Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Top 20 albums of the year - 2010

As 2010 draws to a close, I got bored sitting around on my arse all day and decided to come up with a list of the 20 best albums released this year. Sadly, I could neither think of nor be arsed to find more than 16 so I present you this: THE DEFINITIVE LIST. And thanks to the seldom considered effect of reading something and instantly registering it as fact (despite knowing that it isn’t, but your brain see’s it in print and does it for you. THERE IS NO HOPE FOR ANY OF US), some of you are probably going to read this and decide I’m right. But you’ll do that anyway, ‘cause I’m always right. I’ve only ever been wrong once in my entire life, and even then I wound up with a breast in either of my hands, so I don’t tend to count that one. Having said that, maybe I should be wrong more often if that’s the kind of result I get...anywizzy, read on for spiritual enlightenment, unabashed egotism and my own personal brand of waffling. Enjoy.

EDIT: I’ve since found another four. I just figured that was a pretty funny opening paragraph, so it’s staying.

EDIT: For the record, I realise only I find me funny. Shut up.

  1. Bring Me The Horizon – There Is A Hell Believe Me I’ve Seen It. There Is A Heaven Let’s Keep It A Secret

For me, the biggest surprise of this year. I’d always looked at BMTH as these also-ran’s from a scene that was dying the minute it was born, and while they were clearly the leaders of the pack, they’d never really impressed me. Obviously talented, but nothing special. That all changed this October with this album, doubtless their finest moment. Wall to wall filled with incredible musicianship, passionate and cathartic vocals, pioneering production techniques and, as a first, proper and unique songwriting, it’s everything a metal band should be aiming for in the post-Blackening world we live in. A true modern metal masterpiece.

Standout track: Crucify Me

  1. Deftones – Diamond Eyes

Deftones have been something of a dead weight for the past few years. While their previous two efforts, the stupendously heavy self-titled record and the generally maligned Saturday Night Wrist, had not been unimpressive, they’d been easily brushed aside and overshadowed by far superior records from each year. It’s just a shame that it’s with the absence of comatosed original bassist Chi Cheng that Deftones have come storming back into form in 2010. Every last second of Diamond Eyes is built upon a subtle yet difficult to create juxtaposition – it’s a serene heaviness throughout. The albums most visceral moments are woven with a wistful beauty, and the softest moments still hit you right in the chest, as heavy if not if heavier than any of Stephen Carpenter’s behemoth riffs. This is Deftones’ defining moment, raising the bar that White Pony set to a now surely impossible to reach height.

Standout track: Beauty School

  1. Avenged Sevenfold – Nightmare

Regardless of your personal opinion, there’s one thing you can’t deny about Avenged Sevenfold, and that is that over the past 10 years, consistently finding their feet and expanding their musical palette, Avenged Sevenfold have found a sound that is distinctively their own. Never has this been more apparent than on Nightmare. It’s classic A7X from start to finish, with soaring choruses, pulsating riffs and passages of sheer chaos and organised delicacy forming Nightmare into a poignant, deep and emotional piece of art.

Standout track: Save Me

  1. Volbeat – Beyond Hell/Above Heaven

Not even going to bother explaining this choice in any elaborate way. It speaks for itself. Brilliant songwriting. Every last song is a bonafide anthem. Get on it, or you’re missing out.

Standout track: Evelyn

  1. A Day To Remember – What Separates Me From You

I’ve always had a bit of a love/hate relationship with ADTR. Their music has always been overflowing with virtually everything I search for in music these days, on Homesick especially, but in my own personal opinion, I’ve never found the songs to be strong enough. Songwriting is however the key element on What Separates Me From You. Every last one of these songs is an obvious single, and any pop-punk band in the world right now would kill to have some of them under their belt. It’s the strongest they’ve sounded as band to date, and when these songs hit the live stage, it’s going to sound absolutely massive.

Standout track: This Is The House That Doubt Built

  1. Take That – Progress

Disclaimer: THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS A FUCKING GUILTY PLEASURE. Hence why Take That are on this list. No big reasons, it’s just great pop music, and they still do it better than everybody else. ‘The Flood’ is an instant classic, ‘S.O.S.’ is like Take That’s take on rave music, ‘Kidz’ and ‘Happy Now’ are complete tributes to Depeche Mode and Scissor Sisters respectively, and ‘Eight Letters’ is a quintessential Gary Barlow ballad. A masterclass in modern pop and perhaps their most eclectic display to date. And it’s going to let them do eight nights at Wembley Stadium. Jammy cunts.

Standout track: Happy Now

  1. The Dillinger Escape Plan – Option Paralysis

The Dillinger Escape Plan are not for everybody, that much is obvious. It is the most acquired of all acquired tastes. Their music is at it’s most chaotic the most mathematically mind-boggling you’re ever likely to want to find, and at it’s most simple the most bizarre and unconventional that metal has ever produced. But there’s something a little bit different about Option Paralysis, something I can’t quite put my finger on. Maybe it’s Greg Puciato’s instantly recognisable voice scraping through ‘Crystal Morning’ and his uncanny ability to find a perfect melody within the most peculiar chord progressions (see: the “soft” section in ‘Farewell, Mona Lisa’. Sheer genius). Or maybe it’s ‘Widower’, the most hard-on inducing and finally jizzworthy song they’ve ever created. I try not to question it too much. It’s simply one of the most ambitious metal records of the year, and in a more ideal world, it would’ve seen Dillinger gain the exposure they deserve. Maybe, one day.

Standout track: Widower (if you hadn’t already guessed)

  1. Cancer Bats – Bears, Mayors, Scraps & Bones

Hardcore has never registered with me. And I’ve tried, for years. At best, I could vaguely enjoy a few Hatebreed songs, but it had to be under certain circumstances. I could never just sit down and listen to a hardcore record. But finally, this April, it clicked, and I found what I’d been missing in hardcore in Bears, Mayors, Scraps & Bones: hip-hop swagger (of all things). Seriously, Liam Cormier had to have been a black man in a past life. There’s just far too much swing, grit and hip-hop infused attitude in his voice for him to just be a mere white boy. Polite racial overtones aside, this is just a quality record. It’s raw, nasty, dripping with punk rock spirit and has a blood and spit feel that’s just to die for. And they’re better than Gallows. There, I said it.

Standout track: Doomed To Fail

  1. HIM – Screamworks: Love In Theory And Practice

I’d all but given up on HIM. In 2003, Love Metal perfected their sound and set the standard which, though God bless them they tried, they could never seem to meet or beat. Though this album doesn’t necessarily beat Love Metal, it can easily be stood up next to it as the best thing they’ve done since. HIM are another band that you can tell is them within 3 seconds of hearing any of their songs, and it’s never been more obvious than here. Ville’s voice is oozing with a baritone soul, and he has an unbelievable ability to convey pretty much any emotion with a conviction that most singers struggle to rival. The songs speak for themselves, each of them essentially just a slightly heavier pop song, but that’s the beauty of HIM. There’s no pretention here, it’s just catchy pop-rock. Shame they’ve kind of slipped under the radar this year.

Standout track: Like St. Valentine

  1. Cee Lo Green – The Lady Killer

I think I’m in love with his man. No jokes. His voice is absolutely astonishing. You don’t get singers like Cee Lo Green anymore. It’s a shame but also a triumph that this is clearly the wrong era for him, as although he’d slip firmly into place way back in the 60’s, it’s his modern approach to soul and funk that makes The Lady Killer stand out from the phlegm of everything else that clogs up the charts. His range is incredible and the diversity that’s on display here makes for a wonderful listen. And be honest with yourself – ‘Fuck You’ is better than ‘Crazy’ ever was.

Standout track: Wildflower

  1. Killing Joke – Absolute Dissent

Absolute Dissent was my long overdue first divulgence into the belly of the multi-headed beast that is Killing Joke. I’ve always looked at Killing Joke as a band who’d had influence on many bands I’ve grown up with and will always love (Metallica, obviously) but surely must be past their peak by now. Truth is, I’m not even sure what Killing Joke’s peak is, they’ve had so many. This is just one of them. This (behind the aforementioned The Dillinger Escape Plan’s Option Paralysis) is possibly the most ambitious rock record of the year. Killing Joke explore a vast landscape of musical territory, and execute every single moment of experimentation with an alarming amount of charm and effortlessness. They’re true veterans and, fan or not, they deserve your respect. Killing Joke are one of very few bands we have left who’ve done things exactly their own way throughout their entire illustrious career, and for that, they and the genius that is Jaz Coleman should be revered through generations far beyond theirs and ours.

Standout track: European Super State

  1. Parkway Drive – Deep Blue

Parkway Drive, to me, have always been another Bring Me The Horizon in terms of how much attention I can pay for them. They can clearly write and they can clearly play, but it’s just not my cuppa. Deep Blue finally swayed me. I was sold right from the start. The best thing is, this is clearly not Parkway Drive’s masterpiece. There’s SO much more to come from this Byron Bay five-piece. And based on Deep Blue, that genuinely frightens me a little.

Standout track: Sleepwalker

  1. Stone Sour – Audio Secrecy

It doesn’t matter who dies, it doesn’t matter how big they get, it doesn’t matter if the other splits up. Stone Sour will never in a million years escape the shadow of Slipknot. But with Audio Secrecy, they’re making their boldest attempt, by straying the furthest from the Slipknot path they have to date. Audio Secrecy is in a lot of ways a made-for-radio album. There are, as far as I’m aware, no swear words, the truly heavy moments are few and far between, and instead what we have are well crafted rock songs that are, for the most part, built to fill stadiums. Whether or not it’ll ever happen comes down to personal opinion, but for now, we can at least pretend.

Standout track: Hesitate

  1. Airbourne – No Guts, No Glory

Airbourne are better than AC/DC. I don’t give a fuck. I’m not even saying it like AC/DC are shit now, so Airbourne are better. I’m saying Airbourne are better than AC/DC have EVER been. Sue me. This album is living proof. You don’t need a description from me. You know exactly what you’re going to get from an album like this. All you need me to tell you is that it’s really bloody good. Hearing this for the first time was one of the few moments I’ve felt like a bloke as opposed to the worryingly effeminate shell I occupy at almost all other times. It’s for those fleeting moments of masculinity they’ve afforded me that I will always love Airbourne. A hell of a lot more than AC/DC.

Standout track: Bottom Of The Well

  1. Korn – Korn III: Remember Who You Are

I seem to periodically forget how much I love Korn. Probably because Follow The Leader was the last truly great album they made. I’d just about completely disregarded Korn to be quite honest, but I’m glad I stuck around long enough for this. Now make no mistake, Korn are very different people nowadays than the people that made that classic self-titled debut record. They’re millionaires now. They’ve experienced luxury most of us can only dream of. So while this isn’t a “return to form”, it’s as close as we’re ever going to get to the Korn of old. It’s unproduced, it’s gritty, it’s heavy, it’s un-studioed, and if there’s any justice in the world, it’ll be Jonathan Davis’ most memorable vocal performance to date. It’s fantastic to see them back to basics again. That’s what made them so great in the first place.

Standout track: Pop A Pill

  1. Black Country Communion – Black Country Communion

This is just superb. Faultlessly classic rock but without sounding at all like a throwback – just beautifully crafted songwriting, helmed by the virtuosic strains of Joe Bonnamassa, the jazz infused drumming powerhouse of Jason Bonham and the genuinely spine-tingling screech that is the voice of Glenn Hughes, all topped off with a little 70’s flavoured keyboard work from ex-Dream Theater man Derek Sherinian. It’s just a fantastic listen, overflowing with moments of musical wizardry, and serves as testament to the indelible legacy of classic rock. I severely hope this isn’t the last we’ve heard from these.

