Δευτέρα, 1 Ιανουαρίου 2018

The albums we enjoyed most in 2017

The usual prologue would be that no one can say that have listened to almost everything that was released during 2017. Everyone who claims that, and posting the "best" and "top" lists is wrong so we will speak just for our favorite releases and the albums we enjoyed most in 2017. 2016 was better and it seems that 2018 will be also better, but there were some solid releases during 2017. Also, you need to check the physical format to have the complete experience of an album, and not just have a quick listen on social networks, downloads or whatever. There are also the unlucky ones (the albums that released during December) that haven't got all the proper attention, since a few plays are never enough.

So, which are our favorite 10 albums?

1. Eloy - The Vision, The Sword And The Pyre (Part I)
After years of hard work, Frank Bornemann finally makes one of his dreams come true with this first part of a rock opera dedicated to Jeanne d'Arc. This is not a typical Eloy release (if there is such a thing) but it is dreamlike and a triumph of artistic music for 2017.

2. Painful Pride - Lost Memories
Decades in the making, this is the debut album of an unsung obscure heroic band from Sweden. Formed in 1983 (!) they finally recorded the songs that was the soundtrack of their youth. I can't be very objective since I was involved with the creation of this album over the last years but you have to listen to this one. Melodic metal that will bring in mind the glorious 80s Swedish metal scene and also early-Def Leppard and Praying Mantis. Bittersweet melodies, emotional performance and great songwritting with highlights tracks like "Lost Memories", "Visions" and "A Thousand Lies". These memories will never be lost.

3. Wrathblade - God Of The Deep Unleashed
Epic metal holocaust by one of the underground leading forces of the genre. Unbound and powerful, "God Of The Deep Unleashed" is the next logical step after the great debut album of 2012. Less straight-forward, with better arrangments and amazing rhythm section (especially the drum parts) this is THE epic metal release of 2017.

4. Sorcerer - The Crowning Of The Fire King
Second full-length album of the Swedish Epic Doom legend. Some fans stick only to the demo-era of Sorcerer, but no matter how much I love the demo-era I cannot ignore the new great albums, especially when you have solid songwriting, Tony Martin-era Black Sabbath elements ("Abandonded By The Gods") and amazing guitar melodies. Just listen to "Unbearable Sorrow", one of the best songs for 2017. The digipak CD version has 2 more songs.

5. Arduini / Balich - Dawn Of Ages
Victor Arduini (ex-Fates Warning) and Brian Balich (Argus) unite forces and create one of the most unexpected releases of 2017. With Black Sabbath as the most notable influence, "Dawn Of Ages" is the biggest surprise of 2017. The 17min "Beyond The Barricade" is a mammoth song and tracks like "Forever Fade", "The Wraith" are among the best ones for 2017. The double vinyl version has 3 bonus tracks (covers from Uriah Heep, Beau Brummels and Black Sabbath)

6. Night Demon - Darkness Remains
This power trio is probably the hottest new traditional heavy metal band around. Most likely they have already surpassed other acts that were supposed to claim this title. Energy, power, fast and mean riffs, catchy songs and influences from 80s Iron Maiden and Neat Records' bands dominate "Darkness Remains" and if you have the chance to see them live, do not miss it!

7. Jacobs Dream - Sea Of Destiny
The same-titled album of 2000 was a revelation (following the equal shock of the 1996 release) and more albums followed over the years but somehow the momentum was lost for Jacobs Dream. Private released, "Sea Of Destiny" lacks of production but there are some great songs, like "Into The Night", that bring in mind the days of glory. While this album passed unnoticed, go out there and and it! 

8. Air Raid - Across The Line
And now, this is evolution. I really loved "Danger Ahead" EP and "Night Of The Axe" but the previous album ("Point Of Impact") didn't work for me. Air Raid added influences from maestro Yngwie Malmsteen and the band reached new levels of excellency.

9. Doomocracy - Visions & Creatures Of Imagination
Sorrowful and eerie, with exotic melodies, stronger Solitude Aeturnus elements and more power, the second album of Doomocracy is a skillful and passionate offering to the altar of epic doom metal.

10. Accept - The Rise Of Chaos
It's Accept. I has to be on the list. Otherwise you will die by the sword.

10 more albums we enjoyed (in alphabetical order):

Argus - From Fields Of Fire
I remember like yesterday the debut album of Argus and now they are already on the fourth full-length release. There is a certain quality in each album and "From Fields Of Fire" is no exception.

Caronte - YONI
Shamanic ritualistic doom. Weird, different and unorthodox, it is not recommended for all traditional (or epic) doomsters but it has a mystical and dark aura that you will love or hate. And NO, this is not stoner.

The Doomsday Kingdom - The Doomsday Kingdom
When I first listened TDK I thought that Mats Leven would fit better on vocals since the songs sounded like they needed his voice. Later and over many listens Niklas Stalvind (Wolf) really sounds suitable and he does a great job with the way he performs the visions, dreams and nightmares of The Doomfather. Leif Edling is a living legend and legends cannot really fail.

Jono - Life
That also came out of nowhere and has a variety of elements and influences that are mixed perfectly to create a diverse album. There are influences from Queen, Journey, Supertramp, Kansas (of all eras), melodic rock with symphonic and progressive elements plus the amazing voice of Johan Norrby. Once you will listen to this album, there is no return.

Lord Vigo - Blackborne Souls
Second album of the doomsters from Germany that follows the steps of their debut adding more maturity and diversity. Heavy, strong, paranormal, gothic and sorrowful, "Blackborne Souls" came out just the first days of 2017 and therefore many people missed it from their top-lists.

Lunar Shadow - Far From Light
The highlight of the album is the guitar parts and the maturity on songwriting. It would be much better if there was better production and more powerful vocals but Lunar Shadow have a kind of underground eccentricity that makes me wait of even better things by them in the future.

Necrytis - Countersighns
Well, that's the kind of US metal we miss. Don't you agree?

Pagan Altar - The Room Of Shadows
While this is far from the classic albums of Pagan Altar, you cannot let the solid guitar work of Alan Jones pass unnoticed. This is indeed a special and emotional release for 2017.

Sanhedrin - A Funeral For The World
These guys know how to write hooks and perform a catchy blend of hard rock, traditional metal and doom, making you feel that you listen something familiar. "Riding On The Dawn" is one of the best opening tracks of 2017.

Venom Inc - Avé
They hAvé returned. Mantas, Abaddon and The Demolition Man deliver pure blood stained prime evil forged in Hell and they bleed metal. Avé Satanas.

Best EP: Open Burn - Open Burn
Here we have three Lethal members (Dave Hull, Glen Cook, Jerry Hartman) with a new singer playing high quality US metal. Of course, singer Eric Johns is not Tom Mallicoat, but since we cannot have a new Lethal album, "Open Burn" is a close substitute but most important there are some great songs here.

Best compilation: Hour Of 13 - Salt The Dead: The Rare And Unreleased
Including the early demo versions of the songs that ended on the Hour Of 13 debut album (one of the best albums of the millennium) plus other rarities and the last official recording of the band, the amazing "Upon Black Wings We Die".
Best live album: Black Sabbath - The End
There is no end for immortality, but this is definitely the best live album of 2017. "The End" is the last live performance of the greatest metal band of all times, in the birthplace of metal, Birmingham. This is nearly a perfect live album, just one thing is missing.

Best reissue: Hittman - Hittman
You might find better albums that were reissued in 2017 (f.e. from Running Wild), but this is how a reissue should be done. Remastered from the original sources, with great unreleased bonus tracks (some of them better than the album songs) and huge booklet with many unpublished photos, complete lyrics, liner notes and everything with the arrangment of the original band members. Also, this is an undeniable killer piece of US metal.

Honorable mentions:

Desolation Angels - "King", Emerald - "Voice For The Silent", Hellwell - "Behind The Demon's Eyes", Knight Area - "Heaven And Beyond", Mausoleum Gate - "Into A Dark Divinity", Millennium - "Awakening", Oz - "Transition State", Professor Emeritus - "Take Me To The Gallows", Reflection - "Bleed Babylon Bleed", Walpyrgus - "Walpyrgus Nights", The Wizards - "Full Moon In Scorpio", Jack Starr's Burning Starr - "Stand Your Ground".

