Top 15 Favorite Songs: Q1 2020

What’s up guys! First of four of these bad boys for 2020. Can you believe we’re already over 25 percent through the year? I know this COVID shit has put quite a damper on things as of late, but I personally had a fantastic quarter – personally, professionally, and of course, musically!

There’s been ton of great music to get excited about . Hip-Hop in particular is already having a better year than 2019, which was a significantly below average year for the genre, at least from where I was sitting.

Artists discussed in this installment include: Jay Electronica, Pet Shop Boys, Grimes, Joywave & more! And be sure to check out the accompanying Spotify playlist for honorable mentions!

Essential Metal: Between the Buried and Me – Colors

It’s funny – despite the fact that I don’t actually listen to that much Progressive Metal, a huge chunk of my desert island Metal albums happen to fall under the Prog umbrella. Scenes from a Memory, Blackwater Park, Operation: Mindcrime, Temple of Shadows, Seventh Son of a Seventh Son….and yes, Between the Buried and Me’s 2007 masterpiece, Colors.

I think it’s mostly because Prog bands put so much more effort into ALBUMS as complete bodies of work. An ALBUM is the perfect vehicle for an ambitious narrative concept, for densely layered tracks that reward multiple listens, and for the occasional detour into instrumental fireworks for its own sake. These are all things that Prog bands excel at. They’re things that work great in the context of an album, but work terribly from the perspective of a record label trying to sell singles. So as a result, a lot of the greatest ALBUMS – when considered front-to-back and not as a consequence of their hits – come from the Prog world.

Colors is an incredibly special album. There’s nothing quite like the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach to Metal that BTBAM adopt on these eight tracks. And it was important to me to at least ATTEMPT to convey that. I poured my heart out trying explain why I love this fucking record so much, and I hope you guys enjoy it! Full video here:

 

 

 

Code Orange – Underneath Album Review

You knew I couldn’t let this one go unreviewed!

Three years ago, Code Orange wowed every hipster music critic on planet Earth who needed a token Metal band to prop up – but underwhelmed me – with Forever. Now it’s a new decade, and the Pittsburgh Metalcore outfit is back with major label release numero dos. Does it live up to the exorbitant Hipster Hype? Or is it another intriguing but directionless mishmash of abrasive Hardcore, tepid Alt-Metal, and sporadic Industrial flourishes, like its predecessor? Full review below:

 

Body Count – Carnivore Album Review

What’s up guys! New releases are really starting to heat up now. Back for album number seven is Ice-T’s Metal band Body Count, whose last record Bloodlust I reviewed quite favorably  – and to this day get more feedback than any other video from viewers who got turned on to the band through the positive things I had to say about them. Which is awesome – that’s why I do this!

The only remaining question is: can Body Count follow that up with something equally strong? Singles like “Bum-Rush” sure seemed to point in a positive direction. But does all of Carnivore deliver? Watch the full review here:

 

February 2020 Album Round Up!

What’s up guys! Another month, another Album Round Up. Below is a quick run-through of all the records I checked out this month:

Galantis – Church: YAWWWWWNNN. Songs on here like “Hurricane” give me the ominous feeling that NOTHING has changed in mainstream Dance music for a decade (seriously, doesn’t that track sound like an early Calvin Harris b-side?). It’s hard to imagine the irony was completely lost on Apple Music when a PR guy instructed them to describe this album as “wild”. To the contrary, this is super not wild. This is super safe, played-out EDM tailor-made for a Coachella crowd. NOT RECOMMENDED.

Green Day – Father Of All: Watching one of the most important Pop-Punk bands of all time show up with under 30 minutes of phoned-in Portugal the Man knockoffs and call it an “album” was heartbreaking. Troll or no troll, I couldn’t find any redeeming qualities here. NOT RECOMMENDED.

Grimes – Miss Anthropocene: I’ll admit it; I’m impressed. The way Grimes weaves together modern Electro, Pop, and a bit of that ’90s Alternative aesthetic and floats over it with her ethereal vocals is both unique and compelling. A song like “Delete Forever” feels like it came straight from ’90s Alt Rock radio, but spacey, immersive cuts like “Before the Fever” and the trap-influenced “Darkseid” go in the complete opposite direction and feel futuristic and forward-thinking. She’s combining the sounds of tomorrow with the jaded attitudes of the past and present. “You’ll Miss Me When I’m Not Around” specifically is the breakout hit in this set that perfectly encapsulates that sentiment. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Kvelertak – Splid: One of Metal’s most unique bands makes a glorious return after four years! I had no idea how much I missed these guys until I heard the delightful mixture of styles on album number four from these hipster-approved Norwegians. It’s rare that you can aptly describe a Metal album as “fun” or “rapturous”, but how else are we supposed to feel about Black n’ Roll stompers like “Fanden Ta Dette Hull!” and “Delirium Tremens”, or the punk-infused “Bratebrann”? And I equally enjoy the moments where Kvelertak do lean a bit harder into Extreme Metal, such as the closer “Ved bredden av Nihil”. Expect to see this one on MANY a year-end Metal list for 2020! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Ozzy Osbourne – Ordinary Man: In what I can only describe as the biggest surprise of 2020 thus far, a 71-year-old Ozzy Osbourne delivered his first good album since 1988. You should watch my full review for more detail, but what’s so interesting about Ordinary Man is that it’s a complete standalone effort in the man’s catalogue. It doesn’t share any of the production, personnel, or emotional messages of the other 11 Ozzy LPs, therefore giving Ozzy a chance to reinvent himself at this late stage in his career.  Here is a full review. RECOMMENDED.

Royce da 5’9 – The Allegory: Ugh, Royce finally broke his streak! As I discussed here, 1/2 of Bad Meets Evil has been on an absolute tear the past few years, between PhrymeLayers, and the intensely autobiographical Book of RyanThe Allegory is the first Royce project in half a decade that I do not enjoy. The features fall flat, the odd anti-vaccination and politically paranoid lyrical topics are an unwelcome distraction, and the beats – while Wu-Tang members may have sounded dope over them in 1996 – feel painfully forced and retrograde. NOT RECOMMENDED.

Suicide Silence – Become the Hunter: After the unmitigated disaster that was the critically-panned 2017 self-titled album, I was curious to see how this band would bounce back. Would they double-down on their faux Nu Metal approach as a giant pulsating middle finger to their whining fans? Or would they make an equally egregious error by running scared and playing it too safe in response? Well, neither happened per se, but some of the latter is evident. This is a very run-of-the-mill Deathcore record. It’s emotionally one-dimensional and the guitars are consistently lagging behind the drums in terms of intricacy and nuance. My one big compliment goes to frontman Eddie Hermida, who turns in the vocal performance of a lifetime. While I couldn’t get into this, I will say that Suicide Silence’s core fans should be pleased overall. Here is a full review. NOT RECOMMENDED.

 Tame Impala – The Slow Rush: That this is arguably the weakest Tame Impala LP to date doesn’t mean shit. It’s still a remarkably enjoyable body of work, fusing Psychedelic Rock with a Pop sensibility and smooth, pristine production. Especially poignant and heartbreaking here are the lyrical themes revolving around the passage of time;”One More Year”, “Lost in Yesterday”, “It Might Be Time”, and “On Track” are all prime examples, the latter joining the ranks of my favorite Tame Impala songs to date. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

A FEW MORE:

Enjoyed

Disclosure – Ecstasy EP (Dance)

Sepultura – Quadra (Metal)

Sylosis – Cycle of Suffering (Metal)

 

Didn’t Enjoy

Bad Bunny – YHLQMDLG (Latino)

Best Coast – Always Tomorrow (Alternative)

God Dethroned – Illuminati (Metal)

Lost Society – No Absolution (Metal)

Lil’ Baby – My Turn (Hip-Hop)

Ozzy Osbourne – Ordinary Man Album Review

The Ozzman Returneth! Well, sorta.

As I discuss below, Ozzy Osbourne’s 12th studio album is a complete standalone effort in his 40-year solo discography. It doesn’t share the sound of his other albums, it doesn’t share any of the personnel of his other albums, it doesn’t share the emotional messages of his other albums…it’s a truly singular moment for the legendary Heavy Metal frontman.

That being said, is the uniqueness of Ordinary Man a good thing or a bad thing? Considering I haven’t liked a single Ozzy Osbourne album not made in the ’80s, do the Roaring ’20s signal a new era for him? Watch the full review below:

 

AVENGED SEVENFOLD: Top 10 Deep Cuts!

One more Avenged Sevenfold video! That Diamonds in the Rough re-release really has me on a roll.

This is one of the best videos I’ve ever done, and a must-watch for Avenged fans! After much deliberation (don’t worry, honorable mentions are included) I dig into my picks for the 10 best deep cuts in the A7x catalogue. From Sounding the Seventh Trumpet to Diamonds in the Rough to The Stage, this is a comprehensive trip through the band’s discography for their most devout fans to enjoy.

Watch the full video here:

Suicide Silence – Become the Hunter Album Review

What’s up guys! You knew I HAD to cover this one. Three years after the unmitigated disaster that was the 2017 self-titled record, Deathcore leaders Suicide Silence are back and looking for redemption.

After the self-titled LP triggered so much backlash (some of which included the band tussling with their own fans online), I was curious to see how they bounced back. Two potential mistakes they could make here are a) double down on this heavily criticized new direction, or b) run scared and play things too safe, resulting in a borefest.

Did they manage to avoid these pitfalls? Here is my full review of ‘Become the Hunter’:

 

Discography Ranking: Nevermore

This is without question one of my favorite videos I’ve ever done! I take a deep dive into the catalogue of Seattle Metal legends Nevermore, ranking their albums from Worst to Best. Admittedly, #7 and #1 were actually pretty easy to place, and the rest of the spots were quite the struggle! Really hope you guys enjoy this, whether you’re brand new to Nevermore and want advice on how to navigate their catalogue, or you’re a longtime fan looking to yell at me in the comments section over my picks. Watch the full video below:

Avenged Sevenfold – Diamonds in the Rough: The Four ESSENTIAL Songs!

What’s up, guys! Happy album release day to all of you.

As usual, most of the music I’m diving into today is brand spankin’ new (Green Day, Sepultura, Galantis, God Dethroned, etc.), but I can’t shake this strange feeling that I’m in some sort of time machine….

That’s because even though last I checked it’s February 2020, Avenged Sevenfold are releasing a b-sides album for their 2007 self-titled album. Nearly 13 years too late.

OK, that’s not entirely true. They’re repackaging and updating 2008’s Diamonds in the Rough for streaming services, and even including one brand new unreleased song for good measure.

Since there’s undoubtedly a lot of Gen Z A7x fans who didn’t even know these songs existed, I figured it’d be fun to take a trip down memory lane and dissect what I believe are the four essential tracks from this rarities collection. Because contrary to what the band clearly believe, some of the material on Diamonds in the Rough was completely worthy of inclusion on the self-titled album. But of course, that’s for us to debate!

You can find the full video here: