Now we’ve got that Top 15 business out of the way, I feel that I left you, the readers, a little short changed in terms of content later on in 2015. Due to University work and an onslaught of gigs, I had to sacrifice some reviews, not to mention the lack of albums that dare to challenge the Christmas chart listings. So, to pull us screaming into the New Year, I’ve decided to take some time and speak about some of the albums that I didn’t get the time to last year. Some good, some absolute toilet. Let’s have a read then, shall we?
Napalm Death – Apex Predator (Easy Meat)
Ah, Napalm Death. You know what, explaining this band in great detail is something that not only seems completely hopeless, but pretty redundant. Chances are, if you’ve heard of Napalm Death, you know how they sound. Ruthless, aggressive and fast enough to make you think your iPod’s on the fritz. Now, I’m not usually a connoisseur when it comes to Grind and it’s subgenres, but that doesn’t mean I don’t love it just as much as the usual crap I subject my ears to every day. With Apex Predator (Easy Meat), Napalm Death really give aging thrash and death metal bands a run for their money. The band delivered an album that not only sounds like it belongs in 2015, but is every bit as brutal as any record they released twenty years ago. Some of the riffs on display here are truly breathtaking, and Napalm Death have a tendency to grab the listener and force them to notice the real intricacies of their beloved genre. Is it anything new or innovative? Of course not, but it’s raw, intense and it’s just another great Napalm Death record, showing bands like Slayer not every aging set of metal icons have to slow down. They managed to write an album that, believe or not, could even be described as accessible to any hard rock or metal fan. If you don’t believe me, just give it a try. I can promise you it’s worth it. 8.5/10
Slaves – Are You Satisfied?
You know what, when I first heard The Hunter I thought “You know, this is a band I could get on with”. It carried that punk vibe that the Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes record pulled off so flawlessly, and I was itching for more. However, upon buying and listening to the album, the po-faced, marketing-man’s wet dream reality set in. Are You Satisfied? Is a collection of straight faced, easily digestible ‘punk rock’ written solely for the purpose of marketing cheap Squier Strats to 15 year old Killers fans. Within the space of a year, the two piece have already been nominated for a Mercury award, snubbing hard working bands that deserve it much, much more. The snotty, Johnny Rotten-wannabe vocals grate on the soul to the point of aggravation, and the band’s obvious commitment to playing saccharine melodies on badly recorded instruments becomes tiresome after a mere two songs. A fad band part of the Royal Blood trend, I doubt we’ll be seeing much more from Slaves after the second album flops. Either that, or when the pianos come out. 3/10
Fightstar – Behind The Devil’s Back
I’ll never forget seeing Fightstar at my first ever Download Festival. Back then, I was young and desperate for new music to feed my newfound addiction, and Charlie Simpson’s new money grabber was just the ticket. Admittedly, like everybody else, I kind of forgot about the band as soon as I started to explore more rich, varied genres, and Fightstar got left by the wayside. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have any problem with the band, I was young and just wanted ‘heavy’ (I was a tit). So when I heard the band were coming back for some shows in the UK and a new album, I thought I’d give it a go, and the first single the band released had me interested from the get go. Unfortunately, when I finally got around to checking out the album, I was disappointed to hear that the band continue to wallow in their sort of Deftones-light sound. Once again, I have no problem with a band trying to capture the sound of one of the best bands on the planet, but when a band have the potential to be something so much more, it’s disheartening. Some of the riffs on the album are world class, and one or two tracks (I’m looking at you, Sink With The Snakes) are a real treat. But sadly, with Charlie Simpson heading back to Busted, I don’t think Fightstar are ever going to get the chance they need to evolve into that great band. If you’re a fan of Fightstar, and you’ve been waiting for this, Behind The Devil’s Back will blow you away. But for the rest of us, it’s another 6/10 from the boys (and that one from Busted).
