Obituary-Dying of Everything

First review of 2023! Like I said in my year end review posts, I’m really going to try and stay up with things this year.

2023 starts in a very appropriate manner with Obituary’s latest. The combination of the album title and the album art couldn’t be more perfect to start out the new year. I honestly can’t think of a better slogan to sum up the last few years that we’ve all dealt with than Dying of Everything. And the album cover by the late Mariusz Lewandowski, who has created some of the most arresting album art for metal bands in the past few years, is simply stunning. Check out his stuff if you’re not familiar with him.

So, the packaging and presentation of this album is superb. How does the music inside match up? Pretty good, I’d say. It feels like they have muddied up their guitar sound a bit and it kind of reminds me of Vulgar Display-era Pantera sound-wise. John Tardy’s vocals sound as dry and harsh as ever. It always feels as though he has gone on a walkabout through the desert right before they hit the studio. He just sounds like a man who is seriously parched. This release is not as gore obsessed as their earlier output. It feels more like an angry record with topics pulled from a lot of the problem areas our world is facing these days. All in all, a good start to the year of metal releases.

I also want to give a shoutout to drummer Donald Tardy’s Metal Meowlisha, which is an organization he and his girlfriend started to help care for and regulate colonies of feral cats in the Tampa area. They conduct a trap/spay/release program and help feed many of the feral cat colonies. Dispatches From the Void is a very cat friendly forum and I’d like to invite you to check out this organization and donate if you can. These are good people doing good things for cats.

https://obituary.cc/helpcats.html

3.5 flip flops out of 5

2022 Best of Metal: #1 Zeal & Ardor-Zeal & Ardor

Release date: 2/11/2022

Origin: Basel, Switzerland

Personnel: Manuel Gagneaux-vox/guitar/bass/synths, Marco Von Allman-drums

Well, here we are. The view from the top this year belongs to avant-garde metal dudes Zeal & Ardor. They end up with the top spot even though they broke my rule of not having a self-titled release that isn’t a debut album. They do so simply because, in my opinion, this is the only perfect 5 out of 5 flips flops album of the year. This has definitely been the album I have spun the most over the past year. I’ll be honest. I wasn’t sure that these guys would have staying power. I was a big fan of Stanger Fruit and was intrigued by their dedication to the idea of combining slave-era spirituals with black metal. I was kind of concerned that this very niche genre would end up limiting their growth and end up being more gimmick than anything. I think this latest release has pushed those concerns aside. This is such a far reaching and forward-thinking release. It expands the areas in which metal can go. More than anything, this one gets high marks for swinging for the fences and absolutely crushing it in its execution. I am a convert and I worship in the halls of Zeal & Ardor.

Thank you, readers, for following me once again in a little journey looking back at what was good about 2022. Have a lovely new year and I hope to see you more often in 2023. Stay heavy and crank that shit loud!

5 flip flops out of 5

The list so far:

  1. Zeal & Ardor-Zeal & Ardor
  2. Cave In-Heavy Pendulum
  3. Porcupine Tree-Closure/Continuation
  4. Megadeth-The Sick, The Dying…and The Dead!
  5. Amon Amarth-The Great Heathen Army
  6. Elder-Innate Passage
  7. King’s X-Three Sides of One
  8. Psychonaut-Violate Consensus Reality
  9. Eric Wagner-In The Lonely Light of Mourning
  10. SpiritWorld-Deathwestern
  11. Psycroptic-Divine Council
  12. My Diligence-The Shape, Matter and Power
  13. Blind Guardian-The God Machine
  14. Ghost-Impera
  15. Jungle Rot-A Call To Arms
  16. High Command-Eclipse of the Dual Moons
  17. Soilwork-Overgivenheten
  18. Messa-Close
  19. Ty Tabor-Shades
  20. Lamb of God-Omens

2022 Best of Metal: #2 Cave In-Heavy Pendulum

Release date: 5/20/2022

Origin: Metheun, MA

Personnel: Stephen Brodsky-vox/guitar, Adam McGrath-guitar, Nate Newton-bass, John-Robert Conners-drums

Yet another entry on the list of a band we weren’t exactly sure was going to continue into the future. Bassist Caleb Schofield’s death in 2018 looked like it might spell the end of Cave In. However, the guys recruited Nate Newton of Converge to take over bass duties. Heavy Pendulum is a massive statement by this band. It really feels like a new chapter has opened for the band and they have announced that things are going to be heavy. Very sludgy sound. I maintain that Stephen Brodsky is one of the most charming frontmen in the business. His combination of stellar guitar work, amazing vocal range and comedic chops are right on par with Mikael Akerfeldt of Opeth. I will say that the length of this record kept it from a perfect 5 flip flops out of five. At 15 tracks, it is a bit bloated. Had they trimmed 3-4 subpar tracks off of here, it damn well could have nabbed the top spot. As it is, the meat of this record is so good that I can ignore the lapse in editorial discretion and slot this puppy at #2 on the list.

4.5 flip flops out of 5

The list so far:

2. Cave In-Heavy Pendulum
3. Porcupine Tree-Closure/Continuation
4. Megadeth-The Sick, The Dying…and The Dead!
5. Amon Amarth-The Great Heathen Army
6. Elder-Innate Passage
7. King’s X-Three Sides of One
8. Psychonaut-Violate Consensus Reality
9. Eric Wagner-In the Lonely Light of Mourning
10. SpiritWorld-Deathwestern
11. Psycroptic-Divine Council
12. My Diligence-The Matter, Form and Power
13. Blind Guardian-The God Machine
14. Ghost-Impera
15. Jungle Rot-A Call To Arms
16. High Command-Eclipse of the Dual Moons
17. Soilwork-Overgivenheten
18. Messa-Close
19. Ty Tabor-Shades
20. Lamb of God-Omens

2022 Best of Metal: #3 Porcupine Tree-Closure/Continuation

Release date: 6/24/2022

Orgin: Hemel Hempstead, England

Personnel: Steven Wilson-vox/guitar/bass/piano, Richard Barbieri-keys/synths, Gavin Harrison-drums

2022 was definitely a year marked by bands being resurrected. We saw King’s X earlier on the list and now we see the return of Porcupine Tree. Another band that I never thought we would hear new music out of again. And much like King’s X, it feels and sounds as if they never went away. Sadly, this version of PT saw the omission of bassist Colin Edwin with Steven Wilson taking over the bass parts during recording. This album just another example of why I have always felt like Porcupine Tree is this generation’s Pink Floyd. They have an innate ability to craft musical worlds that don’t sound like anything else you will encounter. Wilson still ranks among one of the greatest songwriters and lyricists in modern music. Melodies abound and your mind will expand with this one. One hopes this isn’t just a one-off for the band and that we will see periodic releases from them in-between Wilson’s solo output. I think the very warm reception the band has received during the live touring on this album may help push them in this direction. At least, I hope it does.

4.5 flip flops out of 5

The list so far:

3. Porcupine Tree-Closure/Continuation
4. Megadeth-The Sick, The Dying…and The Dead!
5. Amon Amarth-The Great Heathen Army
6. Elder-Innate Passage
7. King’s X-Three Sides of One
8. Psychonaut-Violate Consensus Reality
9. Eric Wagner-In The Lonely Light of Mourning
10. SpiritWorld-Deathwestern
11. Psycroptic-Divine Council
12. My Diligence-The Shape, Matter and Power
13. Blind Guardian-The God Machine
14. Ghost-Impera
15. Jungle Rot-A Call To Arms
16. High Command-Eclipse of the Dual Moons
17. Soilwork-Overgivenheten
18. Messa-Close
19. Ty Tabor-Shades
20. Lamb of God-Omens

2022 Best of Metal: #4 Megadeth-The Sick, The Dying…and the Dead!

Release date: 9/2/2022

Origin: Los Angeles, CA

Personnel: Dave Mustaine-vox/guitar, Kiko Louriero-guitar, Steve DiGiorgio-bass (session), Dirk Verbueren-drums

I think the lesson here is that whenever Dave puts an ellipsis in the album title that you should damn well go buy that album. Look, this one isn’t on par with Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying?, So Far, So Good…So What! or even Killing is My Business…and Business Is Good!, but it is the best damn thing Dave and his current crew of thrashers have put out in a while. I have a weird relationship with Dave. On the one hand, I have always rooted for him because of the weird underdog flag he has flown since he was fired from Metallica. The inferiority complex this dude carries around has always made me feel really bad for him. Because he is simply one of metal’s finest artists in the thrash metal world. And I honestly think an argument can be made that his catalog with Megadeth is stronger than Metallica’s overall. On the other hand, Dave is fucking crazy. His forays into MAGA-land and other weird Alex Jones type conspiracy bullshit is hard to stomach. But then, he pulls out a beast like this current album. Sure, there are a couple of weak points on here, but overall, this fucking smokes. For an album this late in an artist’s career to sound this hungry, aggressive and defiant is simply something to stand up and applaud. You’ve got all of Dave’s trademark sneer and playfulness in the lyrics. I really can’t get enough of him wailing about wanting to be an astronaut on Mission To Mars (I wanna…I wanna, wanna). And kudos can not be handed out enough for the guitar work on here. Just aggressive as fuck riffs and super glorious leads. Louriero deserves lots of praise for his lead work. Honestly, this is some of the strongest lead work since Friedman left. All in all, three cheers for Dave for finding this one in him. Go be as batshit insane as you need to be, sir. As long as you keep putting out music like this, I’ll always be in your corner.

4.5 flip flops out of 5

The list so far:

4. Megadeth-The Sick, The Dying…and the Dead!
5. Amon Amarth-The Great Heathen Army
6. Elder-Innate Passage
7. King’s X-Three Sides of One
8. Psychonaut-Violate Consensus Reality
9. Eric Wagner-In The Lonely Light of Mourning
10. SpiritWorld-Deathwestern
11. Psycroptic-Divine Council
12. My Diligence-The Shape, Matter and Power
13. Blind Guardian-The God Machine
14. Ghost-Impera
15. Jungle Rot-A Call To Arms
16. High Command-Eclipse of the Dual Moons
17. Soilwork-Overgivenheten
18. Messa-Close
19. Ty Tabor-Shades
20. Lamb of God-Omens

2022 Best of Metal: #5 Amon Amarth-The Great Heathen Army

Release date: 8/5/2022

Origin: Stockholm, Sweden

Personnel: Johan Hegg-vox, Olavi Mikkonen-guitar, Johan Soderberg-guitar, Ted Lundstrom-bass, Jocke Wallgren-drums

The Great Heathen Army felt like a bit of a return to form for our favorite metal Vikings. It felt like their past couple of releases were a bit unfocused and overly long. This album is concise and to the point. I feel like bands are well served when they focus on trimming the fat and just concentrating on around 8-9 solid tracks instead of letting things blow up to 13-15 tracks. This album is just packed with solid power metal tinged death metal. Hell, I always described Amon Amarth as being the result if Iron Maiden ever decided to put out a death metal album. I think I might have been off on my NWOBHM comparison band. Amon Amarth is more like if Saxon had turned into a death metal band. Case in point is Saxon and Vikings, where Johan and Biff from Saxon pull off the perfect metal duet with dueling wartime glory seeking metal troupes. We really need a dual headlining tour with these two bands.

4.5 flip flops out of 5

The list so far:

5. Amon Amarth-The Great Heathen Army
6. Elder-Innate Passage
7. King’s X-Three Shades of One
8. Psychonaut-Violate Consensus Reality
9. Eric Wagner-In The Lonely Light of Mourning
10. SpiritWorld-Deathwestern
11. Psycroptic-Divine Council
12. My Diligence-The Shape, Matter and Power
13. Blind Guardian-The God Machine
14. Ghost-Impera
15. Jungle Rot-A Call To Arms
16. High Command-Eclipse of the Dual Moons
17. Soilwork-Overgivenheten
18. Messa-Close
19. Ty Tabor-Shades
20. Lamb of God-Omens

2022 Best of Metal: #6 Elder-Innate Passage

Release date: 11/25/2022

Origin: Berlin, Germany, by way of Fairhaven, MA

Personnel: Nick DiSalvo-vox/guitar, Mike Risberg-guitar, Jack Donovan-bass, Georg Edert-drums

These guys are simply one of the most consistent bands out there. They don’t wait years to release new material and when they do release new music, it is always of superior quality. Lead dude Nick DiSalvo manages to continually craft unique riffs and leads that sound exactly like Elder, but never feel stale or repetitious. They are the leaders of the stoner/psychedelic side of the metal world. Innate Passage is another gem in their catalog.

