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Top 9 of 2016 #3 Norma Jean-Polar Similar

Wednesday, Jan, 11 2017


HERE IT IS! The best albums released in the year 2016. I feel like we should lay down some ground rules before we get started. First and foremost, this is my OPINION. Therefore, I could be right or I could be wrong but based on my taste this is the list I put together. If you feel like I made a miscalculation, please feel free to comment with your argument. I love debating music and would love to do it with you. Also, these albums fall somewhere in the rock genre. That's what I do. Thirdly, please when you're telling me what you think in the comments, keep it PC.

#3: Norma Jean-Polar Similar

Norma Jean deliver one of the best albums in a storied career, and do it without any original members of the original line-up of the band. Yeah, you read that correctly. With the departure of last-remaining original member Chris Day, the band now comprises members who did not appear on seminal release Bless The Martyr, Kiss The Child. However, that didn’t stop them from taking the #3 spot on this list with an album that I literally cannot stop banging my head to. The album explores the art of atmospherics, which I’m happy to see more aggressive bands taking ownership of. It lends a hit, step back, hit, step back feel to the record that allows for you to catch your breath and overall makes for a more enjoyable listening experience.

The use of these atmospherics shows a different side to a band that throughout their discography constant experimentation, both to a string of success and some failures. Here, it is a success. The electronics that premiated previous release O God, The Aftermath are dialed back to give us the breadth between aggressive songs. I love the use of sampling and an almost psychedelic structure to these breaks. It definitely shows a band that has learned from their releases and keeps attempting to break new ground.

We have cracked the top 3 and while I strongly urge to listen to these albums front to back, I will still be taking a look at some key songs from each release.



Everyone Talking Over Everyone Else

After a blistering intro, the band wastes no time in bringing the aggression that they are so well-known for. This is the first true track that we get introduced to the subdued clean singing that’s going to permeate a lot of this album, but that quickly gives way to the aggressive verses. I love the incredible guitar work on this track, the subtle leads adding the perfect level of atmosphere. This is also the first taste we get that Norma Jean has let go of the majority of the dissonant chords that were a hall-mark of their genre. While you still get that in the last part of the song, the riffs are much more pummelling but also a little more accessible. With this band, and this song in particular, that’s a blessing not a curse.



1,000,00 Watts

This was the song that started my hype on this album. For the entirety of Norma Jeans career they have tried to replicate the success they had on their breakthrough single “Memphis Will Be Laid to Waste”, and I don’t think they ever come as close on anything else than they do right here. This song is pure ass-kickery. It doesn’t let up except at the chorus. I love that line, “I feel bad that you’re angry, but I’m sorry, I don’t care for what it’s worth. If it ever comes down to me or you, you’re probably going to die.” That hits you in the gut. As I stated earlier, I love lyrics that are open to interpretation and that certainly fits under that description. I also have a crazy weakness for breakup songs (Hell, I’m in rocknroll, of course I do.) and this song certainly fits that bill. The song describes the feeling of escaping a damaging relationship and how invigorating that feeling can be.




Reaction

Another song that shows us Norma Jeans master of the art of atmosphere. This song starts of more subdued but straight up explodes. I love the use of clean singing in the verse. It really shows the chops the vocalist has. The energy builds up from there into the chorus. I love the swirling guitar work. It gives you the feeling of being in a blender and being driven over the edge. The small blues riff over the bridge really sells it for me as well. I love bands that blend genres and for a guy that loves metal as much as I do, I appreciate a good acoustic riff thrown in at the right time. I love when this song uses a distorted bass solo to bring you right back into the roller-coaster of chorus. Definitely not music for the feint of heart.



THERE YOU HAVE IT! #3 NORMA JEAN-POLAR SIMILAR!

Miss #4? Find it here!

http://razor947.com/index.php/Interactive/Blogs/Zach/R/2640


posted by: BallZach


Top 9 of 2016: #4 Architects-All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us

Friday, Jan, 6 2017



HERE IT IS! The best albums released in the year 2016. I feel like we should lay down some ground rules before we get started. First and foremost, this is my OPINION. Therefore, I could be right or I could be wrong but based on my taste this is the list I put together. If you feel like I made a miscalculation, please feel free to comment with your argument. I love debating music and would love to do it with you. Also, these albums fall somewhere in the rock genre. That's what I do. Thirdly, please when you're telling me what you think in the comments, keep it PC.

#4 Architects-All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us

So, we are knee-deep (or balls deep?) in the Top 9 of 2016 and things are getting pretty heavy over here. I named Architects All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us the fourth best release this year based on the fact that it is RELENTLESSLY heavy. I mean it literally had my brain rattling around my head for a good 3 days after I first listened to it all the way through.

Then it hit me in my heart once I had the story behind the album.

All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us was the last album that Architects put out with guitarist and founding member Tom Searle. Searle never actually saw the release of the album on account that he passed away after a long battle with cancer before the album debuted. Cancer sucks. Tom was, undoubtedly, one of the most talented guitar players in metal. He was only 28. That’s a year older than I am right now as I write this blog and that scares the living hell out of me. Amazingly enough, Searle was performing with Architects right up until his passing. That shows a MONUMENTOUS amount of strength and perseverance that is a hallmark of the genre of metal. Now, this story in and of itself while tragic, isn’t enough to warrant a place on this list if it didn’t have one of the most bad-ass albums I have listened to all year behind it.

As always, let’s take a look at the songs:

“Nihilist”

Oh, my God. This album has possibly the best start of a record I have ever heard. It literally destroys. It is RELENTLESS in the way it pummels your ears into sonic submission. Given the backstory of this album, it is interesting that this opening track leans political. However, it's interesting, not surprising. The world seems a little hopeless right now, and this opening track translates it perfectly. When it decides to let up, it drops the sonic heavy for lyrics that crush. I absolutely love the vocals on this track, as they set up the intro to a true tour-de-force of aggression so perfectly.



“Downfall”

It’s always nice to see a riff done differently. Too often in metal, you get a regurgitation of riffs. Especially in genres like deathcore and djent. This song continues the political leanings of the opening track. The song calls for a revolution, of standing up against those that hold the keys of oppression. It also breaks down into a softer interlude that comes awfully close to sounding a bit like Bring Me The Horizon before dropping right back into the bone-crushing heaviness.



“The Empty Hourglass”

When you understand the story behind this record, this song is POWERFUL. It can be considered guitarist Tom Searle's swan-song. The riff expands the djenty sound of this band once again, taking it a level that is both melodic and THICK. The drumming is key on this one as well. The double kick flows, stopping and starting with razor-blade precision. The song ends on a very simple but effective breakdown with an electronic atmospheric over-lay, again making it sound like a much more effective Bring Me The Horizon.



THERE YOU HAVE IT! #4 Architects-ALL OUR GODS HAVE ABANDONED US!

Miss #5 Opeth-Sorceress? Find it here!

http://razor947.com/index.php/Interactive/Blogs/Zach/R/2635

posted by: BallZach


Top 9 of 2016: #5 Opeth-Sorceress

Wednesday, Jan, 4 2017



HERE IT IS! The best albums released in the year 2016. I feel like we should lay down some ground rules before we get started. First and foremost, this is my OPINION. Therefore, I could be right or I could be wrong but based on my taste this is the list I put together. If you feel like I made a miscalculation, please feel free to comment with your argument. I love debating music and would love to do it with you. Also, these albums fall somewhere in the rock genre. That's what I do. Thirdly, please when you're telling me what you think in the comments, keep it PC.

#5 Opeth-Sorceress

We have cracked the top 5. Thank you all for staying with me through this process. I guarantee that you are in for a wild ride from this point forward.

I will admit that I am a little late to the party when it comes to Opeth. I recognize that they are one of the greats of European metal. I agree that they have a breadth of influences and are virtuoso musicians that continually push just what a metal band is and what one sounds like. However, I must never have actually sat down and listened to an Opeth album front to bottom.

Until now.

Sorceress came out of nowhere as far as I’m concerned and if I can make one particular recommendation where this record is concerned, it is that if you are not familiar with any of this bands material and don’t plan on being, please go ahead and give this record a shot. You will not be disappointed. It literally has something to offer everyone.

A friend of mine recently requested songs that deal with heartbreak, I handed them Sorceress. A friend requested metal that didn’t utilize harsh vocals, I handed them Sorceress. A friend who likes folk music, hand them Sorceress. A friend who wants to broaden every musical horizon they have, save for hip-hop, hand them Sorceress. It really is that simple.

Let’s take a look at the songs:

"Sorceress"

After this record opens with a seriously cool little folk diddley, it decided to get downright jazzy. It slowly evolves that jazzy-ness into some serious metal riffage. This is Opeth at it's best, combining a menagerie of different styles. It is impossible not to groove with this song. The musicianship on this album leaves my jaw dropped open. I mean seriously this is literally the anti-Hardwired. I mean that isn't to say that Metallica's album isn't impressive, but it's easy to see why it landed at number 7 while I chose this one for number 5.



