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:

 

January 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:

Annihilator – Ballistic, Sadistic: An absolute delight for old school Thrash Metal fans! Jeff Waters and co. come through with a ferocious album that, while sucking you into the genre’s late ’80s heyday, still feels modern and exciting in terms of production and performances. Here is a full review. RECOMMENDED.

Bleed the Sky – This Way Lies Madness: The first album in nearly twelve years from this reformed Orange County Metal act is a (borderline embarrassing) high-speed collision between the Deathcore sounds of 2008 and the Metalcore sounds of 2004. And yes, it’s just as monotonous and redundant as you’re imagining in your head right now. Here is a full review. NOT RECOMMENDED.

Echosmith – Lonely Generation: My first new love of 2020! Echosmith are an indie act I was unfamiliar with prior to this album, but the opening one-two punch of the title cut and “Diamonds” immediately won me over. Frontwoman Sydney Sierota’s voice is irresistible, especially when placed against the dream-like backdrop of tracks like “Stuck” and “Scared to Be Alone” (the latter showcasing her impressive falsetto). I’ll forgive the mawkish ballad “Everyone Cries”, which is a minor speed bump halfway through an otherwise smooth ride. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Eminem – Music To Be Murdered By: In 2020, hating on Eminem has become the path of least resistance amongst music critics. In fact, it’s become almost as trendy as it was to constantly fellate him as the “GOAT” in 2013. But the truth is, there are a lot of worthwhile tracks on here. Hearing Em spazz on the ferocious opener “Premonition”, hearing him weave together an impressively intricate double entendre in the song “Darkness”…these are direct answers to the (justified) criticism of his last half a decade of material. But here’s the best part about Music to Be Murdered By that no one is mentioning: THE FEATURES!! Eminem actually raps alongside a bunch of great MCs here. Think back to albums like RecoveryRelapse, MMLP2, etc – these are LPs with ONE significant rap feature apiece. Now contrast that with Music to Be Murdered By. Hearing a reunited Slaughterhouse, Young M.A., Q-Tip, Black Thought, and a whole host of others going toe-to-toe with Marshall was what truly differentiated this one. RECOMMENDED.

Ke$ha – High Road: Here’s an early contender for my “Worst Albums of 2020” list this December. It’s a truly disastrous combination of repellent immaturity, cheap hypersexuality, and genuinely poor songwriting. I’m glad I’m not a parent of middle-school aged children because if I were, I’d be seriously concerned about them being exposed to something like this, if not for the damage it might do to their ears than for its repulsive worldview. A shame because I (not so secretly) enjoyed some tracks on her last album. NOT RECOMMENDED.

Moneybagg Yo – Time Served: HERE’S a surprise! Who said I didn’t enjoy any newer Trap?? Though Future’s many babies often bore me to tears, Moneybagg’s flow is  nimble, his bravado is magnetic, and his beat selection is excellent. Favorites on here include “Federal Fed” (with his musical daddy, Future), the lovestruck “Match My Fly”, the Jay-Z-esque “Thug Cry”, and opener “Speak 4 Em”. RECOMMENDED.

Pet Shop Boys – Hotspot: Do these synth-pop legends ever disappoint? I know it’s only January, but the radiant single “Happy People” will likely be one of my Songs That Defined 2020. I can’t get enough of it. And the Years & Years collaboration “Dreamland”, the acoustic tinged slow jam “Burning the Heather”, and the Eurythmics-esque “I Don’t Wanna” are all dangerously close behind. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Selena Gomez – Rare: As I maybe should’ve expected, I was bored out of my mind with this one. Selena’s sound is so plain and interchangeable that any of these songs could’ve easily been recorded by Camila Cabello and I wouldn’t have known the difference. I partially blame songwriter Julia Michaels, who had a hand in some of the most forgettable moments on Rare (“Fun”, “Look at Her Now”), as well as Justin Tranter, who’s been responsible for plenty a torturous moment in the modern Pop landscape (Halsey’s “Bad at Love”, Maroon 5’s “Help Me Out”, and  Imagine Dragons all come to mind). I admire Selena’s resilience in the face of her personal demons, but I wish she had surrounded herself with collaborators capable of helping her channel them into songs with more depth. NOT RECOMMENDED.

A FEW MORE:

Enjoyed

Lorna Shore – Immortal (Metal)

Mac Miller – Circles (Hip-Hop)

Poppy – I Disagree (Pop/Metal)

Russ – Shake the Snow Globe (Hip-Hop)

Didn’t Enjoy

Krewella – Zer0 (Dance)

Little Big Town – Nightfall (Country)

Theophilus London – Bebey (Alternative)

Annihilator – Ballistic, Sadistic Album Review

What’s up guys – coming at ya with another review! This one is a must-watch for the Thrash fanatics.

In this video I dissect album number 17 from Canadian Thrash Metal veterans Annihilator. As I talked about years ago, Jeff Waters and co.’s 1989 debut Alice in Hell remains a high water mark for the genre’s more technically proficient Second Wave. Though I’ve popped my head in on a few of the band’s recent releases – most notably 2015’s Suicide Society – Ballistic, Sadistic was my first time really SITTING with a full-length Annihilator release in quite some time.

So how did it stack up? Is this the swift kick in the ass 2020 needed in order to hit the ground running? Watch the full review here:

 

Bleed the Sky – This Way Lies Madness Album Review

FIRST ALBUM REVIEW OF 2020! I tackle the third full-length from reformed Orange County Metalcore band Bleed the Sky.

Bleed the Sky slipped by me back in the day. I had just enough awareness of their existence to off-handedly mention them during a tirade about “verb the noun bands” in my Betraying the Martyrs review but hadn’t actually heard their music. With today’s ever-changing Metalcore landscape, I figured it’d be interesting to dissect a brand new release from a band that emerged during the genre’s mid-2000s commercial peak.

After years away from the scene, how do these veterans stack up against their contemporaries? Full review below:

 

Avenged Sevenfold – Set Me Free Track Review

Ah, I missed talking about Avenged Sevenfold!

As we await the highly anticipated follow-up to 2016’s The Stage, A7x – likely aware that nearly three-and-a-half years is a long ass time without new music – have a new holdover scheme for us. They’re re-releasing the 2008 b-sides collection Diamonds in the Rough for streaming services.

Evidently, this “streaming version” includes at least one never-before-heard song: “Set Me Free”, originally recorded during 2013’s Hail to the King sessions.

In the video below, I give my take on this lost child of Hail to the King. Did they do the right thing leaving it on the cutting room floor? Is it a worthy track in its own right?

Check out my full thoughts in the video below, and be sure to look out for the streaming version of Diamonds in the Rough, which drops February 7th!

Kataklysm: The BEST Death Metal Gateway

Man, I’m really proud of this one.

As I wrote about for Metal Injection several years ago, “gateway bands” are incredibly crucial to the development of a Metal fan. And as you wade deeper into the genre, there is arguably no bigger hurdle than acquiring a taste for Death Metal, one of Metal’s most abrasive incarnations.

In this video I argue that for Death Metal, there is no one more up to the task of “gateway band” than the Canadian band Kataklysm, who have made a near-30 year career out of standing on the precipice of Melodic and Brutal Death Metal.

For any fans out there who are curious but trepidatious about Death Metal, I take this opportunity to explain how to use Kataklysm’s music to help you ease into the genre. There is also an accompanying Spotify playlist to further help you out.

I hope you guys find this video helpful! In retrospect, Death Metal was one of the most difficult transitions for me as a listener, but my patience up front has paid substantial dividends for well over a decade of my life, and if I can guide towards that same light, I will! Watch the full video below:

Essential Metal: Atheist – Unquestionable Presence

And here we are, our first 2020 installment of my Essential Metal series! This time around, I’m digging into Atheist’s 1991 classic Unquestionable Presence, a record that helped lay the groundwork for what would become Technical Death Metal. And despite being considered a key release in the Florida Death Metal explosion of the late ’80s and early ’90s, it actually had very little in common with its peers, as I argue in this video.

In case you’re playing catch-up, a full playlist of every album I’ve covered for the Essential Metal series is available here.

