Thursday, January 5, 2017

Best of 2016: Metal and Hard Rock

For me, 2016 was a very hectic year, so I didn’t get the chance to write about as many of these records as I would have liked. Still, it was a strong musical year, and, as you go through my Best Hard Rock and Metal of 2016 list, you’ll see why I’m calling it the year of the classic thrash band.

That said, two notable thrash heavyweights who released albums this year didn’t make the Top 10: Megadeth’s Dystopia grew on me as 2016 went on, and was on the bubble as I made my final decision, but didn’t quite make the cut. The other, I was a bit more disappointed by. Though Metallica’s Hardwired … to Self-Destruct contains a few standout tracks – including the best pure thrash song they’ve recorded in ages – I just found most of the record vanilla and unmemorable. Those songs that I love just weren’t enough to overcome the blah numbers that surround them.

That said, four classic thrash acts did find their way into a pretty strong final field, and one blew all the others away in my opinion. Here’s my Best Hard Rock and Metal of 2016 …

10. METAL CHURCH – XI: Here’s our first classic thrash entry already. The return of Mike Howe on vocals certainly piqued my interest, as 1989’s Blessing in Disguise is one of my favorite Metal Church albums, and the lead single “No Tomorrow” got me amped up. The album followed through on that promise. There’s nothing new or fancy here, but it’s just a great old-school thrash record.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Playlist 2016 Week 5: Dead Daisies, Anthrax, LoG, Death Angel, Testament

We've now reached the point in the program where we start to get into mostly repeated artists, and we've entered the new year, so I think I'll wind it down with this week's selections. That said, there are still a few more songs that make my playlist, but I think these 25 or so cover the high points.

"We All Fall Down," The Dead Daisies. This was just an old-fashioned, good time hard rock record. It's simplicity and fun made it one of my favorites of the year, and "We All Fall Down" was my favorite track. Just a great hook and a great all-around tune.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Best of 2016: Country and Southern Rock

OK, not really a "best of." I didn’t listen to enough country and Southern rock this year to feel comfortable taking my usual approach to this Best Country and Southern Rock of 2016 list. I know there are some great records out there that I just haven’t heard, possibly better than the ones below. But there were a trio of albums that I wanted to call out, so here goes …

3. WHISKEY MYERS – MUD: These Southern rockers, I don’t believe, get the respect that they deserve. Mud isn’t as strong an outing as 2014’s fantastic Early Morning Shakes, but still a top-notch effort with some hell-raising Southern rockers and heartfelt odes to life, and a nice tribute to No. 2 on my Best Country and Southern Rock of 2016 list.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Playlist 2016 Week 4: Rob Zombie, THC, Metallica, Holy Grail, Lacuna Coil

A couple of surprises and a little strange holiday cheer as the playlist rolls on.

"Get Your Boots On! That's the End of Rock 'n' Roll!" Rob Zombie. This album was one of the surprises of the year for me. I haven't been that interested in anything Zombie has done in a while, but this album was pretty entertaining. The chorus of "Get Your Boots On" is like his love letter to rock 'n' roll.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Sunday Sabbath: "Fairies Wear Boots," from Paranoid (1970)

One instrumental piece leads into another as “Rat Salad” gives way to the intro to “Fairies Wear Boots,” sometimes referred to as “Jack the Stripper” and sometimes not on different releases of the album. Oddly, I’ve always thought the intro to the tune was a little over long, and I couldn’t wait to get to the swinging rhythm of “Fairies Wear Boots.”

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Saturday Night Special: Trans-Siberian Orchestra, "First Snow"

To be honest, it just hasn’t felt like Christmas to me this year. I’ve been super busy with work. The weather where I live, for the most part, has been more like summer. My son’s too old for my annual pilgrimage to the toy stores, and as I write this (a week or so before you’ll read it), my tree sits in my living room undecorated. It’s been a strange year.

Part of the reason, I know, is that Santa Claus ended for my son last year, and I think that also took some wonder and excitement out of things for me. So, in hopes of finding some holiday cheer, I turned to an old favorite, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, and they delivered.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Playlist 2016 Week 3: Megadeth, Charred Walls of the Damned, Anthrax, Zakk Wylde, Whiskey Myers

Week 3 of my 2016 playlist goes from heavy sounds to brutal imagery before ending on a happier note with a little Southern rock.

"Bullet to the Brain," Megadeth. Another classic thrash band makes the list. I'll admit this record had to grow on me quite a bit. I didn't like it at first, but at the end of the year it has a shot at cracking my year-end list.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Sunday Sabbath: "Rat Salad," from Paranoid (1970)

After the dark and dreary “Hand of Doom,” the instrumental “Rat Salad” provides, perhaps, a brief ray of light amongst the doom and gloom.

I’ve always felt that this tune had the feel of a jazz number. It’s still heavy, of course, but I could easily hear the distorted guitars rearranged for horns and a big band playing it with gusto. Iommi’s guitar solo kind of takes the shape of a horn solo in a jazz tune. Though I often hear people talk about the jazz influence on Sabbath, particularly in the drumming of Bill Ward, I don’t often hear it as clearly as I do on “Rat Salad.”

Monday, December 12, 2016

Playlist 2016 Week 2: Jackson Taylor, Metallica, Delain, Amon Amarth, Wicked Realm

In the second week of my Playlist 2016, we'll go from country to Viking death metal with a detour through the 1980s.

"Which Way is Up?" Jackson Taylor & The Sinners. If any song perfectly encapsulates 2016, it's this title track from Jackson Taylor's latest release. It expressed my feelings exactly as most everyone around me seemed to lose their minds in a particularly nasty election year. It's a message that I believe everyone needs to hear before this year is over.