"Wilde Flowers"

I totally thought I was going to bounce around this review, but when I hit the third track on the album, I had to stop and re-think my game plan. I love the lyrical content of this record. Reminds me of the best of Black Sabbath. I also dig the simplicity of the main riff that drags you in and hypnotizes you before spiraling you out in psychedelic bliss. "Wilde Flowers" also sees the best guitar solo of any record on this list so far. It is DEBILITATING in the best way possible. It literally stops you, slows you down and makes you pay attention that to all that is that solo.The best part of this track undoubtedly comes at the end. After a drawn out spacey interlude, Opeth remind you with full force that they are first and foremost one of the worlds best metal bands.



"Will O The Wisp"

Here I go again just going in the order of the album, but when the songs are this brilliant it's hard not to do that. I always admired Opeth for the fact that they are a metal band that isn't afraid to expand the horizons and bring out influences and styles well beyond the norm. In this case, this a folk song. I do love the psychedelic guitar solo that underlines the folk melody. Again, the guitar work on this album is incredibly impressive. One of the shorter songs on this record, "Will O The Wisp", makes for the perfect intro into the softer side of this band.

There you have it! #5-Opeth Sorceress!

Miss anything #6? Find it here!

http://razor947.com/index.php/Interactive/Blogs/Zach/R/2621

posted by: BallZach


Top 9 of 2016: #6 Deftones-Gore

Friday, Dec, 30 2016



HERE IT IS! The best albums released in the year 2016. I feel like we should lay down some ground rules before we get started. First and foremost, this is my OPINION. Therefore, I could be right or I could be wrong but based on my taste this is the list I put together. If you feel like I made a miscalculation, please feel free to comment with your argument. I love debating music and would love to do it with you. Also, these albums fall somewhere in the rock genre. That's what I do. Thirdly, please when you're telling me what you think in the comments, keep it PC.

#6 Deftones-Gore

I have a love/hate relationship with the Deftones. As in, most of the time I absolutely love them. They are one of my favorite bands of all time. They taught me that a band doesn’t need speed, or force, or relentless aggression to BE ABSOLUTELY BONE-CRUSHINGLY HEAVY. However, recently I’ve come to this conclusion that I hate the fact that I don’t see the Deftones continuing for much longer. At this point you must be asking yourself “Why?” so let me explain.
The Deftones as a band are incredible. However, the music arranged, for the most part, by two individuals. Those two are Stephen Carpenter, the lead guitarist and Chino Moreno, the bands legendary front-man. These two are some of my favorite musicians on the planet. I think Stephen Carpenters guitar work is masterful. When he cuts lose and decides to crunch, he is one of the heaviest metal guitar players doing today. Chino, of course, has a voice that is impossible to pigeon-hole into one genre. I love everything he’s done. From every Deftones record, to his variety of electronic side projects, to the guest vocals he did on Lamb of God’s recent full-length (The song “Embers” for those that don’t know).
Unfortunately, the studio fights between these two titans is well documented. Chino wants the Deftones to take on more of the electronic, atmospheric feel of some of his side projects like Crosses or Team Sleep. Carpenter on the other hand thinks that Deftones should never lose the crunch that propelled them to the forefront of alternative metal in the first place.
This is what I think will ultimately end this band. These two need to settle their differences and get back to writing great music.
Fortunately, that exact tension and push and pull lead to one of the best releases of 2016.
Let’s take a look at the songs.

“Doomed User”
I’m starting off kind of off-beat and obscure when it comes to this record. This is the third track on the album and the point where things get HEAVY. This has easily one of the best Stephen Carpenter records I’ve heard. It even features Chino doing some screaming, harsh vocals and I think he’s got one of the best screeches in the business. This song pummels the listener into submission and doesn’t let up from start to finish. When it comes to lyrics, Chino has the ability to make his lyrics so ambiguous they almost fit any situation. That’s a master lyricist. The listener gets to express their own story through the lyrics.



“(L)MIRL”
Man, I wish this would have been a single. I think other than “Phantom Bride”, this song has the greatest radio potential. Chino has always been great at writing break-up songs but this kicks it up a notch. From the first lyric, “I don’t miss you. I don’t care where you are now. You’re a ghost to me. Left with my taste in your mouth.” you know that you are in for a heartbreaking tune. I love Stephen’s distortion. Bringing back the “underwater” style that made “Cherry Waves” such a great tune you are lost in the riffs and the space that the song takes until the chorus breaks through. What a chorus though. Classic Deftones right here. This song reminded me why I love this band so much.



“Phantom Bride”
Now, Deftones have quite the arsenal in Chino Moreno and Stephen Carpenter as I’ve been stating throughout this review. What could possibly add a layer that was missing? Well, Alice in Chains guitarist Jerry Cantrell of course. Jerry lends his incredible passionate leads to this particular tune about confronting someone who lets fear run their life. This song could also be looked at as being a confrontation between someone and their loved one who is addicted to drugs. If I was to put myself in Mr. Cantrell’s shoes, I might feel that this is what I would have said to Layne Staley before he gave up his life to heroin addiction. However, that’s just my take. This song has the best lyrics on the album in my opinion and is a classic example of the fusion of both sounds the Deftones try to aim for succeeding in making a truly impactful and powerful rock song.