Standout track: Song Of Yesterday

  1. Slash – Slash

Praise be to Slash for taking a leaf out of Tony Iommi’s book. I’ve always loved the idea of writing an album and having all my favourite singers sing on different tracks. In my mind, there was no way this wasn’t going to be awesome, and the coolest guitarist in rock history definitely didn’t let me down - not only with his impeccable choice of singers, but by showing off his until now hidden songwriting finesse and versatility. I hope to God he does this again sometime.

Standout track: Promise (featuring Chris Cornell)

  1. Letlive – Fake History

This band have literally come out of nowhere for me. If you like the sound of southern tinged post-hardcore with elements of dance and jazz thrown in for good measure, with vocals that flitter seamlessly from roar to soar, then this is the record for you. It’s one of the funnest yet off-kilter records I’ve heard all year. If there’s any justice in the world, 2011 will be a big year for Letlive.

Standout track: Muther

  1. Ozzy Osbourne – Scream

Did you honestly ever think Ozzy was ever going to release anything relevant again? I mean, I’ll give him credit, his recent releases haven’t been necessarily bad. They’ve just been, well….unnecessary, haven’t they? Needless to say I wasn’t expecting much from Scream, but giving it a chance wasn’t going to hurt. I was delighted to find the Double O had produced something that sounds as vital and urgent as anything any modern metal band has released in the past 10 years. The slightly more metallic guitar tone clearly suits him well, and the more progressive nature of the songs offers a fresh ingredient to a heavy metal legend who’s become kind of tiresome. His voice is blatantly studio treated though. But then again, who’s assed?

Standout track: Let It Die

  1. Your Demise – The Kids We Used To Be

In a year where hardcore finally resonated with me, Your Demise have become one of my hardcore heroes. There’s not a whole lot to say about this record, other than it’s one of the best hardcore offerings of 2010. Like Letlive, 2011 has to be Your Demise’s year. If it isn’t, I hold you all morally responsible and you are devoid of soul. Seriously.

Standout track: Miles Away

Honourable mentions

Lower Than Atlantis - Far Q

As I Lay Dying – The Powerless Rise

Rob Zombie – Hellbilly Deluxe 2

Dimmu Borgir – Abrahadabra

Alter Bridge – AB III

Fear Factory - Mechanize

Murderdolls - Women And Children Last

Moments to look out for in 2011

Soundgarden finally hitting the UK – Make no mistake, this is going to be a monumental occasion. Seldom has a band so influential and with such an immensely strong back catalogue decided to reform. It may turn out to be a fully fledged reunion, with a new album and a real tour. It could just as easily be a take-the-money-and-run affair (see: Faith No More), but I honestly couldn’t give a flying fuck. Finally getting to hear Spoonman, Fell On Black Days, Blow Up The Outside World and Outshined live is going to be one of the top 10 moments of my life, without a shadow of a doubt.

The return of the Foo Fighters – Following their two-night sell out stint at Wembley Stadium in 2008, Dave Grohl put the Foo’s on an “indefinite hiatus”, stating that they’ll “come back when people really miss us”. Truth is, I’ve missed them since that very second. The prospect of new made-for-summer Foo Fighters songs is just music to my ears (music we have yet to hear, unfortunately) and a chance to see them live once again even better. I was 13 the first and last time I saw Foo Fighters live. 13, otherwise known as the age where you’ve just discovered your penis and anything vaguely resembling a hole looks somewhat tempting. I can only hope they’ll be just as life affirming as they were back then this time around. I can’t fucking wait.

Aerosmith breaking up and announcing a reunion tour before the year’s over – Seriously, will this saga never end?! Make no mistake about it, Steven Tyler and Joe Perry are not friends. That relationship died a death a long time ago. Put simply, they fucking hate each other. And while I’ll forever be grateful I got the opportunity to see them live this year (and they slayed), it’s clear that they’ve become beyond a joke now. They have nothing left to offer the world. Just do us a favour and break the fuck up.

At long last, a new Machine Head record – They’ve toured The Blackening to death. It’s time. The world needs new Machine Head. It’s utterly inconceivable that they’ll beat the aforementioned magnum opus, but does that mean we should be any less excited? Does it fuck. Bring it awn.

The Big Four finally giving us that UK date they owe us – I’m forever in debt to Sonisphere for giving us this golden moment. Wait, what’s that? You’re giving us the first UK Slipknot show since the death of Paul Gray? Now you’re just spoiling us. Exsqueeze me? Baking powder? You’re giving us Biffy Clyro aswell?! THAT’S...erm...good?

And as always, Scott Ian taking every opportunity even vaguely passed by him to remind the world that he exists. I do love the baldy cunt though.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Festival headliners of the future

Ahhhhhh, festivals. Fabulous things, aren’t they? For three months of every year as the sun makes vague attempts to fry us all (quality of frying differs depending on location, of course) and ASDA continues its so far successful annual plot to turn Britain into a nation of raging alcoholics, we’re afforded hundreds of opportunities throughout Europe and the UK to live in our own filth for up to a week, all the while enjoying the company of the best and worst live acts music has to offer. They are truly the best thing live entertainment has ever conjured up in all of its glorious history and I am forever in debt to the peace dwelling hippies of yesteryear for kickstarting the entire tradition.

However, a thought occurred to me this past summer as I was watching AC/DC’s headline performance at the Download Festival. In that same weekend, I got to see Aerosmith, Motorhead and Billy Idol, as well as old reliable stalwarts Cinderella and Saxon, and the same thought crossed my mind as I watched each act: how long have these guys ACTUALLY got left? It goes without saying that each acts performance was absolutely phenomenal. Their longevity and the adoring throngs they each drew take care of that notion. But that’s not the point I’m raising – the point I’m raising is that, as I watched Angus Young strip down to his boxer shorts during ‘Hell’s Bells’ and Steven Tyler dancing around the stage in a coat that looked like it was made out of bacofoil, it suddenly dawned on me that these men and the rest of their respective band mates are all at the arse end of 60 years old. Granted, Angus’ screeching guitar solos were enough to frazzle even the most casual fans brain and Tyler’s inimitable shriek was note perfect throughout, but it’s not going to be that way forever. The human body is a bloody nuisance, really. Eventually, something has got to give, and these ordinary people who have for all intents and purposes become deities of rock n’ roll will have to hang up their boots. And herein lies our dilemma, or perhaps our long overdue future, depending on how you look at it. There is no torch passing going on here. This is going to be more of a case of holding the torch out in the dark and praying for dear life that someone swoops in and takes it.

Before we ponder over who could potentially take that coveted headliner crown, we must first face facts: the music industry is a ridiculously different beast than it was when the likes of Metallica, Ozzy Osbourne, KISS and even AC/DC and Aerosmith themselves rose to prominence. People aren’t buying records anymore. Only those bands previously mentioned and others of that prestigious calibre sell anywhere close to the million mark or more these days, and even then their worldwide sales are a mere fraction of what they could sell in the pre-file sharing era. A bands success is measured much more on their intake on the live and merchandise markets in this day and age – smaller bands almost solely. Sadly, it’s because of this change that many young and prospering potential headliners get forgotten about as the industry’s figureheads remain in this outdated and stagnating method of business. Let’s take a look at some of our contenders.

Bullet For My Valentine – Inarguably the biggest band this country has produced since Iron Maiden. Following the release of their third album Fever in April 2010, they were called upon to headline the second stage of the aforementioned Download Festival, and recently completed their first ever headline tour of UK arenas. Despite their seemingly unending success, Bullet For My Valentine have forever divided opinion among rock and metal fans, but their size is undeniable. Yes, their music is at times cloaked in wet, disingenuous mush. And in my unabashed opinion, they wouldn’t know metal if it sexually assaulted them at the back of a dingy night club in Manchester, but trust me: when our classic rock forefathers finally lay their legacies to rest, this Welsh quartet will be the first festival bookers run to to save their event from falling into obscurity.

Avenged Sevenfold – This five piece from Orange Country, California, have gone from strength to strength ever since their inception in 2001. The band have released five studio albums over that nine year period, all of which have received universal acclaim and even by today’s standards have been very commercially successful. On top of this, Avenged Sevenfold have perhaps one of the most loyal and devoted fanbases in the world, helped in no small part by their own image and the avant-garde and Tim Burton-esque imagery which dominates their artwork and elaborate stage shows, which have propelled their live performances to becoming some of the most acclaimed in the whole industry. Following the death of their original drummer Jimmy “The Rev” Sullivan last winter, Avenged Sevenfold are arguably at the biggest point of their career, and their rise shows no signs of slowing down. If A7X are not headlining festivals by the year 2015, something is seriously amiss and we should probably consider fleeing the planet.

Stone Sour – Yes, they’re Corey Taylor’s other band. They’ll probably never reach the stratospheric heights of that other band. And right now, let’s be honest, they don’t have any stone cold classics, unlike that other band. But Stone Sour’s musical output has been gaining momentum with each release, each album more infectious and radio-friendly than the last, most recent album Audio Secrecy particularly overflowing with made-for-MTV singles. Though a small choice compared to the two acts previously mentioned, Stone Sour are on a constant upward trajectory, and when the moments right, they’d be a stunning festival headliner. Can you imagine a field full of people singing along to ‘Hesitate’?

See? Those are just three of our options for the future. But maybe even I’m looking at this the wrong way. Pretty soon, CD’s just aren’t going to exist. Either that, or they’re going to be absolutely redundant. All music is going to be acquired entirely digitally. So maybe, when that time comes, we should change our ethos on what makes a headliner? Is it so necessary to have a headliner that’s commercially viable if they have a strong and loyal following? And is it so necessary to have a headliner that’s commercially viable if their live shows are out of this world? I would argue yes, but in some very select instances, I’d argue against those movements too. Examples? You betcha.

Machine Head – If Machine Head weren’t the first band that came to mind for you, then there’s something seriously wrong. It’s easy to underestimate the size of Machine Head’s following. Seriously, the amount of love people have for this band is paralleled perhaps only by Metallica and Iron Maiden. And obviously, that’s saying something. When the two biggest heavy metal bands in the world are your company, that’s some serious shit, yo. Make no mistake about it, fan or not, Machine Head would make an absolutely stunning festival headliner. Their back catalogue is caked with that most of rarest of things: modern metal classics. Do the list. ‘Davidian’. ‘The Blood, The Sweat, The Tears’. ‘Old’. ‘Take My Scars’. ‘Imperium’. ‘Ten Ton Hammer’. ‘Descend The Shades Of Night’. ‘Aestheti...fuck it, ALL of “The Blackening”’ (Disclaimer: That’s not a song title. But I’m right, you know I am). The sheer chaos this band would invoke if given that one headliner slot could only be rivalled by Slipknot’s headline show at Download 2009. And it’d give it a fucking good run for its money too.

Lamb Of God – I don’t care what anybody says – the hole that Pantera left in metal when they dissipated 10 years ago, Lamb Of God eventually and rightfully filled. For the record, there aren’t many bands who are as uncompromisingly heavy as Lamb Of God who’ve had even a smidgen of the success they’ve had. 5 years ago it would’ve been unthinkable for a band that heavy to get Grammy nominations and perform on national million-viewing TV shows, as well as earning much sought after support slots on tours with the likes of Heaven & Hell and Metallica. Lamb Of God are one of those bands whose success has been gradual but never slipping, perpetually moving forward into the echelons of heavy metal legend. Like Stone Sour, Lamb Of God are a VERY small choice of headliner, but remember, we’re not talking about commercial weight here. We’re talking about respect. Devotion. Loyalty. And akin to Machine Head, Lamb Of God’s fanbase are one of the most die-hard in the world. Turning out to be a pretty good weekend so far, eh? Machine Fucking Head and Lamb Of God are two of your headliners. And there’s one more to come...

Korn – Korn are in the same boat as Machine Head. Decades in the business. Their fanbase undying. And while their mainstream popularity may have dwindled in recent years, there’s no doubting Korn’s influence on metal as a whole, effectively kicking off the equal amounts adored and maligned nu-metal revolution of the 90’s. The thing about Korn is that people, myself included, never actually realise just how much they love them. It’s easy to underestimate them as of late, but Korn are one of very few bands who survived the death of nu-metal who not only came out virtually unscathed, but brought back with them a back catalogue brimming with some of the biggest party anthems ever to grace our beloved, closed-minded hub. Ever bounced up and down in a crowd of 40,000 people when ‘Got The Life’ kicks in? Ever screamed every last morsel of air out of your lungs to the chorus of ‘Freak On A Leash’? Ever completely lost your shit when they drop the colossal main riff from ‘Blind’? Then you’ll know what I’m talking about. It has to be said, Korn should be a hell of a lot bigger than they are, and it’s a damn shame that they never reached their true potential, thanks in no small part to a series of questionable albums (you know which ones I’m talking about. But even then, each record produced their own bangers. ‘Falling Away From Me’? ‘Right Now’? ‘Twisted Transistor’? Anybody?). But there’s still time for them. And I still have faith that their moment is coming, even if it is going to be in a drastically altered musical world than the one we know now.

I could go on for days about who could claim the headliner torch for the forthcoming future. And pretty soon, festival organisers are going to have to start looking at these and their contemporaries to headline their events. Sooner than you think. Gene Simmons is on his last legs. David Coverdale’s voice sounds like frogs being put through a shredder. And Ozzy is just plain batshit crazy now. And it’s not even hilarious anymore. It’s time to give the young guns a chance. Linkin Park proved you could do it in 2004. Slipknot proved you could do it in 2009. Rammstein proved you could do it in 2010 (okay they’re not young, but they’re a band made up of crazy German bastards who release singles with a porno as an accompanying music video which they star in themselves. And they play arenas. Bonkers). Sonisphere are already ahead of the pack, giving Biffy Clyro their first festival headline spot at next year’s Knebworth bash. Festival organisers of the future, it’s time to start thinking outside the box. Make it happen. For the sake of music, make it happen.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Bring Me The Horizon - There Is A Hell Believe Me I've Seen It, There Is A Heaven Let's Keep It A Secret [9/10]

Is there a band in heavy metal that polarizes opinion more than Bring Me The Horizon? It’s gotten to the point now where it wouldn’t be unreasonable to categorize metal fans based purely on their opinion of the band. Very rarely do you find someone who’s sitting on the fence, such is the nature of the love/hate relationship they have with our community. I have, up until now, occupied that seldom visited purgatory. At first I found them ridiculous. Then I found them even more ridiculous following the much maligned Count Your Blessings. Then I found them oddly respectable off the back of the generic but far more advanced Suicide Season. With that last record, they seemed on the cusp of greatness, and ever since I’ve been openly waiting for the moment that they would reach that plateau but unconvinced that it was coming. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

