Part 2 of two installment. 7 down to 1
7. HellgardeN: Making Noise, Living Fast
An album I am sad I haven’t had the chance to review due to it coming out way back towards the start of the year. I have, however, never been more thankful for a random Facebook ad leading me to a new band. However, Brazilian band HellgardeN’s debut album is frankly awesome. Drawing clear and heavy influence from metal legends Pantera, it is 35 minutes of balls to the wall metal, through and through. Notable highlights include Learned to play Dirty, Believe in Yourself or Die and the title track, so for those of you who haven’t heard of these guys yet but like your music on the heavier side, I would definitely check it out! Fantastic work for a new band and for a debut album to be this good they are clearly something special and ones to watch, I can’t remember the last time I heard a debut this good!
6. Black Stone Cherry: The Human Condition
One of my favourite modern bands, BSC returned this year with an awesome new album which returned more to their heavier roots after 2018’s Family Tree. The album is definitely filled with groovy, heavy riffs like Again and Push Down & Turn, but honestly it’s the slower songs that catch my ear even more and I find myself going back to more regularly. The country oriented In Love With the Pain and ballad If My Heart had Wings are of such lofty quality, quality that I think the band have lacked a little of since Magic Mountain. This album is a huge return to form and will hopefully be the album that finally pushes them into headlining slots at major festivals in this country. Again, it’s just a shame that a couple of the songs aren’t quite as good as the rest, dropping it a couple of spaces on this list and causing it to fall just shy of the top five. read the full review
5. Alestorm: Curse of the Crystal Coconut
It honestly pains me to put this album around the halfway mark on this list as it really was fantastic. There was just so much other stuff that was just a tiny bit stronger in my opinion that just kept unfortunately bumping this down further and further. However, this album DOES open on my favourite song of this year, Treasure Chest Party Quest. It also has plenty of other awesome, crazy party/pirate songs on it, such as Tortuga and Call of the Waves. However, unfortunately, what set it apart from the rest of the albums after it on this list, I started to feel the length of this one ever so slightly towards the end. While Wooden Leg Pt. 2 is awesome, by the time you reach that and Henry Martin the album feels like it’s lost a little steam and has already shown off all it has to give. Still, there is WAY more good in this than bad and has produced some of the best songs of the band’s career. Read the review in full here
4. Jody Blount: Rise
Unfortunately this is the only grassroots album on this list I have managed to get around to reviewing myself, but that just goes to show the sheer quality of music that came out this year. Having never heard of the man before he recommended I check out his music over a Facebook post, I was HUGELY blown away by it. While most definitely the lightest album in this list, it was such a great change of pace that I fell in love with it almost instantly. While I am not usually one to listen to much easy-listening pop, this was so simple yet massively effective, bringing so much emotion and heart to a host of beautiful songs. The production value of this for a smaller artist was outstanding too, it could have easily been done by a big record label; it sounded that good. There is a reason why a good 4 songs from it have made it onto my playlist! Read the full review
3. Fever 333: WRONG GENERATION
By far the angriest album I’ve listened to this year, and that may be a large reason why it has made it so high up this list. However, that definitely shouldn’t take away from the musicianship and lyricism present here, both of which being top notch. The lead single, BITE BACK, is not only a fantastic song at highlighting some of the huge issues that have been prevalent this year, it is also up there with one of my favourite songs of the year. Add that to the more hip hop oriented songs such as WRONG GENERATION and BLOCK IS ON FIRE, and even having a ballad AND a hardcore-punk song present, this is a surprisingly balanced album. There is a reason these guys are getting so big after only a few years together, and that is because they constantly pump out stuff of this quality. Read full review
2. Avatar: Hunter Gather
This was the first album I ever reviewed and you can definitely tell that when reading it. It’s short, blunt and relatively uninspired. The complete opposite of this album. I do feel like I was a little harsh on this album with my score, too, giving it a 7.5, however it has been very much a grower of an album for me. Between the typical Avatar weirdness of Colossus and Child to the beautiful ballad, Gun, and my personal favourite because of how crazy heavy and thrashy it is, When all but Force has Failed, almost every song on this album has gotten better and better the more I listen to it. For a band that have had an incredible output of albums since they donned the circus-like aesthetic with 2012’s Black Waltz, this may be up there for me with one of the best of the lot. My opinion on The Secret Door remains the same, though, try as I might I just cannot get into it!
Original overall: 7.5/10 (Revised, overall: 8.5 out of 10)
1. Trivium: What the Dead Men Say
There was no question for me that this was going to win out. Released way back in April, it’s had a lot of releases come after it and contend for the top spot, but it just pipped the last couple of entries to the post for me. The band have really been at the top of their game the last few years after a slight drop-off with albums such as Vengeance Falls and Silence in the Snow. However with the release of 2017’s Sin and the Sentence and now this one, the band may be on arguably the best form of their careers. There is not a bad song on the album, from the album’s huge opener and title track to the slower, more anthemic Bleed Into Me to even the downright thrash of Amongst the Shadows and the Stones. The album also feels like a culmination of everything that has come before, drawing together a perfect mix of their heavier earlier styles and their more radio friendly early 2010’s output to bring one of the most well rounded, polished metal albums of the last few years. Honestly I wish I had gotten to review this album, I unfortunately started doing them after this album had come out, because I could gush about it all day. One of my favourite bands right now because of their last two albums alone, never mind the other 4 incredible ones they have also released.
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The review by musician, blogger & author – Joe Griffiths