THE HELL – Brutopia
God I love The Hell. Should I? Probably not, but that’s not the point. The band has the kind of light hearted attitude that’s lost in Metal in 2016, and Brutopia is no exception. Keen readers might remember the band’s inclusion in my Top Ten back in 2014, and had this year been a little less fantastic, this album would have been a shoe-in. Admittedly, this IS just another Hell album, but that’s not a problem. Songs such as Shite Club and The Fever end up being absolute career highlights, even if their career span is a mere three years. Some of the songs aren’t quite as catchy as the material on the previous two, but the band make up for it with some of the best riffs of their career, as well as the best ‘funny ones’ they’ve ever produced. As a result of this, the album unfortunately has less staying power than the last two, but if you need some fun, offensive, catchy heavy metal, look no further than Brutopia. 7.5/10
Frank Turner – Positive Songs For Negative People
When I first heard PSFNP, I was immensely disappointed. Lead single, Get Better, could easily be one of Frank’s best tracks, upping the punk and really letting himself go, the song had everything a fresh release from the man needed. However, as the album plods along at it’s predictably slow pace, I was left disappointed. The promises I was given on Get Better gave way to yet more plodding, overly sentimental love songs and ukulele-laden upbeat tunes. Now, after a few more listens, the album has grown on me, but it’s still a great shame that Frank Turner didn’t decide to take that hard energy and run with it. Regardless, songs like Mittens do prove the man is the best in his field, but at the end of the day it’s another Frank Turner album. Once again, if you’re a fan, you’ll love this. There was a time when I needed Frank Turner, but now that time has passed, I see his material for what it is, and it’s a real shame. However, despite my feelings, the album is competent, and it’s on me to expect more from a man who’s been pumping out the same record for his entire career. I think Mongol Horde just spoiled me, really. 6.5/10
The Ongoing Concept – Handmade
Oh boy, how to describe The Ongoing Concept. A meld of the schizophrenic punk rock of letlive. With the electronic sensibilities of Crossfaith, with a little southern tinged section of Clutch thrown in for good measure, you’d think this is a recipe for ultimate success. You’d be absolutely right. Coming as a completely unknown band to me, I heard the album and was gobsmacked. The band’s ability to jump from beatdowns to Apple Mac advert-style indie pop can be jarring at first, but the more you live with it, the more you appreciate just how damn great the band are at mastering these different genres under the same umbrella. In all honesty, I didn’t review the album because I simply found it too difficult to try and describe the subtle nuances of the band’s sound, and it really is something you need to hear for yourself to understand and appreciate. Also, the band made the instruments you hear on the album themselves, by hand. How cool is that? 8.5/10
Hollywood Undead – Day Of The Dead
Enter Shikari – The Mindsweep
I really, really want to love Enter Shikari. Actually, I really enjoyed Juggernauts and thought that A Flash Flood Of Colour had some incredible moments, but I just couldn’t gel with The Mindsweep. I refuse to give it a kicking, because I honestly think the album’s probably great, but for me it’s just very dull and tries way too hard. Some of the riffs and melodies here are superb, but overall the release just doesn’t work for me. The over-reliance on rousing political criticism doesn’t sit well with me, but for most that’s one of the most exciting aspects of the band. Regardless, Slipshod probably ended up being one of my favourite songs of the year, so there’s that. I just wish the band spent more time focusing on the music than the words, and utilising that fire and drive in their music, rather than beating us around the head with sentiments we should already be aware of. Due to my incompatibility with the band, I won’t score this one, because it’s just not fair. It’s included here because people have asked my opinion in the past, and I felt it might be a good time to try and explain it.
Don Broco – Automatic
Another grower, when I first heard the singles off this record I was pretty disappointed. The band seemed to have really dumbed down their sound to a much more generic pop formula, losing the crunchy edge to their earlier work on Priorities and Big Fat Smile. However, after a little while, I found that Superlove started to really worm it’s way into my head, and found myself humming it countless times at work over summer. It might just be the season, but Automatic just hit the spot. The blazing sunshine and funky bass melodies worked together to form an intoxicating sense of nonchalance, and I realised a few listens into the album as a body of work that the boys had really written the album they’d wanted to their entire career. The bass pops just as much as before, perhaps even more, vocalist Rob sounds as suggestive as ever, and some of the stickwork on the album is truly inspired. When summer rolls around again, stick Automatic on your Spotify and relax. Is it relatively vapid pop-rock written for Reading Festival? You bet, but you know what, it isn’t fucking Slaves. There’s heart and soul here. 8/10
Check back in the near future for Part 2, where I get annoyed at Iron Maiden and Trivium!