4.5 flip flops out of 5

The list so far:

6. Elder-Innate Passage
7. King’s X-Three Sides of One
8. Psychonaut-Violate Consensus Reality
9. Eric Wagner-In The Lonely Light of Mourning
10. SpiritWorld-Deathwestern
11. Psycroptic-Divine Council
12. My Diligence-The Shape, Form and Power
13. Blind Guardian-The God Machine
14. Ghost-Impera
15. Jungle Rot-A Call To Arms
16. High Command-Eclipse of the Dual Moons
17. Soilwork-Overgivenheten
18. Messa-Close
19. Ty Tabor-Shades
20. Lamb of God-Omens

2022 Best of Metal: #7 King’s X-Three Sides of One

Release date: 9/2/2022

Origin: Katy, TX

Personnel: Doug Pinnick-bass/vox, Ty Tabor-guitar/vox, Jerry Gaskill-drums/vox

The album I thought would never be. It really seemed like King’s X had hung it up as far as putting out new music. All three members had releases numerous solo and side project albums since the last proper King’s X album was released. From what I can tell, the biggest hurdle was overcoming their own fears of tarnishing their legacy with a sub-par album. Well, luckily, those fears did not come to fruition. Three Sides of One is a lovely addition to the catalog. Granted, it is not their best album, but it still has the same vibe and rapport the three members have always had. The one difference on this album is that there has been a bit more sharing on the lead vocals front. Leads are fairly evenly split between Doug and Ty and Jerry even gets in on the action on three of the songs. This is a special one to me. It’s probably higher on the list than it should be based purely on merit, but the mere fact of having new King’s X music simply results in quite a few bonus points.

4.5 flip flops out of 5

The list so far:

7. King’s X-Three Sides of One
8. Psychonaut-Violate Consensus Reality
9. Eric Wagner-In The Lonely Light of Mourning
10. SpiritWorld-Deathwestern
11. Psycroptic-Divine Council
12. My Diligence-The Shape, Matter and Power
13. Blind Guardian-The God Machine
14. Ghost-Impera
15. Jungle Rot-A Call To Arms
16. High Command-Eclipse of the Dual Moons
17. Soilwork-Overgivenheten
18. Messa-Close
19. Ty Tabor-Shades
20. Lamb of God-Omens

2022 Best of Metal: #8 Psychonaut-Violate Consensus Reality

Release date: 10/28/2022

Origin: Antwerp, Belgium

Personnel: Stefan de Graef-guitar/vox, Thomas Michiels-bass/vox, Harm Peters-drums

The Belgium metal scene really stepped up in 2022. This is the second Belgian entry on the list so far. Psychonaut has made a very significant statement in the post-metal world with their second album. This three piece has crafted an interesting sound scape with Violate Consensus Reality. You’ve got the trademark long non-linear song structure and a combo of clean harmonizing and harsh vocals. These guys remind me quite a bit of the other “Naut” band, Intronaut. It’s gotta be just a matter of time before these two bands end up on a tour together.

4.5 flip flops out of 5

The list so far:

8. Psychonaut-Violate Consensus Reality
9. Eric Wagner-In The Lonely Light of Mourning
10. SpiritWorld-Deathwestern
11. Psycroptic-Divine Council
12. My Diligence-The Shape, Matter and Power
13. Blind Guardian-The God Machine
14. Ghost-Impera
15. Jungle Rot-A Call To Arms
16. High Command-Eclipse of the Dual Moons
17. Soilwork-Overgivenheten
18. Messa-Close
19. Ty Tabor-Shades
20. Lamb of God-Omens

2022 Best of Metal: #9 Eric Wagner-In The Lonely Light of Mourning

Release date: 3/4/2022

Origin: Chicago, IL

Personnel: Eric Wagner-vox, Dave Snyder-guitar/drums, Chuck Robinson-guitar, Sean McAllister-bass

This album works on two levels. First, it’s a nice slab of classic doom metal crafted by one of that genre’s true greats. Eric Wagner was the long time front man of Trouble and later Trouble offshoot, The Skull. His world weary voice was one of those that just got better with age. His voice conveyed a life thoroughly lived. Second, this ended up being a posthumous release. He passed away in 2021 due to complications after contracting Covid. So, in retrospect, this became the very definition of a poignant release. Fittingly, he went out with a very solid release and one that reflects nicely on his passing. Lyrically, there is a lot of contemplation of death and what comes after. I hope that he’s found peace on the other side.

4.5 flip flops out of 5

The list so far:

9. Eric Wagner-In The Lonely Light of Mourning
10. SpiritWorld-Deathwestern
11. Psycroptic-Divine Council
12. My Diligence-The Shape, Form and Power
13. Blind Guardian-The God Machine
14. Ghost-Impera
15. Jungle Rot-A Call To Arms
16. High Command-Eclipse of the Dual Moons
17. Soilwork-Overgivenheten
18. Messa-Close
19. Ty Tabor-Shades
20. Lamb of God-Omens