know, I know. “Why is there a comedy band on this list? Why is it number one?” Hear me out, please. This is by far their best comedy album to date (they also have two cover albums that feature Rush, Genesis, Peter Gabriel, and more). Cool Patrol sees the comedy duo’s first original album with a live band (thanks to Canadian synth/funk band TWRP) behind every song, while previous original albums were mostly just keyboards and electronic instruments. The lyrics and musical composition are some of the best they have done thus far. The songs are just fun and are bound to make you at least chuckle. Even the little skits like the intro, outro, and “Ninja Brian Goes To Soccer Practice”. The one song that hit closest to me emotionally is “Danny Don’t You Know”, which is a song written to his younger self and is very personal and relatable in nature. Start there, then perhaps move on to others from the album like “Release the Kraken” and “Orgy For One”.

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