2022 Best of Metal: #20 Lamb of God-Omens

Release date: 10/7/2022

Origin: Richmond, Mother Fucking, Virginia

Personnel: D. Randall Blythe-vox, Mark Morton-guitar, Willie Adler-guitar, John Campbell-bass, Art Cruz-drums

Always a good year when the dudes from Richmond put out a new release. By far, I feel like these guys have been THE band of the 2000s. Just a super solid catalog by a super group of dudes. 2022 sees them put out Omens. I’ve got to say that it isn’t one of their best releases overall, but it still has enough quality tracks to clock in at #20 in the countdown this year. This is album #2 with Art Cruz manning the drum throne and it feels as though he is being fully incorporated into the sound. Granted, his style is very complimentary to Chris Adler and the band hasn’t really had any hiccups since he has come aboard. This album feels a little angrier and more topical than some of the recent releases by these guys. My only critique on this one is that is isn’t really breaking any new ground for the band. Rather than reinventing the wheel, this one is basically Lamb doing what they do. Maybe a bit more emphasis on a punk-sort of feel, but this album will feel familiar to fans of the band. Standout tracks include “Nevermore”, “Vanishing” and album closer “September Song”.

4 flip flops out of 5

The list so far:

20. Lamb of God-Omens

I’m back.

Hey there! How have you been? It’s been quite a while since I’ve touched base with you grubby little headbangers. I hope everyone is doing well.

I had to step away from this thing for a bit simply because it was starting to feel a bit more of a chore than a fun side activity. I’m not getting paid for this gig and am simply doing it because I love sharing and discussing metal. After doing this non-stop for a few years, it started to feel like the whole thing was getting a bit stale and I felt like I had started repeating myself on the reviews and such. Hell, there are really only so many different ways you can describe a guitar riff. Plus, earlier in the year I busted my arm up and ended up getting the covid. Both of those events kind of knocked the first half of my year off kilter.

Anyway, I’ve still been listening to all of the new shit that has come out this year and am still dragging my weary old ass out to shows. So, I’m basically back to share with you a doozy of a year end list. During the next year, I’m going to try and get back into a regular posting schedule on here. I’m probably not going to be as prolific with the posts as I was in the past just to try and stave off any burnout.

Anyway, metal had a fairly eventful year in 2022. Lots of solid releases from both big established bands and, as always, a whole slew of new bands making noise. Big news was seeing Judas Priest inducted into the Rock ‘N Roll Hall of Fame. Yeah, I know. Who cares, right? One of the reasons we listen to metal is its anti-establishment bent and its underground nature. But, I’m not gonna lie. It was fucking awesome seeing Halford and crew up there on stage. It’s nice to see our little bunch of hooligans get acknowledged for their contributions to the rock world at large. It was also fucking cool seeing KK on stage with them again. Maybe this will lead to him rejoining the band. We also got to see the return of one of my all-time favorite bands in King’s X with their first studio release in 14 years. There was also the Pantera reunion/celebration shows which were kind of divisive. Honestly, I think it’s kind of cool the surviving members are getting together to play those songs live again.

On the live front, I got to see quite a few shows. Highlights were Iron Maiden, Pain of Salvation, Rivers of Nihil, Elder, Carcass, Katatonia/The Ocean and the Bay Strikes Back Tour with Testament, Exodus and Death Angel. I got to see two bands that I wasn’t sure I would ever get to see perform live again in King’s X and Porcupine Tree. I’m hoping both of these bands just keep it going into the future. I got to finally see Roger Waters and Meshuggah live. I never got to see Pink Floyd live, so it was cool to see Roger before he hangs it up. And lastly, I got to witness the whole Rammstein experience live. What a goddamn ridiculous spectacle that thing is. If you’ve never seen them, add it to your bucket list. To put it in perspective, I saw Iron Maiden the same week I saw Rammstein. The Rammstein stage show and inferno display was so gigantic and impressive that it truly made Maiden’s show look like a high school talent show. It was just staggering at how over-the-top their show is.

And finally, we lost another slew of our heroes over the past year. Cheers to Burke Shelley (Budgie), Jon Zazula (Megaforce Records), Taylor Hawkins (Foo Fighters), Trevor Strnad (The Black Dahlia Murder), Steven Grimmett (Grim Reaper/Onslaught) and David Andersson (Soilwork) for all the awesome music and memories. There were more than listed here, but these were the big ones for me in the past year.

Anyway, let’s fucking rock. First entry in the Top 20 Best of Metal for 2022 drops on Monday. I hope you come back for the ride to finish out the end of the year.

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