What are we looking forward for 2018?

Judas Priest ("Firepower") and Saxon ("Thunderbolt") will have their new albums during 2018 and once legends are on stage, metal is always sharp. But I strongly believe that "White Horse Hill" from outsider Epic Doom Metal masters Solstice, will be the revelation of 2018. Other than that, Heir Apparent was supposed to have the new album ready for 2017, so I assume that this will be finally completed during 2018, while during this year we are also expecting from two other legendary acts to enter studio after many years: Psychotic Waltz and Saviour Machine.

After their debut EP, that had limited distribution and promotion and came in the form of CD-R, we are expecting a debut full-length album from Open Burn, and also the second part of "The Vision, The Sword And The Pyre" by art rock legends, Eloy.

While Visigoth and Evil-Lyn have ready their new albums (and both of them are very strong), everyone expects what the next step will be for Eternal Champion and we hope that a new album will be out during 2018.

Canadian metal soldiers Sword will enter studio for new material and Pharaoh, one of the best US metal acts of 00s will also release a new album diring 2018. Any other project - release of Chris Black is also more than welcome.

Have a great, happy and healthy 2018!

Τετάρτη, 29 Νοεμβρίου 2017

Ozzy Osbourne - Diary Of A Madman

There are albums that we love and there are albums that are undeniable classics. "Diary Of A Madman" is both.

Originally released on November 7th of 1981 with a recording line up of Ozzy Osbourne (vocals), Randy Rhoads (guitars), Bob Daisley (bass), Lee Kerslake (drums) and Max Norman as a producer. Johnny Cook (and not Don Airey) played keyboards, while Louis Clark is responsible for the string arrangements on the epic title track. 

Back-to-back with "Blizzard Of Ozz", this second album is a band creation where all members deserve credits. However, no matter how iconic and classic this album is, back in the day it was recorded fast, without even completing or expanding the ideas they had, in the way they really wanted. "Diary Of A Madman" was recorded and released very fast because the band needed to go on tour very soon.

Before even the album was released, Rudy Sarzo (bass) and Tommy Aldridge (drums) took over the rhythm section for the upcoming tour and Daisley with Kerslake were out of the band. Both of them weren't very happy with the situation therein and they wanted this to be a "band" and not just supporting a solo artist. However, Kerslake's replacement was Ozzy's first choice even before the first album but he wasn't available at that time, while Bob Daisley was coming back again and again until "No More Tears". 

Diary of a metal classic and beyond:

Over The Mountain: "Something in my vision, something deep inside". The album starts with a well known drum pattern that set a template for countless songs in the metal history. Actually, few years ago, Frankie Banali claimed that this is his intro from the early rehearsals of the band with Dana Strum on bass, and of course Ozzy and Randy, that took place in Los Angeles in late 1979. Randy Rhoads is mixing unique phrases and metal riffing with classical tradition from the opening track. Ozzy always had the charisma to locate pure talent and let his fate and ideas in their hands to expand them. He always had unknown guitarists that after his albums were considered iconic players, each in his time and beyond. Randy Rhoads already sounds like no other and in the years to come, many guitarists wanted to sound like him. 

Flying High Again: "People think I'm crazy but I'm in demand". Drugs was a huge part in Ozzy's life, especially in the 80s. Cheesy lyrics but this feelgood rocker was a fave live hit in the United States. It is rumored that the tour dwarf Ozzy had on stage was Kenny Baker, the actor who played R2D2 at the classic Star Wars films. Ozzy used to call him "Ronnie"...

You Can't Kill Rock And Roll: "King of a thousand knights, pawn in a table fight losing to you". Memorable and great vocal lines with amazingly guitar work and melodies. Lyrically, it is an idea of Ozzy against the attitude of record companies until that time, and Daisley filled the lyrics. However, from that point and on, Sharon gets in the picture and Ozzy was never treated bad again from the record industry. Most likely he had the upper hand and the final word.

Believer: "People beseech me but they'll never teach me things that I already know". Starting with a plain but memorable bass line, "Believer" is a song that brings in mind some of Black Sabbath's glory. It makes no sense to think of better singers. These songs and this album need this voice. I cannot think of anyone else (no matter how good he is) to sing this songs and justify them. These songs are meant to be for Ozzy and he is their soul.

Little Dolls: "The pins and needles prick the skin of little dolls". Side B also starts with a drum intro and this time with a tribal rhythm. Someone might say that the music of this track is to happy for those lyrics, and also this is one of those "not finally completed" songs, since the Randy solo that is used was just a demo recording and no the final one.

Tonight: "Good intentions pave the way to hell, don't you worry when you hear me sing". Ozzy always had ballads in his albums and some of them are really great. Daisley fills with some notable bass lines and once again, Randy Rhoads spreads his magic.

S.A.T.O.: "Now I find peace of mind, finally found a way of thinking". For some people it stands for Sailing Across The Ocean but most likely it goes for Sharon Arden - Thelma Osbourne (Ozzy's ex-wife) with the change in Ozzy's personal life and in the next months, on July of 1982, Ozzy and Sharon were married. There are even progressive elements in this track, with a weird intro and unorthodox scales. There is great drumming and bass lines on the background and Randy shines here with his licks and performance.

Diary Of A Madman: "Sanity now it's beyond me there's no choice". During this period, there are some of the most known incidents of Ozzy's madness; Alamo, doves and bat bite. It is a weird coincidence that all this madness happened at the period around "Diary Of A Madman", so either he is a madman indeed, or there is a very well stractured professional business plan. The song itself, is a masterpiece and the strings arrangment unique and ahead of its time. You can hear violin and cello in a heavy metal song, in 1981... Progressive metal bands like Psychotic Waltz (just ask them) are highly inspired by this song (and album) and the stracture and aura of this track can be founded in late-Savatage, and even in songs like Queensryche's "Suite Sister Mary".

"Diary Of A Madman" is the last album of Randy Rhoads, that died in a plane accident on March 19th of 1982, while touring with Ozzy in the United States.

Κυριακή, 29 Οκτωβρίου 2017

Caronte: Tales of Shamanic Doom.

Hailing from Italy, the Fenriz-approved Shamanic Doom band Caronte, returns with the new album 'YONI', just one year after "Codex Babalon" EP.

Speaking of the previous offering ('Codex Babalon'), singer Dorian says "it is mainly focused on the woman figure and on her power generating; contains also a lot of magical/sexual notions", to continue, "I think is a very powerfull record, in terms of energies, people who listened 'Codex Babalon' can confirm this. For sure is the most obscure work and with more occult elements we made".

The men behind Caronte are Dorian Bones (vocals), Tony Bones (guitars), Henry Bones (bass) and Mike De Chirico (drums).

How the cult started? Back at the end of 2010 they spent a lot of nights talking and trying to give birth an obscure smoky project which may have the same atmosphere of a ritual. Dorian confirms that "magic, sexuality, drugs were all themes we wanted to touch in our musical project. In particular, I was following a course of studies who brought me to write the lyrics and define the influence and the energy that nowadays we bring with us. From 2010 we released two EP, three albums and a split with the mighty italian doom metal band Doomraiser". 

Your lyrics sound very imporant and the music is indeed a mirror for them. Which are your influences on both lyrics and music?

Dorian: Regarding the lyrics, I have to mention the master Therion Aleister Crowley, Dion Fortune, Helena Blavadsky, Eliphas Levi and a lot of books on the Shamanism in South America and in the East. Often our lyrics are prayers, tales and chants that describe myths and rituals where we found all the energies that we bring in our project
Regarding music I can say Danzig, Coven, Black Sabbath, Electric Wizard, Candlemass and Cathedral.

You are not what we could exact call "Doom Metal", so how would you describe your music to someone that haven't heard you?

Dorian: I think that Shamanic Doom is the nearest definition some careful voices gave us. We feel very near as friendships and audience to the black metal scene (the most esoteric part) and the rest of extreme scene. I really don't like when people say stoner, I don’t feel part of that kind of message.

How would you describe the present doom, stoner, occult scene, which bands do you distinguish nowadays?

Dorian: Lately I think we really have a dynamic and prolific scene. Regarding the doom scene I say Cough, Windhand, Urfaust, Saturnalia Temple, Abysmal Grief, Doomraiser.  Stoner, I don't know... About Occult, I think of Acherontas, Behexen, Fides Inversa, Arktau Eos, Lapis Niger, Satanismo Calibro 9.

The latest Caronte album 'YONI' is out now on Van Records, and currently Caronte is on tour supporting the album.

Caronte discography:

Ghost Owl EP (2011)
Ascension (2012)
Doomraiser / Caronte Split (2013)
Church Of Shamanic Goetia  (2014)
Codex Babalon EP (2016)
YONI (2017)

Join Caronte on Facebook HERE.

Love is the Law. Love Under Will.

Δευτέρα, 23 Οκτωβρίου 2017

Martin Eric Ain - A rebel life in darkness, art and glamor.

From the ashes of Hellhammer, Celtic Frost was risen. Tom G. Warrior and Martin Eric Ain were the leading force that inspired the extreme metal scene in the years to come.

 "Morbid Tales" (1984), "Emperor's Return" (1985) and "To Mega Therion" (1985) are the foundations of extreme metal, and "Into The Pandemonium (1987) is a genre-breaking record that introduced us the term "avant-garde" in metal music. An experimental dark album with undeniable influence. This influence was both musical, artistic and visual. 
Martin Eric Ain was separated from Celtic Frost during the recordings of "To Mega Therion" but returned very quickly and even if Tom Warrior was the prime composer, Martin was the link that completed the gaze into the darkness with his contributions in lyrics, music and image.
"Cold Lake" (1988) was an abomination, Martin Eric Ain wasn't there and Tom G. Warrior doesn't want to listen to this record again. "Vanity / Nemesis" (1990) marks the return of Martin Ain and after few years, there was silence. But during this silence, the impact of Celtic Frost in metal music was growing over and over...
While Tom G. Warrior is death-obsessed in general, Martin Eric Ain was deep in the art of darkness and while they seemed to share a common morbid vision behind Celtic Frost, they probably had a different approach and social sense. Celtic Frost was Tom Warrior's life's work and there is no doubt about it. But Martin was the nocturnal factor that added another (and yet so similar) dark artistic element to the band.
In late 2001, Tom Warrior and Martin Ain began to write music together again, along with Erol Unala on guitar and, from late 2002, drummer Franco Sesa joined them. The album was completed in the end of 2005, the title is "Monotheist" and Celtic Frost dominate the metal press and festivals for almost two years.
Few months prior to the release of "Monotheist" in 2006, Martin Eric Ain visited the offices of the label and unfurled full-color printouts of the complete layout, including final artwork for everything (both CD and vinyl) and provided detailed explanations about all symbolism, meaning and importance of what he presented. At this time and after the years of Noise Records and the problems and artistic limitations they had, now they knew exactly what they wanted and everything was done under their control.
But what happened after "Monotheist"? According to Tom Warrior, Martin was a different person now. As he states in an interview at Iron Fist magazine (issue 10) "We just try not to meet. Martin lives to a different planet to the rest of us. He runs an empire of clubs and bars in Zurich, and we're not talking about metal clubs - he runs the hipster clubs. Martin is a millionaire and that's his world now". When they reformed Celtic Frost, Martin had already the basis of his empire and he admired Tom for sticking with the music, so he wanted to be a part of this but after a hundred plus shows he was sick and tired of touring when he already had this kind of life back in Zurich. But besides this glamorous life, Martin was always in the art of darkness. "I was at an opening of an exhibition in Zurich and I knew he [Martin] was going to be there and I went right up to him and I offered my hand, we hugged, we talked, we had a really good time but we're no longer the same as we were in 1983", Tom states.
"Monotheist" is the best metal reunion album. In my book it is also the best Celtic Frost album but I know that you won't agree with me.
From Hellhammer to Celtic Frost, Martin Eric Ain was an iconic important part of extreme dark music. 

Martin Eric Ain (born Martin Stricker, on July 18th of 1967) died on October 21st of 2017 by heart attack.
"I am deeply affected by his passing. Our relationship was very complex and definitely not free of conflicts, but Martin's life and mine were very closely intertwined, since we first met in 1982." - Tom Gabriel Fischer (October 22, 2017)
Only Death Is Real.


Κυριακή, 1 Οκτωβρίου 2017

Ozzy Osbourne - No Rest For The Wicked

Listening and celebrating the heavier Ozzy solo album, originally released on September 28th of 1988.
Let's remember...

After two great albums with Jake E. Lee on guitars, that were both of them more commercially successful (at that time, not now) than Ozzy's first two albums with Randy Rhoads, Ozzy parted ways with Lee by mid-1987. After being fired from Ozzy, Lee formed Badlands with singer Ray Gillen, but after that he didn't do much and will mainly remembered as "one of Ozzy's great guitarists". But unquestionably, he was the perfect guitarist for Ozzy during mid-80s and a significant part of Ozzy's success.
Zakk Wylde (21 years old at that time) was Ozzy's new guitarist, and until today, his longest solo band member. According to Ozzy, Wylde is a great character, he works easily with him and he can play almost everything. After a while, Dio also got a younger guitarist (Rowan Robertson, 17 at that time) and released "Lock Up The Wolves" (1990) but that was a much inferior album than "No Rest For The Wicked" and another small vistory to the supposed old conflict between Ozzy and Dio, and even if Robertson wrote a big part of the album along with Dio, he was forgotten. On the other hand, and after many albums with Black Label Society and other solo works, today Zakk Wylde is considered a very successful guitarist.
With a recording line up including Bob Daisley (bass), Randy Castillo (drums) and John Sinclair (keyboards), the band entered studio with producer Roy Thomas Baker but Ozzy was not satisfied because Baker coudn't understand his ideas and both parties continuing to disagree. After a while, Keith Olsen was brought in to continue and complete the album, but even after that, there is still something "strange" with the total result, especially the drum sound. However, this is the sound we learned and loved on this album. 
More powerful (not better) than "The Ultimate Sin", "No Rest For The Wicked" is a goldmine of riffs and the most riff-driven solo album Ozzy ever recorded. Actually, this is the closest album to the Black Sabbath legacy and the heavy riffing has lot to do with this; just check songs like "Bloodbath In Paradise" and "Breaking All The Rules". Some different highlights include the epic "Fire In The Sky" with its great arrangment, and "Hero", a semi bonus track. Speaking of bonus tracks, there is also another song from these sessions, "The Liar"; a song that could fit in Savatage's "Gutter Ballet", recorded before "Gutter Ballet". Of course, you have a filler like "Crazy Babies", but fillers like this are just guilty pleasures, while on the "Demon Alcohol" Ozzy speaks for his addiction bringing echoes of the past singing "Don't speak of suicide solutions, you took my hand, I'm here to stay".
However, these demons dominated Ozzy those years.  As usual, Daisley was gone / let gone after the recordings (just to return and leave again for one last time later) and Geezer Butler entered the band for the tour. The tour was successful and a mini live EP followed ("Just Say Ozzy") along with a dark period for Ozzy. In August 1989, Ozzy returned home drunk after performing (ironically) at the peace festival in Moscow and announced to his wife and manager, Sharon, "I’ve decided you have to go" before trying to strangle her. Sharon didn't press charges and after that, Ozzy spends three months in rehab. Two years later, he returns sober with his most commercially successful album at that time, introducing him to a new generation of fans.
Tracklist: 1. Miracle Man, 2. Devil's Daughter (Holy War), 3. Crazy Babies, 4. Breaking All The Rules, 5. Bloodbath In Paradise, 6. Fire In The Sky, 7. Tattooed Dancer, 8. Demon Alcohol, 9. Hero