Friday, 21 December 2012

Albums of the year 2012

Once again musicians around the world have released new music this year. Some of it was good, some of it was bad, and some of it was just plain average. Critics are already raving about about how great a year it was for music, and it sure was, but that's to be expected with the vast range of new music released every year. So sit back, relax and read through my top ten albums of the year. Then leave an angry comment about me missing out Frank Ocean/Alt-J/Meshuggah (whatever your musical preference).

10. Periphery- Periphery II: This Time It's Personal 

The follow-up to their self-titled 2010 debut album continues in a similar vein, with abundances of technical and experimental guitar licks that also bring in some more electonic elements. At times it almost borders on metalcore territory before bursting into, dare we say it, djent style riffing. On the slowed down 'Erised' and 'Epoch' the band calm down and really let loose their experimental and electronic urges to great effect.

9. Converge- All We Love We Leave Behind

Who said Punk Rock was dead? With the constant influx of beatdown heavy hardcore bands cropping up it's always refreshing to hear a band that doesn't rely on the same formula as everyone else. And Converge are that band. Maybe it's experience (this is their 8th album), or maybe they felt as long as the music's powerful, who needs to stick to a trend? Either way, there's a good reason Decibel Magazine named this their album of 2012.

8. Pulled Apart By Horses- Tough Love

Released way back in January and like fellow band beginning with a 'P', Periphery, PABH have also avoided the second album syndrome by releasing a successor to their self-titled debut in Tough Love that pretty much matches that outstanding album. Full of short, snappy blasts of their indie/punk blend, it's full of riffs that will hook you in time and again like a forgetful tuna fish. Of course it's in the live environment where these tunes really show their mettle. And their from Leeds (like me) which helps!

7. Architects- Daybreaker

These boys from Brighton don't hang about. Not only have they released two albums less than 18 months apart but both have been featured on my top albums of the year(s). Whether it's the politically charged 'These Colours Don't Run', which would win 'breakdown of the year' if such a thing existed, or the anthemic 'Alpha Omega', Daybreaker is packed full of storming, hardcore fuelled, slabs of goodness. It further enhances their reputation as the cornerstone for the new breed of British hardcore/metalcore acts.
6. 3 Inches Of Blood- Long Live Heavy Metal

From the title alone you know what you're going to get, straight up heavy metal (and no it's not a live album, that's 'live' with a short 'i'). No trends, no breakdowns, no half shaved heads, this is metal in its truest form. It may be like a pack of Cheetos with added Parmesan for some with all the singing about metal, women, beer and battles, but get past that and you'll discover 3IOB's true genius in crafting classic metal. Cam Pipes' monstorous vocals weaved with the skillful guitar playing on the likes of 'Metal Woman' and 'Leather Lord' are fine examples of a band sticking true to the heavy metal formula.
5. Torche- Harmonicraft

There's no doubting Harmonicraft has got to be album cover of the year, but is it a Kim Kardashian, pretty on the outside but empty inside or more Carol Vorderman, the best of both? Unsurprisingly it's a Carol, (why else would it be on this list?) Torche's psychedlic inspired hard rock is jammed full of little quirks, having clearly taken influence from other stoner/sludge acts with a hint of Black Sabbath thrown in. While Steve Brooks' vocals are superb, it's the fuzzy guitars that really complete the package and reflect that distinctive cover art as best they could.
4. Winterfylleth- The Threnody Of Triumph 

The British Black Metal scene continues to rear its head with a new wave of bands recently emerging in the genre's homeland and Winterfylleth's latest release was by far the best of this year's offerings. Creating vast sonic landscapes that truly capture the essence of the English countryside and heritage, as is their aim, the harsh vocals and soaring guitars form a bleak yet majestic outlook. They may not be Norwegian or wearers of corpse paint, but it is atmospheric and  reminiscent of a cold day on the moors. Perfect winter listening.. 
3. Devin Townsend Project- Epicloud

After last year's double release of Deconstruction/Ghost nobody knew what Hevy Devy would do next. Turns out he decided to mix the vomit-inducing concoction of pop, metal and a dash of 80s cheese to create Epicloud. Fortunately it's more than the sum of its parts, doesn't cause nausea and is absolutely brilliant. From the space age rocking of 'True North', the calm 'Divine' to the majestic highlight 'Grace', it once again confirms Devin's musical versatality and genius. Even the repetitive 'Lucky Animals' makes up for it with the brilliant Gangnam bothering video. Check out my review of Epicloud here.

2. Parkway Drive- Atlas

Parkway Drive continue doing what they do best on their fourth album Atlas, which is producing top of the range metalcore. It's brutal, rage filled music done to perfection, full of breakdowns, guitar squeals, double bass drumming and Winston McCall's mighty roar. From the first notes of tension building intro 'Sparks', it's clear this is going to be one adrenaline laced ride. Four albums in and they don't look like slowing down or releasing anything less than outstanding, cementing their place as one of heavy music's most consistent bands. Check out my review of Atlas here.
1. Anathema- Weather Systems

When I first heard Weather Systems I knew it was special. A few listens later and I knew that unless there was another Thriller released it would be album of the year. Having left their extreme metal roots behind for good it seems, Anathema have formed an album more Pink Floyd than Cradle of Filth. And it is wonderful. The lead male and female vocals intertwine beautifully as the guitars rise to crescendos before falling back down. It is an album full of emotion that comes across perfectly. Rather than read these words, the easiest way to get a sense of the album's amazingness is to go listen to it. Do it and you'll never look back.

Honourable Mentions
Black Breath- Sentenced To Life: Second triumph for these death 'n' rollers
7 Horns 7 Eyes- Throes Of Absolution: New breed of technical death metal
Cancer Bats- Dead Set On Living: More of the same from Canadian Hardcore's finest
Big Boi- Vicious Lies And Dangerous Rumors: The all rapping half of Outkast succeeds again on his second solo outing

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Recent Ramblings

Fear not for I do return. Once again I have failed to keep this blog updated regularly, partly because I forgot my password and partly because I have been too busy doing other bits of writing/reading/watching elsewhere.

All being well I will be starting up a new blog soon and updating it regularly (at least weekly). More details to come soon.

So, here is a list of links to some recent reviews I've written:

Devin Townsend Project live at Northumbria Students Union. Fantasic warm up for his Retinal Circus show down in London.

Parkway Drive - 'Atlas' album review. Parkway Drive continue from where they left off. Sounds exactly like Parkway Drive.

Architects live at Northumbria Students Union. Just listen to the song below and imagine that breakdown live. Need I say more? 

"You had it all, you fucking pigs"

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Album Review: Devin Townsend Project - Epicloud

Devin Townsend Project - Epicloud
‘Epic’ is one of those words that has come to be so overused in recent times that it has lost a lot of its original value. Nowadays you can walk down the street and hear people talk about their ‘epic’ nights out, ‘epic’ holidays, even the ‘epic’ bowl of Frosties they had for breakfast. Having said that, Devin Townsend Project’s aptly named fifth album Epicloud fully justifies its use as it is nothing less than epic.
Not a (epi)cloud in the sky
This may only be the fifth album released under the Devin Townsend Project moniker, after releasing two albums at once in both 2009 and 2011, but it is Devin’s fifteenth solo release (twentieth if you include his work with Strapping Young Lad). Not bad considering that first release was as recent as 1995. With a tremendous back catalogue and fan following built up over the years expectations were once again high. Combining elements of all his previous creations, from the heaviness of early SYL to his softer touch on the likes of Ki and Ghost, Epicloud aims, and should succeed in pleasing every type of Devin Townsend fan.
Opening with what sounds like, and turns out to be an actual gospel choir on 'Effervescent!' this soon emerges into some trance induced female vocals from Anneke van Giersbergen (formerly of The Gathering and appears throughout the album) before Devin’s unmistakeable voice breaks through on 'True North', an early indication of what the album has in store. The relatively calm opening soon emerges into the full blown madness we’ve come to know and love about Devin on 'Luckily Animals', with everything from his trademark bellow, trumpets and the catchy yet bonkers, chanted chorus of ‘Animals, animals am I lucky?’.
For the most part Epicloud is at the heavier end of Devin’s musical scale, more in line with the likes of Addicted than Ki. Having said that, there are softer elements evident on 'Where We Belong', with its acoustic intro, and 'Save Our Now’s relaxed, drawn out vocals, although these both eventually develop into something with a more rocking vein. The love song style of 'Divine' makes it the only track, bar the Spanish influenced interlude of 'Lessons', to contain purely acoustic guitars and a constant relaxed, ambient feel.
Devin Townsend has been around long enough to earn a brilliant reputation for his all round musical talent, beautifully crafted songs and off the wall lyrics and concepts. Epicloud is no less than what anyone could have expected with Hevy Devy expanding his musical direction to include a gospel choir, elements of jazz and a string section. Whilst that might sound a little ambitious, even pretentious, it works a charm as all the different components come together to form an outstanding fifty minutes of music. Much like Pink Floyd’s classic The Dark Side Of The Moon, it is an album that requires listening to all in one go for the full atmospheric experience and to experience its true quality.
The standout track 'Grace' sums it all up perfectly. As the longest song on the album at just over 6 minutes it encompasses everything, from the calm intro that builds into an almighty crescendo to the spaced out feel present throughout Epicloud, and the wonderful interaction and contrast of Devin and Anneke’s vocal ranges. At times the whole thing sounds like an operatic space opera, sometimes atmospheric and calm yet at others full on and in your face. Epic indeed.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Download 2013

Over the past few years Download Festival's headlining announcements have moved earlier and earlier. In November 2010 it was the first time one of the headliners was announced in the calender year before the festival took place, that being for System Of A Down's reformation for the Saturday of 2011. Last year it was even earlier with the legendary Black Sabbath announcing on November the 11th not just their reformation but that they would also be headlining the Sunday night of 2012. This year it's been announced nearly two months earlier.
Up the Irons
That's right, the almighty Iron Maiden will once again be headlining Download and this time bringing their Maiden England set with them. There are various reasons as to why this has been announced so early. It could be to ensure Download sell as many tickets as possible and keep fans in the know of who'll be playing well in advance so they have plenty of time to save up, borrow or steal to get a ticket, thus avoiding the problems encountered by Sonisphere last year. It could also be that Maiden wanted to advertise their European tour now, so Download complied by announcing them earlier. Or it could be they think the world's going to end in 2012 so might as well announce it now while we still all have time.
Those lazy Mayans, not updating their damn calender
Either way it'll be Maiden's 3rd time headlining Download and 5th at Donington. Despite only being broadcast a few hours ago the moaners are already at it. 'They're old', 'They've headlined before', 'They've not burned enough churches' are some common complaints. Whilst they may be closer to hitting a century than a duck, anyone who's seen them recently can assure you that pull back the wrinkles and you wouldn't know. They've headlined before but then again Download's been going for 10 years now and had pretty much every big rock/metal band still around take up a headline spot at least once. Of the few names that often get banded around for new headliners, Rammstein and Van Halen are both once again rumoured to be headlining. Let's hope that Maiden being released first means they're making way for a fresh act to be announced later on.
Finally there's those who will no doubt claim Maiden, or another band yet to be announced, not to be 'metal' enough. There is no set scale for being 'metal'. Is Varg Vikernes not metal because he eats cornflakes? Is Kerry King not metal because he worked with the Beastie Boys? Is Ozzy not metal because his wife was on X Factor? (Ok that one's debatable. Although more fool anyone to claim the Prince of Darkness himself is 'not metal'). The point is, it doesn't matter. As always there will be around 100 bands at Download, from the heaviest of the heavy to the pop-rock crossovers. Don't start complaining because of one band, wait for the other 99 and then decide if you're going to fork out for a ticket or not.

Download will be announcing another act tomorrow morning at 10am
I probably won't be up but if you are my money's on Rammstein for one of the other headliners.

Friday, 31 August 2012

Edinburgh Festival - Day Two (Part Two)

Edinburgh Festival - Saturday 11th August

With a couple of hours to kill it was time to wander the streets, admiring some of the street acts along the way including a man stood upside down with his head in a bucket as well as the golden postbox for Chris Hoy. These distractions (and some poor map-reading) meant we missed the next free comedy show we intended to see, it had something about Jesus in the title, and had to settle for a pint stood outside laughing at intoxicated people in general rather than one man on a stage.
'Bucket-Man'- not the greatest superhero power
After learning from our previous mistake we made it to the next show early, so early we had to actually queue before going in, and had time to get another pint. This was for what was billed as 'Andrew O'Neill and Marc Burrows do Music and Comedy and Hideous Murders'. Thankfully there was an even spread of the first two and none of the latter as this was essentially a performance by half of the comedy/steampunk outfit The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing.
Old School Executions
The show was split into four sections, starting with some acoustic renditions from their aforementioned band. Luckily for those unaware of what steampunk is they breifly gave an explanation, it's for people who like to dress up like it's the Victorian ages and has little to do with the likes of The Clash or Sex Pistols. Having said that, these two proceeded to inject some punk attitude into their music after complaining about the majority of so called steampunk bands been crap. Songs such as 'Bedlam' about the old mental asylum and 'Steph(v)enson', mainly about George were a mixture of musical, educational and most importantly comical, combining their love of all things Victorian with music that made you want to put on a bowler hat and join in.
The second part consisted of Andrew O'Neill doing his more alternative blend of comedy, covering the more obscure topics such as being a transvestite and attempting to serenade a lady with lyrics from Cannibal Corpse. After another musical interlude it was Mr Burrows turn, and whilst he still raised a chuckle his stand-up wasn't quite as unique or amusing as Mr O'Neill's which explains how he manages to charge £10 for his solo show whilst Mr Burrows' is free. Ending with one last musical number this was certainly a hidden gem well uncovered, and considering it was free when so many average comedians manage to charge for an hour of mild amusement. Speaking of which...
Unfortunately no hopscotch was played in the show
Obviously not learning from our mild disorganisational adventures from before we hot-footed it to Pleasance courtyard to see Shappi Khorsandi: Dirty Looks and Hopscotch. We arrived bang on 8.30 only to be told to wait outside as the show had started, which led to us having to go in (luckily followed by about 10 other latecomers) and get a personal greeting from Shappi. Thankfully that was all it was and we managed to sit down straight away avoiding any further embarrassment, unlike the man in the front row who had to leave for the toilet before the end.
The show centered around Shappi's recent relationship with her rockstar ex-boyfriend, and while her storytelling was great and frequently raised a smile there were few moments of genuine hilarity. With almost all the material about this one subject it started to get a bit tiresome and whilst not a bad show it just felt a bit average, especially after seeing Andrew O'Neill for free.
Shit-faced Shakespeare
The final act of the day we were to see was without a doubt the strangest, Shit-faced Shakespeare. Just like the cast we were surprised to find that more than ten people had bought tickets and also didn't really know what was going to unfold. As it turned out the show entailed one of the cast members had started drinking at 5pm (the show started at 10pm), was therefore shit-faced and had to struggle through a performance of 'A Midsummer Night's Dream'. Not quite what Shakespeare intended.
The drunkard played, or at least attempted to play, Lysander in a scaled down version of the classic. So whilst the other three, sober actors rang out their lines perfectly we were left waiting as the drunkard slurred, forgot and replaced his lines with other more amusing bits of dialogue. The other catch was that two audience members had a gong and a whistle which they could ring any time in the show and he had to drink a bottle of beer to presumably keep his, erm spirits up.

I bet his parents are proud
What started out as quite entertaining, and certainly a unique idea, did start to drag a little as the other actors and actresses repeated their lines time and again whilst the drunkard played up to being on stage. There was also the issue as to how drunk he really was. If he was as drunk as they claimed then he did well to reel out some of the lines he did, but likewise if his intoxication was all an act then it was one of the best pieces of acting I've ever seen. Either way he played up to being the centre of attention brilliantly.
The real star of the show was Puck however, coming on in scenes by himself, dancing around and providing moments of genuine comedy without the aid of alcohol. Definitely one of the odder shows on at Edinburgh and if different is what you're looking for it's well worth a look, although the novelty factor does wear off.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Edinburgh Festival - Day Two (Part One)

Edinburgh Festival - Saturday 11th August

After arriving back to the shed, sorry 'cocoon', that was to be our hotel for the night we scanned through the listings, made a few choices for the next day and went to sleep on the surprisingly comfy beds, or glorified, leather padded benches that they were.
Those tissues aren't there for what you think
I'd like to say I slept soundly, I wish I had slept soundly, but that was not to be the case as I was awoken to a constant whisper of 'Graham, Graham, did you see that?'. Rather than stating the obvious 'No of course not, as unlike fish I sleep with my eyes closed!' I mumbled all my brain could process at 5am,  'What?'. As my shed-mate pointed to a slight movement in the walls I tried to explain it was probably just a spider, by grunting 'spider, sleep', until I saw four claw like imprints running up the wall and had to conced there was something bigger there. Luckily this was all on his side of the shed/hut/cocoon so I went straight back to sleep.

Spider Rat
In the real morning, the morning time when people actually get up, around 10am, we reassured ourselves that it must be a pair of squirrels not rats living in the underlining of our shed, as surely rats can't climb up curved wooden structures? Anyway, encounters with wildlife aside and it was back to the Edinburgh festival for a sausage sandwich, day planning, ticket buying and sitting around in a park half-listening to a band play child-friendly hits from the 1940s such as this beauty:

So it was onto our first show of the day entitled 'Appointment with The Wicker Man'. This was a production by the National Theatre of Scotland performed in the fancy Assembly Rooms so it was all set up to be a cracking show. And that it was.

For anyone who's seen the original Wicker Man (with Sir Christopher Lee, not the 'modern' Nicholas Cage tripe), this was essentially a play within a play whereby a northern Scottish amateur drama company attempt to put on a jazzed up version of The Wicker Man, featuring Glee styled musical numbers and all. Although their leading man has disappeared so a replacement is brought in which leads to various parallels between the film and happenings within the club, climaxing in a metal (for health and safety reasons) wicker man being brought out.

Nutritious AND delicious
The small main cast of six were absolutely superb, each playing their part brilliantly and the script shone through as every comedic element raised at very least a chuckle from the packed out audience. Even if you are yet to see The Wicker Man (it's been out nearly 40 years now!), it's still a fantastic experience as my comrade who is yet to see it can confirm, claiming it to be the best thing all weekend- and he ate a deep fried Mars Bar!   

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Edinburgh Festival - Day One

Edinburgh Festival- Friday 10th August

  After visiting the Edinburgh festival for the first time last year I was back for three days this time to experience a variety of interesting, funny and downright bizarre acts.
  For those unaware, the trip last year was one of the most disorganised outings ever undertaken by anyone, ever. It would take pages to explain everything but basically we decided 9 hours beforehand (around 11.30pm on a Friday night) that we were going. With nowhere booked to stay. For a Saturday night. In Scotland's capital city. In the middle of August. In the middle of the World's biggest comedy and performing arts festival.
  Thankfully it all worked out as at around 10pm on Saturday we found the only hotel in Edinburgh with a spare room and avoiding the seemingly inevitable sleeping in the car.
The accomodation
  This year was planned far better, the accomodation was booked a whole 18 hours in advance, which meant we could actually relax and not spend half the time asking every hostel/hotel/B&B/homeless shelter whether they had a spare bed or four. There were unpromising signs before we set off however, as some miscommunication between our party led to one member dropping out before we'd even made it out of Leeds. This meant upon arrival at our lodgings some hard negotiations were made with the Polish owners so that we could cancel one of the huts. Basically we told a little white lie (he was ill and had to drop out) and they let us off. Only later would we come to discover why they were so lenient.
 When we eventually arrived in Edinburgh and found a parking space, after embarrassingly having to reverse out of a multi-storey season-pass only car park, we realised neither of us had a clue who or what was really on this year. Luckily after collecting nearly 100 flyers, pamphlets and guides in the first ten minutes we were soon aware that there was unsurprisingly around 2,600 acts performing. By now it was starting to get dark so we quickly scanned through the listings for the evening, decided upon Reginald D Hunter, discovered he was sold out so plumped for Andrew Lawrence instead.

 Andrew Lawrence is one of those comedians whose name you'd vaguely recall but upon seeing him instantly recognise, especially when hearing his distinctive voice. This is partly due to his appearances on the likes of Michael McIntyre's Comedy Roadshow and Live At The Apollo but also because he's been doing comedy for 9 years now. Despite this he was recently described as 'up and coming' by in one review!
 Entitled 'Andrew Lawrence Is Coming To Get You', and accompanied by a creepy photo, it didn't bode well for my comrade looking to avoid any audience interaction whatsoever. Luckily for him it was only those in the front row, including some over enthusiastic students forced to plug their drama production, who were singled out and got off fairly lightly.
 His one hour slot was exactly what was to be expected for anyone who has seen even a glimpse of him before, top class comedy covering a range of topics, from the standard jokes about relationships to how shit life can be. There were also a few jokes thrown in that tested the inappropriate boundaries of course, although how a joke about Madeline McCann got a more distasteful reaction than one about the far more recent Batman shootings I'll never know. Maybe it shows more about the values of society than what is deemed tasteful or not.

Monday, 26 March 2012


I created this blog to record my journalistic endeavours, but unfortunately keep forgetting about it so thought it best to update it while it's at the front of my mind.
To view all my music reviews and editing skills check out The Online Courier Music section which I edit. It's updated every Monday during Newcastle University term time and whilst I don't write all the content I upload it, edit the layout, pictures etc. To find my own written pieces just type my name 'Graham Matthews' into the search bar:

I have also started to write for Rock The North, some of the content overlaps with The Courier, but not much. Unfortunately there's no search function so just trawl through the reviews looking for pieces by me:

I finally listened to Worship Music by Anthrax, and it is amazing.

At the moment I am down in London doing a one week internship with Terrorizer Magazine which is great. So far all I've done is some proof reading, re-hashed a press release and packaged some magazines up to be sent off to clients. Oh, and been licked by the office dog.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Top 5 Anticipated Albums of 2012

I realise most 2012 previews came out at the end of 2011, but we're only 2 weeks into the new year. I figured the potential of 50 weeks of new material is still worth a preview.

5. Lamb of God - Resolution
The purveyors of pure American metal return just over 2 years on from their last album Wrath, and not much has changed (except frontman Randy Blythe's embracement of Twitter, film appearances and launching a campaign for US President: In all serious LOG have never been ones to comprimise and Resolution promises to be as ear crushingly brutal as all their rest. It's also set to include some clean singing from Mr Blythe. But don't let that fool you.

4. Dragonforce - (As Yet Untitled)
Since 2008's Ultra Beatdown it hasn't been an easy time for Dragonforce, mainly due to their long time vocalist and co-founder ZP Theart leaving the band in 2010. This led to auditions and finding a replacement in Marc Hudson. Whilst a few live performances have proved he's got the voice live, how will it come across on record? Will they be as cheesy? Has their novelty worn off? These questions and more (including: how many video game references will there be?) will soon be answered.

3. Municipal Waste - The Fatal Feast
Having been active in the touring circuit and busy with various side projects (check out Cannabis Corpse- bassist LandPhil's Cannibal Corpse parody) the Waste are soon to be back. Massive Aggressive took a more serious approach, in both lyrics and musicianship but with a title like The Fatal Feast it would appear their sense of humour will be shining through on album number 5.

2. Metallica - (As Yet Untitled)
Approaching 4 years since their last album (Lulu ignored) now is the perfect time for Metallica to prove they're 'still metal'. For many Death Magnetic was a step towards their former glories, if only the production qualities hadn't let them down it could have been up there with the best of them. So hopefully their 2012 release will build on that, they've shown they're as tight as ever live, so why won't this be the year that's represented on record? Just no references to dining room furniture please.

1. Black Sabbath - (As Yet Untitled)
33 years later the inventors of heavy metal are back together for good and promising a new album (whether it's released this year is yet to be confirmed). With all members being active musically for most of their lives they've certainly still got the abilities, but can they work together and will there be the same spark as there was in the 70s? They all nearly qualify for a pension and their drug intake is probably more aspirin than acid based, will the creativity still be there? Let's hope so.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Top 5 Albums of 2011

My top 5 albums, because I can.

1. Mastodon-The Hunter
Sticking with the trend that every album Mastodon release is hailed as 'their best yet', The Hunter truly is. Considering the might of their previous two efforts Blood Mountain and Crack The Skye, this is an  achievement of mammoth proportions.  Unlike the latter mentioned, The Hunter is full of shorter songs ranging between the more commercial 3-5 minutes, there are no 13 minute opuses here, which works in their favour. The vocals seem clearer and the guitars are catchy as hell, just try listening to 'Curl Of The Burl' without getting it stuck in your head. A magnificent record from a magnificent band who never fail to deliver.

2. Machine Head-Unto The Locust
After the huge amount of critical praise aimed at 2007's The Blackening, earning Machine Head not only album of the year but album of the decade by Metal Hammer, the pressure really was on for it's successor. And if it was half as good as The Blackening there could have been few complaints. As it turns out Unto The Locust somehow manages to surpass it. It basically sounds like Machine Head at the top of their game, which it is. Robb's roaring vocals, Phil Demmel's squeeling guitars, Adam Duce's chugging bass, and Dave McClain playing his heart out on drums. Just listen to it, loud.

3. Megadeth-Th1rt3en
In a year that saw the demise of Thrash titans Metallica with that which we do not speak of (Lulu), it was otherwise a fantastic year for Thrash Metal's continuing resurgence. Megadeth have been around for over 25 years now and Th1rt3en harks back to their glory days from earlier in their career. The return of Dave Ellefson surely had a big impact on their sound which basically sticks to the classic Megadeth thrash attack, fast guitar riffs/solos and Dave Mustaine's trademark snarl combine majestically on all 13 songs. With the astounding return of Anthrax and Slayer never treading far from the path, that only leaves the biggest of the 'Big 4' letting the side down. 

4. Architects-The Here And NowReleased way back in January 2011, this seemed to be missed off most people's top 10 lists, hopefully becasue of it's early release. Shifting to a less hardcore sound worked wonders for these Brighton boys, the clean vocals showcasing a different side to Sam Carter's voice, and the contrast works magnificently. The breakdowns are still there and the songs are still snappy but there is also the addition of two slow burners in 'An Open Letter To Myself' and 'Heartburn'. One of the more dramatic sound changes/developments for a band last year seems to have paid off.

5. Wolves In The Throne Room-Celestial Lineage
Nobody does Black Metal better than the Norwegians, except maybe these guys. Hailing from outside Washington, USA, the two Weaver brothers stripped off all the satanic imagery from the Scandinavian style and instead created their own vast, ambient, eco-friendly version. This is their fourth album and shows a clear development, there are less of the harsh vocals (although they still frequent most tracks) with more emphasis on creating vast soundscapes using guitars, drums and various other instruments. This is achieved brilliantly. The addition of female vocals adds to the sense of wonderment and conjures up all sorts of nature based imagery.

Additional Mentions
Those which just missed out:
Black Spiders-Sons Of The North
Trivium-In Waves
Rise To Remain-City Of Vultures

Those which I have yet to listen to:
Anthrax-Worship Music
TRC-Bright Lights