Wilderun-Epigone

First album review of 2022. If this sucker is any indication of the quality of release coming down the pike this year, we are in line for a stellar year of metal.

This is an epic blast of prog metal that simply hits that sweet spot. Sometimes an album like this can become a bit overblown. This one walks a fine line and it is a perfect example of how to craft a grandiose slab of prog. The scope of this album is kind of all over the place. You’ve got classic prog metal. A bit of symphonic flourishes. A dash of death metal. A splash of folk elements. This is simply a seriously ambitious album and they completely stick the landing. You will be able to hear all kinds of influences running through this thing from Rush to The Beatles to Opeth to dramatic movie soundtracks. The breadth of this one is truly staggering. It makes it all the more impressive to me since this is my first exposure to this band. Count me as a fan…one who wishes he discovered them sooner.

If you’ve got a prog itch, definitely check this one out.

4.5 flip flops out of 5

Burke Shelley-4/10/1950-1/10/2022 R.I.P.

Burke Shelley, Singer and Bassist for Budgie, Dead at 71

Well, of course, the first post of 2022 is regarding the death of another one of our pioneering metal heroes. Burke Shelley was the voice and bassist for early influential Welsh rock trio Budgie. I’m guessing that most of you are probably more familiar with Metallica’s cover version of Budgie songs, Breadfan and Crash Course in Brain Surgery, than you are with the actual music of Budgie. Hell, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t introduced to Budgie through those Metallica versions as well. But once I went back to the original Budgie albums, I discovered a wonderfully eccentric and thoroughly original band. Burke’s almost effeminate voice was a key component to their quirky sound and his trademark glasses were just in keeping with the nerdy aspect of this band. Budgie always seemed to be more of one of those bands whose influence on more famous bands was greater than the reach their music actually had on its own. Which is a shame because these guys just had so many really great songs. They could rock with the best of ’em and they could crank out some of the most tearjerkingly tender ballads. Burke, you’ll be missed. Thanks for all the great tunes.

2021 Best of Metal: #1 Rivers of Nihil-The Work

Origin: Reading, PA

Release date: 9/24/2021

Personnel: Jake Dieffenbach-vox, Brody Uttley-guitar/keyboards, Jon Topore-guitar, Adam Biggs-bass/vox, Jared Klein-drums/vox

And this year’s Golden Flip Flop goes to…….Rivers of Nihil!!

It feels like this band has been building to this moment from their very first release back in 2013. These guys started out as a very capable technical death metal outfit with their first couple of releases. In 2018, they kept the basic death metal framework, but decided to take a bit of a left turn and add quite a few proggy and atmospheric aspects to their sound with Where Owls Know My Name. This album portended something different about these guys. This was a band that wasn’t afraid to stay in one place nor were they afraid to break the normal genre-defining limitations a lot of bands feel the need to adhere to. The Work feels like the full realization of the vision first broached by Where Owls Know My Name. This is one hell of an ambitious work of art. It is challenging. It is jarring. It is beautiful. It is inspiring. It is heartbreaking. It is confrontational. It is complex. It is, simply, just a perfect fucking masterpiece of an album. It is most worthy of winning the best metal album of the year award and I simply haven’t been able to get enough of it since it came out. Congrats, Rivers of Nihil! Thank you for creating this gem.

5 flip flops out of 5

The final list:

1. Rivers of Nihil-The Work
2. King Buffalo-The Burden of Restlessness
3. Mastodon-Hushed and Grim
4. Gojira-Fortitude
5. Tribulation-Where the Gloom Becomes Sound
6. Dream Theater-A View From the Top of the World
7. Exodus-Persona Non Grata
8. Khemmis-Deceiver
9. Carcass-Torn Arteries
10. Omnium Gatherum-Origin
11. Be’Lakor-Coherence
12. Hooded Menace-The Tritonus Bell
13. Quicksand-Distant Populations
14. Harakiri For the Sky-Maere
15. Converge and Chelsea Wolfe-Bloodmoon: I
16. At The Gates-The Nightmare of Being
17. The Vintage Caravan-Monuments
18. Nervosa-Perpetual Chaos
19. Baest-Necro Sapiens
20. Agrypnie-Metamorphosis

2021 Best of Metal: #2 King Buffalo-The Burden of Restlessness

Origin: Rochester, NY

Release date: 6/4/2021

Personnel: Sean McVay-vox/guitar, Dan Reynolds-bass, Scott Donaldson-drums

This is how it’s done. Simply a perfect example of a perfectly put together stoner album. This album has hooks for days and the repetitive use of these hooks within the songs will serve as a perfectly vehicle to worm themselves firmly within your brain. King Buffalo, along with Elder, represent the best practitioners of this sort of jam band stoner metal. It feels like they have crafted their definitive statement with The Burden of Restlessness. Masterpiece level shit right here.

5 flip flops out of 5

The list so far:

2. King Buffalo-The Burden of Restlessness
3. Mastodon-Hushed and Grim
4. Gojira-Fortitude
5. Tribulation-Where the Gloom Becomes Sound
6. Dream Theater-A View From the Top of the World
7. Exodus-Persona Non Grata
8. Khemmis-Deceiver
9. Carcass-Torn Arteries
10. Omnium Gatherum-Origin
11. Be’Lakor-Coherence
12. Hooded Menace-The Tritonus Bell
13. Quicksand-Distant Populations
14. Harakiri For the Sky-Maere
15. Converge and Chelsea Wolfe-Bloodmoon: I
16. At The Gates-The Nightmare of Being
17. The Vintage Caravan-Monuments
18. Nervosa-Perpetual Chaos
19. Baest-Necro Sapiens
20. Agrypnie-Metamorphosis

2021 Best of Metal: #3 Mastodon-Hushed and Grim

Origin: Atlanta, GA

Release date: 10/29/2021

Personnel: Troy Sanders-vox/bass, Brent Hinds-guitar/vox, Bill Kelliher-guitar, Brann Dailor-drums/vox

Mastodon’s latest is (well, it was for me anyway) one of those albums that gets better with each listening. Hushed and Grim is a double album. So, there’s a lot to absorb on the first few spins. This album tracks in the direction in which Mastodon has been trending over the past few albums in that it is presenting a more palatable version of their sound than their earlier work. That isn’t to say that things have been simplified or watered down in this effort. As I said, there is a shitload of stuff going on with this one and it’s a downright psychedelic trip in many places. Brann Dailor continues to show his range in taking on more and more of the vocal duties. It feels as though he and Troy Sanders are basically splitting the lead vocals at this point and Brent Hinds taking more of a backing vocal role. Overall, this builds quite nicely as a follow-up to Emperor of Sand. I’ve really enjoyed the growth and the choices this band has made going forward in their career.

4.5 flip flops out of 5

The list so far:

3. Mastodon-Hushed and Grim
4. Gojira-Fortitude
5. Tribulation-Where the Gloom Becomes Sound
6. Dream Theater-A View From the Top of the World
7. Exodus-Persona Non Grata
8. Khemmis-Deceiver
9. Carcass-Torn Arteries
10. Omnium Gatherum-Origin
11. Be’Lakor-Coherence
12. Hooded Menace-The Tritonus Bell
13. Quicksand-Distant Populations
14. Harakiri For the Sky-Maere
15. Converge and Chelsea Wolfe-Bloodmoon: I
16. At The Gates-The Nightmare of Being
17. The Vintage Caravan-Monuments
18. Nervosa-Perpetual Chaos
19. Baest-Necro Sapiens
20. Agrypnie-Metamorphosis

2021 Best of Metal: #4 Gojira-Fortitude

Origin: Bayonne, France

Release date: 4/30/2021

Personnel: Joe Duplantier-vox/guitar, Christian Andreu-guitar, Jean-Michel Labadie-bass, Mario Duplantier-drums

Gojira came back strong with their latest release. Not as heavy as their earlier work, but definitely more dynamic in scope in comparison to their last album, Magma. This album has all of the classic hallmarks of a Gojira album with their staunch environmentalism, distinctive guitar runs and the stellar drumming foundation laid down by Mario Duplantier. Dude is just in a class by himself. By this point, Gojira has created such a distinctive sound as to be one of those bands that are kind of unclassifiable. Their genre is kind of just Gojira. This is one of those albums that was made to be played extremely loud.

4.5 flip flops out of 5

The list so far:

4. Gojira-Fortitude
5. Tribulation-Where the Gloom Becomes Sound
6. Dream Theater-A View From the Top of the World
7. Exodus-Persona Non Grata
8. Khemmis-Deceiver
9. Carcass-Torn Arteries
10. Omnium Gatherum-Origin
11. Be’Lakor-Coherence
12. Hooded Menace-The Tritonus Bell
13. Quicksand-Distant Populations
14. Harakiri For the Sky-Maere
15. Converge and Chelsea Wolfe-Bloodmoon: I
16. At The Gates-The Nightmare of Being
17. The Vintage Caravan-Monuments
18. Nervosa-Perpetual Chaos
19. Baest-Necro Sapiens
20. Agrypnie-Metamorphosis

2021 Best of Metal: #5 Tribulation-Where the Gloom Becomes Sound

Origin: Arvika, Sweden

Release date: 1/29/2021

Personnel: Johannes Andersson-vox/bass, Jonathan Hulten-guitar/piano, Adam Zaars-guitar, Oscar Leander-drums

My favorite Swedish glam/goth death metal outfit came back with a very strong release to start the year off with a bang in 2021. Their previous release was a bit of a middling disappointment that never seemed to quite get off the ground. This latest effort simply comes out swinging and results in what I feel is their best album to date. This one is also a bit of a bittersweet moment because right before the release of this album, main songwriter Jonathan Hulten announced that he was leaving the band. I’m not sure what this means for the long term health of the band going forward. So, in the meantime, let’s at least celebrate in this current album.