For my full thoughts on Unquestionable Presence, check out the video below. Thanks for watching!

 

Here’s Every One of My Year-End Lists For 2019

Happy New Year everyone! Before the afterglow of List Season 2019 wears off, I figured it’d be helpful – for those of you who don’t feel like watching me talk for 45 minutes straight – to round up all of my 2019 lists in one place. After all, the whole point of List Season is to turn you guys onto anything you might’ve missed the previous year, and the early January lull that we’re in right now is a perfect time to catch up!

Compiled here for your convenience are all five of my year-end lists for 2019. Here’s to a great year and I can’t wait to do this all over again in another 12 months!

Top 10 Hip-Hop Albums of 2019

10. DaBaby – Baby On Baby

9. Injury Reserve – Injury Reserve

8. Yelawolf – Ghetto Cowboy

7. Goldlink – Diaspora

6. Danny Brown – U Know What I’m Sayin’?

5. Denzel Curry – ZUU

4. Tyler, The Creator – IGOR

3. Joell Ortiz – Monday

2. Dizzy Wright – Nobody Cares, Work Harder

1. Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – Bandana

 

Top 5 Worst Albums of 2019 (Full Video Here)

5. The Chainsmokers – World War Joy

4. Bad Wolves – N.A.T.I.O.N.

3. Chance the Rapper – The Big Day

2. Zac Brown Band – The Owl

1. Logic – Confessions of a Dangerous Mind

 

10 Songs That Defined 2019 For Me (Full Video Here)

10. Mannequin Pussy – “Drunk II”

9. Periphery – “It’s Only Smiles”

8. Bring Me the Horizon – “Heavy Metal’

7. Post Malone – “Goodbyes”

6. Madeon – “All My Friends”

5. Kanye West – “Closed On Sundays”

4. Lil’ Nas X – “Old Town Road”

3. Khalid – “Hundred”

2. Dizzy Wright – “Self Love Is Powerful”

1. Tame Impala – “Patience”

 

Top 10 Albums of 2019: METAL EDITION (Full Video Here)

10. Dream Theater – Distance Over Time

9. Death Angel – Humanicide

8. Nile – Vile Niliotic Rites

7. Liturgy – H.A.Q.Q.

6. Venom Prison – Samsara

5. Astronoid – Astronoid

4. Fit For An Autopsy – The Sea of Tragic Beasts

3. Numenorean – Adore

2. Allegaeon – Apoptosis

1. Soilwork – Verkligheten

 

Top 10 Albums of 2019: NON-METAL EDITION (Full Video Here)

10. Lana Del Rey – Norman Fucking Rockwell

9. Mannequin Pussy – Patience

8. Tyler, The Creator – IGOR

7. The Drums – Brutalism

6. Sturgill Simpson – Sound and Fury

5. Joell Ortiz – Monday

4. Madeon – Good Faith

3. Cigarettes After Sex – Cry

2. Dizzy Wright – Nobody Cares, Work Harder

1.Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – Bandana

Top 10 Albums of 2019: NON-METAL EDITION

And to cap things off for 2019, our Year-End List is the Top 10 Non-Metal Albums of 2019! Artists discussed include Cigarettes After Sex, Dizzy Wright, Mannequin Pussy, Joell Ortiz & more!

I want to extend my deepest gratitude to anybody and everybody who tuned into a YouTube video on my channel, read a blog post, or supported me in any way in 2019! It means the world to me, and I can’t wait to kick things up a notch (or 10) for you guys in 2020. Have a safe and happy New Year everyone!

Check out the full video below:

Top 10 Albums of 2019: METAL EDITION

Year-End List Number Three is here! My Top 10 Metal Albums of 2019! This was a fantastic year for the Metal genre as a whole. And hopefully this wide range of exciting album I’ve selected – from bands new and old, high-profile and under-the-radar – reflects that. Above all, these lists are always a wonderful opportunity for a moment of gratitude. So THANK YOU to all of these bands for pouring their blood, sweat, and tears into their music and making all of our lives more manageable in the process! Artists discussed here include Allegaeon, Venom Prison, Liturgy, Fit for An Autopsy and more!

Check out the full list below: