Category Archives: Melodic Hard Rock

Pyogenesis – A Kingdom To Disappear – Album Review

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Artist: Pyogenesis

Album Title: A Kingdom To Disappear

Label: AFM Records

Date Of Release: 24 February 2017

German metal band Pyogenesis have been around since the beginning of the 90s and, despite a prolonged hiatus between 2002 and 2015, have released seven albums in that time. The return of the Stuttgart-based quartet in 2015 with ‘A Century In The Curse Of Time’ was nectar to the ears of long-term fans and now, two years later, Flo V. Schwarz (guitars, vocals), Gizz Butt (guitars, backing vocals), Malte Brauer (bass, backing vocals) and Jan Räthje (drums) return to deliver album number eight, ‘A Kingdom To Disappear’.

And yet, despite this lengthy history, I had never checked out Pyogenesis prior to reviewing this record. Pyogenesis were a black hole in my knowledge and as far as I could remember, I’d not even listened to a single song. I had no idea what to expect and wasn’t even considering a review.

So what changed? I was scrolling through my social media timelines and I heard a few positive comments about this record. Most notably, a fellow blogger who I admire was very effusive with praise over this record and so I felt I had to investigate further. I tracked down a couple of songs on the ‘net and whilst it wasn’t instant love at first listen, there was something going on that intrigued me. To be honest, I think much of what attracted me was the epic and quirky nature of the videos that accompanied the music; it seemed to me that the band were 100% into the music and were living it. Videos can be deceptive, but on this occasion, I believed the vision that the band were creating and went along for the ride.

It has turned out to be a ride that I have really enjoyed too and it leaves me thoroughly entertained but also a little confounded as to why they never attracted my attention earlier. If ‘A Kingdom To Disappear’ is an accurate example of the music that Pyogenesis have been creating all these years, I can’t understand why they never previously hit my radar.

On paper, the blend of extreme metal, hard rock, Gothic overtones and huge, epic melodies sounds like it should be right up my street. And so it has proved because this is a cracking album, an increasingly addictive listen that is over insanely quickly. ‘A Kingdom To Disappear’ spans nine tracks and a total of around 46 minutes but such is the level of entertainment, it feels like it is much shorter than that. This is clearly a good thing.

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Setting the album up, is the short opener ‘Sleep Is Good’ which introduces a key ingredient to the Pyogenesis sound, namely multiple vocalists. Atop a rousing, stomping melody sits a multi-layered vocal hook that is instantly glorious.

Out of this brief opening salvo comes ‘Every Man For Himself And God Against All’ and it delivers an immediate aural kicking. It begins in all-out brutal death metal territory complete with deep, guttural vocals before opening up into one of the most glorious, anthemic and sing-along choruses on the record. It was quirky to begin with when I watched the video, but I have grown to love it. The rhythm section delivers a powerful platform , the guitars create swathes of huge sound and the clean vocals of Schwarz ooze passion and emotion.

‘I Have Seen My Soul’ by contrast begins with a keyboard and atmosphere-drenched slow pounding riff that’s pure modern Evergrey territory, an element that remains throughout the song despite the more hard rock-inspired chorus that cuts through the cloying misery that permeates this huge song brilliantly. And in spite of the subject matter, you’ll be singing this track for weeks, guaranteed. It’s an obscure reference point, but if you’ve ever heard the likes of Mechanical Poet, you’ll recognise the chosen guitar tones from Pyogenesis, something that takes a little getting used to but works very nicely to compliment the band’s full-on approach.

Frankly though, the killer hooks and melodies are all over this album like a rash. ‘It’s Too Late (A Kingdom To Disappear)’ features more layered vocals from almost every corner of the band to create something very memorable,

‘New Helvetia’ gives listeners something a little different in that it is an acoustic guitar-led ballad of sorts. It is the perfect vehicle to demonstrate the band’s more delicate side as well as the not-inconsiderable talents of guitarists Schwarz and Gizz Butt. And speaking of different, there’s also ‘That’s When Everyone Gets Hurt’, which is a much more atmospheric number that brings those more Gothic elements to the fore whilst blending them with a hint of the 80s, electronic darkwave and even a smattering of post-metal. And yet, such is the strength of the melodies, I really enjoy listening to it.

And then, before you can seemingly blink, we’re treated to the most epic of all the songs on this great record, ‘Everlasting Pain’. And what a finale this is. It lasts for over thirteen minutes but it deserves this length. At its core, this is quite a straightforward composition, dominated by yet another monster of a melody that gets right under my skin. And yet despite this, it rather contradictorily contains plenty of light and shade and has a very slightly progressive feel to it, as it twists and turns through peaks and troughs of emotion. You can feel this vein of emotion all through the song, whether it is within the heavier sections and faux gruff vocals or via the quieter acoustic guitars and soft, fragile voice of Schwarz. And the closing three or so minutes are utterly brilliant, as the intensity builds to finally overflow in a flamboyant release, led by wailing guitars, pleading vocals and one last reprise of the central melody and chorus.

A mere 26 years after forming, I have finally checked Pyogenesis out and I am one very impressed reviewer. I can’t say for sure whether long-term fans will like it because I simply have no frame of reference. Personally-speaking, I have fallen for the charms of the German outfit and I can guarantee that on the strength of ‘A Kingdom To Disappear’, my next review of Pyogenesis will come with a more extensive knowledge of their entire back catalogue.

The Score Of Much Metal: 8.75

If you’ve enjoyed this review, check out my others from previous years and for 2017 right here:

2015 reviews
2016 reviews

My Soliloquy – Engines of Gravity
Nailed To Obscurity – King Delusion
Helion Prime – Helion Prime
Battle Beast – Bringer Of Pain
Persefone – Aathma
Soen – Lykaia
Exquirla – Para Quienes Aun Viven
Odd Logic – Effigy
Mors Principium Est – Embers Of A Dying World
Firewind – Immortals
Slyde – Back Again EP
Sepultura – Machine Messiah
Deserted Fear – Dead Shores Rising
Kreator – Gods Of Violence
Borealis – World of Silence MMXVII
Pain of Salvation – In The Passing Light of Day

Battle Beast -Bringer of Pain – Album Review

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Artist: Battle Beast

Album Title: Bringer of Pain

Label: Nuclear Blast

Date Of Release: 17 February 2017

I come to this review as a relative Battle Beast novice. I was never offered the opportunity to review any of their previous albums whilst working with Powerplay and so, with my time limited, my only exposure to the Finnish metal band was through a personal inquisitiveness. My subsequent exploration was never strong enough to check out an entire album all the way through though; something just held me back from full unreserved enjoyment.

However, having noticed that the band’s third album, ‘Unholy Savior’ topped the Finnish metal charts, I began to think that I’d missed something. So what better time to fully acquaint myself with Battle Beast and their own musical world than via their fourth album, ‘Bringer of Pain’?

Apparently since the last full-length outing, the band lost their guitarist and principle songwriter, Anton Kabanen to that age old nutshell of irreconcilable musical differences. This makes it, in my mind at least, even more ideal to offer my thoughts on this album, fairly unhindered by the baggage of previous releases and therefore with the benefit of fresh ears.

And my thoughts are that ‘Bringer of Pain’ is a bit of a strange record. A lot of kudos has to go to the remaining members of vocalist Noora Louhimo, guitarist Juuso Soinio, bassist Eero Sipilä, keyboardist Janne Björkroth, drummer Pyry Vikky and new guitarist Joona Björkroth. It can’t be easy to take up the mantle of song writing when you’ve only played a supporting role in this area previously but the Battle Beast guys and gal have not turned up their toes and died; they’ve given it a go.

The problem is then, that there are moments of brilliance and then there are moments of what I can only describe kindly as mediocre at best. In this respect, ‘Bringer of Pain’, with its Doro-esque cover art, is something of a Jekyll and Hyde album which demonstrates that more work is needed for future releases if they are to maintain their rising status in heavy metal circles.

And on that point, there is an argument to say that Battle Beast have more in common this time around with the melodic hard rock genre than heavy metal. There are plenty of heavy riffs, solos and aggressive attitude to be heard within ‘Bringer of Pain’ but equally, thanks to the abundant use of the keytar and elements of 80’s inspired pop nostalgia, the harder edges have been eroded to a greater or lesser extent.

My first exposure of this record was via the second ‘single’, ‘Familiar Hell’. It is an up-tempo hard-rocking number that contains arguably the strongest and boldest chorus on the album. It is infectious and a lot of fun, despite offering a certain amount of dark social commentary along the way. There’s an awfully cheesy spoken word part late on from Noora but this does not derail what is a great song overall and a contender for Eurovision glory in the process.

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Equally good is the opening track, ‘Straight To The Heart’, that explodes in a flurry of hard-hitting riffs, lead guitars squeals, and an imposing roar from frontwoman Noora Louhimo. The entirety of the song is driven by a strong rhythm section where the drums and bass pound and there’s the ubiquitous lead guitar solo as well. But dominating proceedings is a huge chorus that is hook-filled and which affords the opportunity for Noora to demonstrate just exactly who the star of the show is within Battle Beast.

And then there’s the title track which is most definitely a full-on bruising heavy metal assault, full of intensity and controlled aggression. The chorus is a little disappointing but the overall feel of the song is positive. ‘Bastard Son Of Odin’ meanwhile features a rather lovely galloping rhythm to recall the halcyon days of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal movement.

A mention must also be made of the lead ‘single’, ‘King For A Day’. It makes for interesting listening given that it is a bizarre amalgamation of melodic hard rock, metal and 80s pop. The synth sounds are massively retro in tone and the melodies remind me quite a bit of Abba of all things. And yet, strangely, by and large it works, creating an infectious earworm-filled track from start to finish.

But, for all the positive elements of ‘Bringer of Pain’, there are some negatives. ‘Lost In Wars’, for example, underlines a slightly underwhelming middle section of the record as it has a central riff and vaguely Goth/industrial tone that is reminiscent of Rammstein but is ultimately a bit of a numb, paint-by-numbers track.

Even worse in my humble opinion is the electronic pop rock styling of ‘Dancing With the Beast’. Now I’m fairly broadminded when it comes to external elements featuring within heavy metal but aside from a few guitars that make an appearance for appearances sake, this is pure electro-pop, bordering on 80s dance music. I’ll admit that it is quite catchy but nope, this is not for me at all I’m afraid.

And to finish, we have ‘Far From Heaven’, a full-on unashamed power ballad. Again, I’m not averse to a good ballad but this isn’t the best and, when coupled with its predecessor, it threatens to completely undermine the vibe created within much of the remainder of the album.

I can understand what Battle Beast were perhaps trying to do, namely show the world that they still have the ability to write a wide range of music with the new line-up and are not constrained by genre boundaries. Unfortunately, it has backfired as far as I’m concerned. I would have much preferred the Finns to stick more closely to what they are best at and what they deliver over the course of the opening two or three tracks.

As it is, I can’t shake the feeling that ‘Bringer of Pain’ is a bit too messy. It delivers some quality cuts of up-tempo hard rock and heavy metal that I’m sure long term fans will welcome to the Battle Beast armoury. But there are also a few songs that are either ‘meh’ or eyebrow-raising for the wrong reasons. Mind you, I’ll still check out their next album though, because if they get that right, it could be a pretty decent album.

The Score Of Much Metal: 7

If you’ve enjoyed this review, check out my others from previous years and for 2017 right here:

2015 reviews
2016 reviews

Persefone – Aathma
Soen – Lykaia
Exquirla – Para Quienes Aun Viven
Odd Logic – Effigy
Mors Principium Est – Embers Of A Dying World
Firewind – Immortals
Slyde – Back Again EP
Sepultura – Machine Messiah
Deserted Fear – Dead Shores Rising
Kreator – Gods Of Violence
Borealis – World of Silence MMXVII
Pain of Salvation – In The Passing Light of Day

Firewind – Immortals – Album Review

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Artist: Firewind

Album Title: Immortals

Label: Century Media Records

Date Of Release: 20 January 2017

I really struggled in the beginning with ‘Immortals’, the eighth album from Greek melodic power metal band Firewind. They are a band with whom I am familiar and have had something of an on-off relationship over the years. Helmed by the extraordinary guitar talents of Gus G who, since 2009 has been the lead guitarist for the Prince of Darkness Ozzy Osbourne, you are not left wanting in the six-string department where Firewind are concerned, that’s for sure. Gus G can shred with the very best, delivering powerful riffs and flamboyant, lightning fast lead breaks on demand.

However, a guitar virtuoso alone does not make a great album full of interesting and accomplished material. It also takes talented song writers to create and a whole band to perform. And, in my early days of listening to ‘Immortals’, the former is where I feared the album may be flawed.

Comprised of Gus G alongside bassist Petros Christo, keyboardist Bob Katsionis and drummer Jo Nunez as well as brand new vocalist Henning Basse, ‘Immortals’ is chock full of individual talent and the performances are all very strong, suggesting that the chemistry and understanding within the quintet is at a high level.

However, my struggles with ‘Immortals’ initially came in the song writing department. It had nothing to do with the lyrical themes which, as it turns out, bring a concept to life. According to Gus himself, their first ever concept tells the ambitious story of ‘the Battles of Thermopylae and Salamis in 480 BC during the second Persian invasion of Greece’.

Lyrics aside though, I couldn’t shake the feeling that the music was a little bit too safe, predictable and paint-by-numbers. Not that I mind that per se, but if that’s the route you’re going to take, I want to be beaten over the head with music that gets my juices flowing, where the choruses are catchy as hell and where the whole thing just exudes quality. I didn’t get that with ‘Immortals’ and so I left it to one side for a day or two.

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These feelings remained as I returned to ‘Immortals’ and I was in danger of giving up until the mid-section of the album arrived. The trio of ‘Live And Die By The Sword’, ‘Wars Of Ages’ and ‘Lady of 1000 Sorrows’ suddenly clicked, pulling me out of my reverie and metaphorically slapping me around the face.

‘Live And Die By The Sword’ is a melodic metal track of quite huge proportions, delivering everything from a quiet intro to a rousing, punch-the-air battle-cry that will sound immense in the live arena, I have no doubt. The melodies lend the song an air of the truly epic, not to mention being catchy and anthemic as all hell.

‘War of Ages’ follows and maintains the quality via an up-tempo, blast-beat heavy rollicking melodic metal approach that’s topped off by a tremendous chorus that digs in deep and doesn’t let go. And then ‘Lady Of 1000 Sorrows’ changes the pace yet again. It is much slower, more ballad-like in construction with a moody and powerful melodic hard rock vibe. The chorus once again contains some killer hooks but it is the vocal performance of Basse which catches my ear most of all. His delivery is massively strong, full of gravelly soul and demonstrates his impressive range perfectly, not to mention his ability to convey emotion, not just go for all-out power.

My love for these three tracks then led me to listen more to the remainder of the album because I began to think I’d been a little too dismissive of Firewind’s latest effort. And you know what? I had. I still maintain that this middle section of the album is the strongest but I now appreciate much more of the material that surrounds it.

Like the ridiculously pompous ‘Ode To Leonidas’ for example, that begins with a strangely compelling monologue that seems fitting for a concept disc before launching into a bouncy, up-tempo number with yet another great chorus and a sprawling lead guitar solo from the maestro Gus G himself that then segues smoothly into a keyboard solo from Katsionis.

In fact, the keys are an unsung hero throughout ‘Immortal’, adding atmosphere and melody without getting in the way. Take the opener for example, which is reminiscent of the likes of Stratovarius and even the likes of Thunderstone thanks to a vaguely neo-classical feel that’s enhanced by the flamboyant keys that more than play their part.

However, being the band of Gus G, it is hardly surprising as I alluded to at the beginning of the review that the guitar work steals the show. Of course solos feature in every composition and it would be hard to find fault with them, such is the technique and touch that Gus G demonstrates whilst shredding at the speed of light. But with a closer listen, the riffs are equally impressive, whether they are faster-paced as with the Symphony X-ish ‘We Defy’ or of the sleazier hard rock influenced variety as witnessed within ‘Back On The Throne’.

So after a sticky start, I have come round to the charms of ‘Immortals’. As it turns out, the charms are many and they have eventually beaten me over the head, got my juices flowing and he whole thing does exude quality. It just took time to realise it. I’d even go so far as to say that ‘Immortals’ is the best and the most vital that Firewind have ever sounded, laying down a marker for all other melodic power metal to follow during 2017.

The Score Of Much Metal: 8.75

If you’ve enjoyed this review, check out my others from previous years and for 2017 right here:

2015 reviews
2016 reviews

Slyde – Back Again EP
Sepultura – Machine Messiah
Deserted Fear – Dead Shores Rising
Kreator – Gods Of Violence
Borealis – World of Silence MMXVII
Pain of Salvation – In The Passing Light of Day

My most anticipated releases of 2017 – Part 4

Another day, another batch of great material that should be destined to arrive in 2017 to bathe our ear in. On the strength of all this, I don’t think there’s any danger of the recent momentum in the metal world slowing down. And isn’t that great? It gives us all something to look forward to and keeps me out of mischief by being busy with this blog.

If you’ve missed any of my previous parts of this series, they can be accessed below:

My most anticipated releases of 2017 – Part 1
My most anticipated releases of 2017 – Part 2
My most anticipated releases of 2017 – Part 3

Odd Logic – Effigy
Release date: January 2017

15380312_1287400561319533_1589720295079823334_nNow this is a massive bonus for me, as I have just discovered that there will be a new Odd Logic album coming later this month. I am surprised because ‘A Penny For Your Thoughts’ was only released last year. Mind you, I’m not complaining because this record justifiably made it into my end of year Top 30 list, following a hugely favourable review earlier in the year. Not only that, but one of the songs off this record made it into my list of favourite songs of the year as well.

Not bad for a band that remains unsigned. Quite why, I don’t know because Odd Logic deliver a very high quality brand of progressive metal; detailed, multi-faceted and highly entertaining, combining strong melodies with plenty of technicality along the way.

Cynthesis – TBC
Release date: TBC

Another band that features regularly in these posts is Cynthesis. Or rather, anything at all that features the insanely talented Tipton brother. These guys can make string instruments sing and dance wonderfully.

We’ve already seen two albums under the Cynthesis moniker and when I spoke with Jasun Tipton over 18 months ago now, he confirmed that the third Cynthesis album was written, thus completing a dystopian trilogy in the process. Cynthesis is the most atmospheric, melodic and sensitive of all of the bands that feature the Jasun and Troy Tipton and I absolutely adore the atmosphere and the lashings of gorgeous melodies that are a feature of both ‘DeEvolution’ and ‘ReEvolution’ respectively. Given the preposterously brilliant technical prowess of the musicians involved, I expect nothing short of a sonic treat when finally the third Cynthesis instalment sees the light of day.

Ayreon – TBC
Release date: TBC

I have been a fan of Arjen Lucassen for many years, under just about all of his different guises. However, I have to say that his Ayreon project is my absolute favourite,thanks to a combination of generally heavier prog rock/metal, darker atmospheres and the all-star casts that is put together each and every time to bring the concept stories to life.

This new record is no different as the likes of Simone Simons (Epica), Russell Allen (Symphony X), James LaBrie (Dream Theater), Tommy Rogers (Between The Buried And Me), Hansi Kursch (Blind Guardian) and Floor Jansen (Nightwish) all come together to bring their vocal talents to bear. The snippets I’ve heard sound great so far, so I can’t wait for this record to be released.

H.E.A.T – TBC
Release date: TBC

According to a press release issued at the tail end of 2016, Swedish hard rockers H.E.A.T will be recording a new album in Thailand in March 2017, which means we might be able to welcome the finished article before the end of the year. I certainly hope so given that this band are probably my current favourite melodic hard rock band. Their ability to pen high quality and extremely catchy, infectious music seems to know no bounds and I frequently return to their albums when I feel like I need a lift and to feel good about life. Watch this space…

Into Eternity – TBC
Release date: TBC

Now I know for sure that melodic thrash/death/prog metallers Into Eternity are still going – their Facebook page is at least active and there are things going on in the world of these crazy Canadians. However, I cannot discern for sure whether or not we will see a new album in 2017. It has now been some considerable time since their last studio release but this can be forgiven bearing in mind the trials and tribulations that have beset the band in recent years.

But now is the time to unleash some new material on the world and show us all how strong the band can be.

My most anticipated releases of 2017 – Part 2

Welcome to part 2 of my mini series taking a look into my crystal ball at some of the albums I know, think or hope will see the light of day during the year ahead.

If you missed part 1, you can read it here: My most anticipated releases of 2017 – Part 1

Forgive me if you’ve seen a few of the names already mentioned in previous series from previous years. However, my crystal ball doesn’t always work and, when coupled to the oft-fickle music world and the fact that the bands I like aren’t always full-time musicians, there is a lot of scope for getting things hopelessly wrong. So I have.

But hey, I hope it still makes for interesting reading. And on that note, here are another five albums I’m hoping for in 2017…

Kingcrow – TBC
Release date: TBC

Are we due another Kingcrow album so soon after the incredible ‘Eidos’ from 2015? I don’t know and perhaps it is a little unlikely; this is definitely mentioned more in hope than expectation. However, I do know that the band are hard at work writing new music, so it isn’t perhaps beyond the realms of possibility.

What I can say for sure is that if ‘Eidos’ was anything to go by, the Italian progressive metal band are on an upward trajectory. ‘Eidos’ was a cracking album full of beautiful and sophisticated progressive music which was deceptively complex and technical. With Kingcrow, beauty and atmosphere come first, meaning that the songs themselves are packed full of emotion and gorgeous melodies. However, give the music time and those subtle intricacies reveal themselves and lend the music genuine longevity. The more I type, the more I hope that Kingcrow deliver another masterpiece in 2017.

Anathema – TBC
Release date: TBC

2017 must be the year in which we see a return of my favourite band ever from Liverpool…and no, I don’t mean The Beatles. Anathema are a top 5 band of all time for me, a situation only further cemented by the supreme one-two of ‘Weather Systems’ and 2014’s ‘Distant Satellites’.

Very few bands, if any, have the innate ability to reduce me to tears so easily. Theirs is a style of music that transcends genres and styles; Anathema write music that is emotionally charged, raw, honest, poignant and utterly majestic. They don’t sound like anyone else and no-one can replicate what they do so beautifully.

Nothing More – TBC
Release date: TBC

This is another band that I have mentioned in these series before as it seems like we’ve been waiting a long time for a new studio album. I’m not sure why we have this delay, but I’m hopeful that it will be worth the wait.

Nothing More were an utter revelation for me a couple of years ago as it’s not the kind of music I’m normally into. It’s actually difficult to pigeon-hole Nothing More into one single genre, but for brevity, I’d say it’s modern hard rock that contains elements of nu-metal, djent and demonstrable pop-rock sensibilities. What made their last self-titled album so strong in my opinion, was the combination of cocksure conviction from the band, a great song-writing nous and the inclusion of some of the biggest and catchiest choruses I’ve heard for quite a while. And they managed to prove a jaded cynic like me wrong by producing a slick, catchy album that avoided sounding plastic and soulless.

Seventh Wonder – TBC
Release date: TBC

Waiting for a new Seventh Wonder album is a frustrating experience but one that is generally worth the effort and frustration. So, could 2017 be the year that we see a new album from this insanely talented Swedish band? I certainly hope so.

Unbelievably, their last studio endeavour, ‘The Great Escape’ saw the light of day around seven years ago. That’s simply too long if you’re looking to maintain momentum and keep a buzz going.  However, seventh Wonder are special. Blending tons of technicality with memorable melodies and almost pop-like vocal melodies from the incredible Tommy Karevik, they tick all the boxes and deliver a more than satisfying listening experience each and every time. There are some bands that can seemingly do no wrong and Seventh Wonder are one of those without doubt…except maybe releasing albums more timely of course!

Andromeda – TBC
Release date: TBC

2017 must be the year for album number six surely? After all, back in July 2016 the Swedish prog metal maestros had completed the bass tracking for the new record. Or am I just being impatient?

It has been, somewhat unbelievably, over five years since they released the utterly fabulous ‘Manifest Tyranny’ and I for one cannot wait to see what they deliver next. The thing I love most about Andromeda is their ability to sound quirky and properly progressive yet somehow pull it all together and put the complexity into compositions that have surprising amounts of metal crunch, hooks and melodies, giving the tracks a feeling that they are songs and not just self-indulgent virtuoso workouts. Technical they may be, but impenetrable they are not and the whole thing just screams ‘class’.

The best individual songs of 2016

What can I say? I’m a glutton for punishment. Having spent the last month counting down my favourite 30 albums of 2016, I thought that it would be a great idea to shine the spotlight on the best individual songs of 2016.