4.5 flip flops out of 5

The list so far:

5. Tribulation-Where the Gloom Becomes Sound
6. Dream Theater-A View From the Top of the World
7. Exodus-Persona Non Grata
8. Khemmis-Deceiver
9. Carcass-Torn Arteries
10. Omnium Gatherum-Origin
11. Be’Lakor-Coherence
12. Hooded Menace-The Tritonus Bell
13. Quicksand-Distant Populations
14. Harakiri For the Sky-Maere
15. Converge and Chelsea Wolfe-Bloodmoon: I
16. At The Gates-The Nightmare of Being
17. The Vintage Caravan-Monuments
18. Nervosa-Perpetual Chaos
19. Baest-Necro Sapiens
20. Agrypnie-Metamorphosis

2021 Best of Metal: #6 Dream Theater-A View From the Top of the World

Origin: Long Island, NY

Release date: 10/22/2021

Personnel: James LaBrie-vox, John Petrucci-guitar, John Myung-bass, Jordan Rudess-keyboards, Mike Mangini-drums

I’ll be honest. This is probably the most shocking entry this year. After some bloated misfires on their past few albums, I had zero expectations when this one popped up on the calendar. Look, Dream Theater was a big band for me in the 90’s and they definitely took the baton from Rush as the leading prog rock/metal group of their time. But their earlier work was definitely the product of a metal band. It has felt like since the departure of Mike Portnoy that the band has kind of forgotten that the metal side of themselves is really the foundation of the band. It feels like A View From the Top of the World is a step in the direction of them embracing their metalness once again. The songs are long as usual, but they don’t veer into the overindulgent fests of years past. It feels as though they really attempted to craft some very coherent and self-contained songs on this one. Maybe this was a case of very low expectations being somewhat surpassed, but I was really happy to hear them returning somewhat to form.

4.5 flip flops out of 5

The list so far:

6. Dream Theater-A View From the Top of the World
7. Exodus-Persona Non Grata
8. Khemmis-Deceiver
9. Carcass-Torn Arteries
10. Omnium Gatherum-Origin
11. Be’Lakor-Coherence
12. Hooded Menace-The Tritonus Bell
13. Quicksand-Distant Populations
14. Harakiri For the Sky-Maere
15. Converge and Chelsea Wolfe-Bloodmoon: I
16. At The Gates-The Nightmare of Being
17. The Vintage Caravan-Monuments
18. Nervosa-Perpetual Chaos
19. Baest-Necro Sapiens
20. Agrypnie-Metamorphosis

2021 Best of Metal: #7 Exodus-Persona Non Grata

Image 1 - Exodus Persona Non Grata 12x12 Album Cover Replica Poster Print

Origin: Richmond, CA

Release date: 11/19/2021

Personnel: Steve “Zetro” Souza-vox, Gary Holt-guitar, Lee Altus-guitar, Jack Gibson-bass, Tom Hunting-drums

Exodus is like comfort food for me. After years of being away due to Gary Holt’s manning a spot during Slayer’s last touring run, he was finally able to focus his energies back into his main gig. I have always loved these guys and feel like they’ve always been unfairly overshadowed by the so-called Big 4 of thrash. An Exodus album is first and foremost about the crunchiest and most blistering riffs you’ll ever hear. Persona Non Grata delivers them in spades. Lyrically, the guys are as pissed as ever. This was a good album to have come out this year.

4.5 flip flops out of 5

The list so far:

7. Exodus-Persona Non Grata
8. Khemmis-Deceiver
9. Carcass-Torn Arteries
10. Omnium Gatherum-Origin
11. Be’Lakor-Coherence
12. Hooded Menace-The Tritonus Bell
13. Quicksand-Distant Populations
14. Harakiri For the Sky-Maere
15. Converge and Chelsea Wolfe-Bloodmoon: I
16. At The Gates-The Nightmare of Being
17. The Vintage Caravan-Monuments
18. Nervosa-Perpetual Chaos
19. Baest-Necro Sapiens
20. Agrypnie-Metamorphosis

2021 Best of Metal: #8 Khemmis-Deceiver

Origin: Denver, CO

Release date: 11/19/2021

Personnel: Phil Pendergast-vox/guitar, Ben Hutcherson-guitar/vox, Zach Coleman-drums

Khemmis is back with another album that solidifies their status as one of the keepers of the true heavy metal flame. Their blending of classic Maiden, Priest and Mercyful Fate guitar lines through the sludge filter of Candlemass and Trouble style doom continues to hit that sweet spot. This is their first album as a three-piece since the loss of their longtime bassist. This album is classic Khemmis with six long epic tales centered on fantasy themes. Cue up your inner metal nerd for this one.

4.5 flip flops out of 5

The list so far:

8. Khemmis-Deceiver
9. Carcass-Torn Arteries
10. Omnium Gatherum-Origin
11. Be’Lakor-Coherence
12. Hooded Menace-The Tritonus Bell
13. Quicksand-Distant Populations
14. Harakiri For the Sky-Maere
15. Converge and Chelsea Wolfe-Bloodmoon: I
16. At The Gates-The Nightmare of Being
17. The Vintage Caravan-Monuments
18. Nervosa-Perpetual Chaos
19. Baest-Necro Sapiens
20. Agrypnie-Metamorphosis