From the very moment the album begins you know you’re dealing with a very different beast than what’s come before. Opening with a gentle, reverby intro, ‘Crucify Me’ explodes into a flurry of progressive and harmoniously metallic riffwork and escalates from there, one of its major highlights coming in the form of the supremely talented Lights cleanly singing the album’s title before BMTH not only autotune he shit out of it but manage to make it tasteful and downright necessary. With Lights making one more appearance in our outro, we’re led into the sheer crunch of ‘Anthem’, a fist pumping, adrenaline charged metal workout built upon a chorus that’s destined to be screamed to the point of shredded throats at future Horizon shows (which right at the songs conclusion is slowed down to Machine Head territory. It’ll make you want to see them live. Guaranteed). Lead single ‘It Never Ends’ is quite possibly the best song the band have ever put their name to, exploring a multitude of textures and dynamic territories. It’s a chaotic affair that flawlessly blends ferocity with delicacy, made all the more poignant by Oli Sykes’ unbearably raw lyrics and the ingenuity with which he delivers the incredible chorus. The punky and angst-ridden ‘Fuck’ takes a delve into their past but is brought forward with a renewed sense of maturity, thanks in no small part to an appearance from youmeatsix’s Josh Franceschi who infuses the somewhat “chorus” and the heartstring-wrangling outro with a wistful melancholy. It stands no chance against ‘Don’t Go’ in the emotional stakes however. In perhaps the most experimental moment on the album, lightly picked guitars are woven in with restrained violins and gut-wrenchingly confessional lyrics. Oli’s pain seethes through the cracks in his voice as he admits “I can’t do this on my own”, and Lights makes another appearance with her wonderfully ethereal vocals creating a goosebump-inducing juxtaposition. ‘Home Sweet Hole’ begins with a riff that’s almost like metal’s take on pop-punk, and spins through into a chorus that’s built for the pit, while ‘Alligator Blood’ see’s another visit to more familiar territory, but once again with that underlying maturity through its progressive tendencies. ‘Visions’ is undoubtedly the albums show-off moment, as every last one of them take their performances and their ability to a previously unreached level, aggression and power seeping throughout, leading us comfortably into ‘Blacklist’. ‘Blacklist’ is the grittiest, nastiest, sludgiest and downright gnarliest song the band have ever written. It’s all down tuned and plodding riffs, each one lumbering into the track like its own snarling beast – think what Down would sound like on a collaboration with Meshuggah. What follows is a huge surprise, and actually turns out to be an album highlight, the instrumental ‘Memorial’. There’s no metal to be seen here, but it loses none of its power. A repeating chord progression plays beneath a just as repetitive clean guitar line while programmed drums slither away in the background. ‘Memorial’ realises it’s true effect when combined with imagery, so do yourself a favour and walk around your streets on a miserable day with this in your headphones. You’ll understand what I’m saying. ‘Memorial’ is directly connected to ‘Blessed With A Curse’, which is the moment Oli Sykes puts his soul out for all to see and judge in an almost uncomfortably confessional way, in which he begs to “Take back every word I ever said to you” and sombrely admits “Everything I touch turns to stone”. It’s so raw it’s inexplicable, and I defy you not to get chills as the song fades out and the only vocals we hear are straight from the vocal room, as though he’s right there screaming the words in our face. The image of a man losing his shit in the booth is alarmingly powerful. You’re not given any time to relax from the shakes as ‘The Fox And The Wolf’ bursts into a one minute, 43 second explosion of punk and thrash to end the expansive journey of regret, aggression and confession BMTH have just flung us into.

When comparing the band that made this album to the band that made This Is What The Edge Of Your Seat Was Made For, it’s like you’re dealing with an entirely different band. And the truth is, you are. You can hear and feel how much they’ve matured, and there’s a real sense of urgency now that was lacking in all previous releases. Bring Me The Horizon have surpassed themselves and downright proven themselves following this, to the point where even if it’s not your cup of tea, you’d have to have some serious problems to not be able to at least respect them. They’ve defied rejection from the more-metal-than-thou crowds to deliver one of the finest albums you’ll hear all year, not just in metal but in music. There Is A Hell Believe Me I’ve Seen It, There Is A Heaven Let’s Keep It A Secret will forever be remembered as the moment Bring Me The Horizon finally shook off the shackles of their naive past and came into their own – pushing limits, stretching heavy metal’s possibilities and standing boldly as this generations leaders of the UK metal scene. This is the sound of the future.