If you’re interested in checking out my top 30 albums of 2016, here’s the link:

Top 30 albums of 2016

These songs are in no particular order, except my first choice below, which has turned into my anthem of the year, the song that I have been far and away most obsessed with.

So here goes:

Borknagar – Winter Thrice

This is my song of the year without any shadow of doubt. When I first heard it even ahead of receiving the promo, I listened to it about five times back-to-back. And it was around midnight. That should tell you something about it.

The four vocalists, the huge melodies, the extreme bombastic sections, the atmospheres and the lyrical content…this song has it all. It is arguably the most perfect and accessible extreme metal song of the year, if not longer. Even now, I get the urge to listen to it from out of nowhere and when I placate the cravings, I enjoy it as much now as I did at the very beginning.

Katatonia – Takeover

The masters of dark melancholy had to feature on this list somewhere. There are many contenders but it has to be ‘Takeover’. It is an exquisitely-crafted piece of music that sums up Katatonia perfectly for me. The bleakness, the serenity and the feelings of darkness, loneliness, despair and anger are all encapsulated here. The ebb and flow as well as a bittersweet recurring melody make it an addictive listen.

Haken – Earthrise

The sound of my ringtone for the last few months, I love the gorgeously melodic opening and the way in which this track has a refreshing positivity about it. Others might have chosen ‘1985’ or ‘The Architect’. However, it is this track that puts me in a good mood and gives me goosebumps the most.

Maschine – Make Believe

This was the first song on this impressive album that gave me the chills and had that ‘wow’ factor for me immediately. The entire album is staggeringly good with time but this track remains the stand-out for me. I love the almost ethereal female vocals and the strong melodies, as well as the dark undercurrent that accompanies this sumptuous piece.

Odd Logic – Lighthouses

Like an oasis of calm in an intense progressive metal concept album, ‘Lighthouses’ is a luxurious neo-prog-meets-AOR-meets pop workout with serene melodies and expressive lead guitar work. It’s beautiful and begs to be repeated.

Enbound – Feel My Flame

Quite frankly, this is the ultimate melodic metal track. Nothing in 2016 even came close and I seriously wonder when a contender will challenge for the honour. I hope there will be something in 2017, but I’m not convinced. It is just so damn catchy with one of the most upbeat and catchy choruses I’ve heard in a long, long time.

Big Big Train – Brooklands

On an album where there are some many strong compositions, this is, for me, the very best. The way in which the music so eloquently fits the subject matter and then also delivers one of the stand-out melodies of the year. What a cracking song.

Witherscape – Marionette

I love the way in which this song builds from quiet beginnings with clean softly delivered vocals before erupting with a massive catchy chorus. The fact that the music explodes with a keyboard drenched AOR-esque chorus overlaid by guttural death vocals is inspired and just adds to the sense of the epic.

Evergrey – Disconnect

Given that it is my number one album of the year, Evergrey had to have a representative here. So many options but I have plumped for a slow-burner that has become my favourite track on the album. It comes out of the blocks with heavy intent before opening up into one of the most cinematic and epic tracks on the album. It brings something new whilst being faithful to the old days and the vocals from Tom are just so impassioned. Killer.

Frost* – First Day

It might be a tad controversial to pick an intro song as one of my favourites of the year, particularly when it is only around 90 seconds in length. However, I find it a hugely rich and emotional piece of music. It sets the tone for the album perfectly, but it moves me too – to the point when I press repeat frequently.

Sadly, I can find no link to embed, so you’ll have to buy the album or just trust my opinion!

Airbag – Broken

When I first listened to ‘Disconnected’ by Airbag, I was convinced that the opening track, ‘Killer’ would feature on this list. As it turns out, as good as that song is, ‘Broken’ has become even more captivating to me. The poignant and heartbreaking lyrical content marries with some of the most beautifully elegant music to create something very special and rather moving in the process.

Alcest – Onyx

To quote my review: “Given the effects, sounds and textures at play, this instrumental track is claustrophobic, dark and menacing, verging on noise at times. However, underneath the apparent tumult is a softer, more haunting and somber underbelly that sends shivers down my spine every time I listen. The melody conveys such loneliness, emptiness and melancholy that it strikes straight at my heart.” I stand by every word. This is spine-chilling.