THERE YOU HAVE IT! #7 DEFTONES-GORE!

Miss #7 Metallica-Hardwired...To Self-Destruct!? Find it here!

http://razor947.com/index.php/Interactive/Blogs/Zach/R/2620

Miss #8 Amon Amarth-Jomsviking? Find it here!

http://razor947.com/index.php/Interactive/Blogs/Zach/R/2593

Miss #9 A Day To Remember-Bad Vibrations? Find it here!

http://razor947.com/index.php/Interactive/Blogs/Zach/R/2504

posted by: BallZach


Top 9 of 2016: #7 Metallica-Hardwired...To Self-Destruct!

Thursday, Dec, 29 2016



HERE IT IS! The best albums released in the year 2016. I feel like we should lay down some ground rules before we get started. First and foremost, this is my OPINION. Therefore, I could be right or I could be wrong but based on my taste this is the list I put together. If you feel like I made a miscalculation, please feel free to comment with your argument. I love debating music and would love to do it with you. Also, these albums fall somewhere in the rock genre. That's what I do. Thirdly, please when you're telling me what you think in the comments, keep it PC.

#7 Metallic-Hardwired…To Self-Destruct!

Admit it; you’re surprised to see this on my list. I know Cutter is. Hell, even I’m surprised that I’m actually taking time out of my busy existence to write up a RECCOMENDATION for Metallica. I know what you’re saying to yourself, “But BallZach…Don’t you hate Metallica?” Well, no. I don’t actually HATE the band. Hate is a strong word that I’m reluctant to use unless we are talking about Drake or Kanye.
However, since you asked so nicely, I will tell you exactly how I feel about Metallica. Just to get it out of the way.
I think Metallica is EXTREMELY overrated. I mean I respect the contributions that they have made to the genre of Metal, but honestly, they haven’t put out a culturally relevant album in 25+ years and that includes this one. Biggest band in Metal? Well, that only proves that once you get enough people together, their opinion invariably sucks (Thanks, Plato for pointing that one out to me, and they said that those college Philosophy classes wouldn’t come in handy). They need to stop. They are suffering from one of the most serious problems in Metal. Once you reach a certain age, it becomes very hard to take you seriously once you become angry. You’re a millionaire, dude. What do you have to bitch about exactly?

Now that all of that is out of the way, it didn’t stop Metallica from releasing one of the best albums of the year and that brings us to this list. Let’s take a look at the songs.

“Hardwired”
We’ll start with the first single from the album. When this one came out Cutter about wet himself, and for good reason. Metallica hasn’t thrashed this hard in years. Now that’s not saying this is Master of Puppets or even close to anything off Kill’em All. The lyrics are childish, but let’s be honest is anyone really paying attention to the lyrics when they are being relentlessly beaten over the head with that riff? This song is nominated for the Grammy for Best Rock Performance and again, for good reason.



“Moth Into Flame”
I admit it; I’m a sucker for duel guitars and love the way this song starts out. You know you’re in for a ride when it comes to that particular intro. You just can’t keep from bobbing your head when you listen to this tune. The lyrics are VASTLY better than “Hardwired” which is exactly what was needed. The chorus is big and it should be. It has a sort of “Whiskey In The Jar” feel until it comes back and thrashes your head off. I absolutely love the solo Kirk Hammett pulls off as well. He reportedly didn’t have much to do with the writing, but definitely makes his presence known with his signature guitar sound.



“Atlas, Rise”
I saved the best for last. I absolutely, unequivocally love this tune. When I first heard it, I was having a meeting with my boss and Cutter was playing it and I started tapping my foot and bobbing my head. I was like “Dude, who is that? That kicks ass!” only to find out that it was Metallica and I was about to eat my words when it came to this record (story of my life). The lyrics are the best of the three tunes I’ve listed. I love anything having to do with ancient mythology and James Hetfield uses it masterfully here. The only problem I have with this tune is that there should have been double-kick. If there was double-kick I don’t think I’d stop listening to it. However, it’s Lars Ulrich and I’m never going to win when it comes to that dude.



THERE YOU HAVE IT. #7-METALLICA: HARDWIRED…TO SELF DESTRUCT!
Now bang your heads!

Miss any of the other albums on this list? Find them here:

#8 Amon Amarth: Jomsviking
http://razor947.com/index.php/Interactive/Blogs/Zach/R/2593

#9 A Day To Remember: Bad Vibrations
http://razor947.com/index.php/Interactive/Blogs/Zach/R/2504

posted by: BallZach