My albums of 2016

Grid of 16 album covers
Album covers 2016

This year I managed to buy even fewer albums than last year. I appear to be on a downward trend, in part due to me finishing off my 195 metal CDs project, and in part due to my increased workload and a distinct lack of leisure time for music listening.

Going back to 1986, when I first started collecting music (albeit on cassette and 12″ vinyl then) here is a graph showing the music that I own on CD/mp3 by year of release:

Albums per year
Albums I own per year of release

Top 15 artists (Last.fm)

Before launching into my top 10 though, I’ve just taken a look at my Last.fm top 15 artists over the last 12 months. This reflects what I’ve actually been listening to over the last year: at home, at work, and on my Android phone.

Seemingly, I listened to…

  • 423 artists (more than 75% of Last.fm users)
  • 524 albums (more than 73% of Last.fm users)
  • 4,293 tracks (more than 95% of Last.fm users)
Top 15 artists over the last 12 months
Top 15 artists over the last 12 months

There are definitely fewer plays there, compared with last year but that could easily be explained by my drive to complete my 195 metal CDs project: I listened to a lot of new music this year. But it’s interesting to note that only one of those (Schizma) has made it into the top 15, which is otherwise littered with the bands that I would ordinarily say were my favourites and nine of whom have released new music this year.

Another change was that I installed an old-school, hardware CD player next to my bed and I’ve been listening to a lot of music there which doesn’t get recorded on Last.fm, so I’ve missed out a little.

When I lived in Anstruther I was able to stream music from my PC to my mobile phone across the home network. Living in a halls of residence I can’t do that now on Eduroam, the academic network.

My top albums of 2016, in terms of plays were:

  1. Schizma—Hardcore Enemies (130 tracks played)
  2. Soulfly—Archangel (124 plays)
  3. Metallica—Hardwired… to Self Destruct (124 plays)
  4. Megadeth—Dystopia (114 plays)
  5. Anthrax—For All Kings (114 plays)

It took me a few weeks to find the time to review the Schizma album, which is why I ended up playing it over and over again. If my CD player had been able to register its plays then I’m pretty sure Testament—Brotherhood of the Snake and Meshuggah—The Violent Sleep of Reason would have landed in the top five.

Onto the votes for this year…

10. Anthrax—For All Kings

Album cover showing zombies beneath an Anthrax logo pentagram window between stone statues of the band
Anthrax—For All Kings

It’s no secret that I much prefer John Bush’s voice fronting Anthrax compared with Joey Belladonna but you can’t have everything. That said, this is a solid Anthrax album with nods of the head to State of Euphoria (1988) as well as building on 2011’s Worship Music and the last Bush-era album We’ve Come For You All (2003).

The album has some great riffs, some terrific hooks, and I can imagine that they’ll get a lot of crowd singing at gigs with tracks like “For All Kings”, “Breathing Lightning”, and “Defend Avenge”.

9. Testament—Brotherhood of the Snake

Album cover shows a three-headed snake above blind men seated
Testament—Brotherhood of the Snake

It’s only due to the high quality of releases this year that I find Testament’s latest opus sitting in ninth place.

This is a great release with Testament hovering somewhere between the classic era sound and Low (1994), which was the first album to feature Chuck Billy’s growling vocals. The album kicks off at breakneck speed and doesn’t let up for ten tracks.

8. Machine Head — Is There Anybody Out There?

Album cover shows reflection of an American flag in a crying eye
Machine Head — Is There Anybody Out There?

Machine Head put out a non-album single this year, partly in response to Phil Anselmo’s seemingly racist, ‘white power’ incident at the Dimebash in January.

Now I stand as a father, to men with no honour
Ashamed of the racists I used to call brothers
‘Cause no flag can mean bravery when bloodied by slavery
The rebel, a devil, disguised as a savior
And the sickening feeling in the air
Is the fear to speak that no one dares

It was a bold move but a necessary one to address racism, something that the US and the UK have seen too much of in 2016.

7. Lamb of God—The Duke EP

Lamb of God—The Duke
Lamb of God—The Duke

Lamb of God’s last album VII: Strum und Drang was my album of the year 2015. This year they released an EP of two new songs: “The Duke” and “Culling”, and three live tracks: “Still Echoes”, “512”, and “Engage the Fear Machine”.

Rather than being a cynical money-spinner a year on from VII, this release was in part to raise awareness of and money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. The title track was dedicated to Lamb of God fan and friend of singer D. Randall Blythe, Wayne Ford who sadly died of leukaemia.

“The Duke” is only the second track from the band featuring clean vocals. “Culling” is a much more familiar, growling Lamb of God track which wouldn’t feel out of place on VII.

6. Steven Wilson — 4½

Album cover shows two girls sitting on a park bench overlaid with four and a half slashes in blue
Steven Wilson — 4½

This mini-album is suitably named following Wilson’s fourth album Hand. Cannot. Erase (2015) which came fifth in last year’s round-up. It largely gathers together songs that were written during Wilson’s last two album sessions for The Raven That Refused to Sing (And Other Stories) (2013) and Hand. Cannot. Erase, closing with “Don’t hate me” which was originally on Porcupine Tree—Stupid Dream (1999), sung as a duet with Israeli singer Ninet Tayeb.

It took me a while to get into, as it doesn’t feel quite as coherent a body of songs as either Raven or Hand, but any new Steven Wilson tracks are welcome in my collection.

5. Prong — X – No Absolutes

Album cover shows a montage of war images, with lots of skulls
Prong — X – No Absolutes

Prong were among the first group of heavy bands that I got into back in the early-90s. I rushed out to buy Beg To Differ (1990) on cassette after hearing them on Noisy Mothers (ITV) or the BBC Friday Night Rock Show. They have rarely let me down, and still remain a band that more people should discover

In X – No Absolutes Tommy Victor has managed to carve out an album that sits somewhere between the early hardcore-infused sound of Beg To Differ and Prove You Wrong (1991) with the more melodic groove-laden riffs of Cleansing (1994) and Rude Awakening (1996).

I have sadly neglected this album for much of this year. I expect it to be played a lot more in 2017.

4. Megadeth—Dystopia

Album cover shows an android Vic Rattlehead standing beneath a destroyed Sydney harbour bridge
Megadeth—Dystopia

Having been somewhat disappointed with Megadeth’s last release Super Collider (2013) my apprehension about their latest album was offset somewhat by the news that Lamb of God drummer Chris Adler would be stepping in to the space left by departing drummer Shawn Drover. Longtime guitarist (certainly in Megadeth terms) Chris Broadrick also departed, with Brazillian Kiko Loureiro taking over.

I wasn’t disappointed. Dystopia turned out to be a fresh and exciting album. Arguably their best since The System Has Failed (2004).

3. Meshuggah—The Violent Sleep of Reason

Album cover shows a man trapped in a strange mechanical creature
Meshuggah—The Violent Sleep of Reason

I first experienced Meshuggah when a friend of mine gave me their EP entitled simply I (2004) for my birthday one year. Their music is heavy and intricate, almost mathematical. They are the showcase band of the whole ‘djent’ sub-genre of metal.

As with most Meshuggah albums, I expect this one will take quite a while to really get into. But for now, I do think it’s is pretty darned special. It’s more of the same from the Swedish five-piece, but they manage somehow to never quite sound like they are repeating themselves.

2. Metallica—Hardwired… to Self-Destruct

Album cover shows four faces melded into one
Metallica—Hardwired… to Self Destruct

Metallica’s tenth studio album was one that I was anticipating all year. It finally landed on Reuben and Joshua’s birthday (18 November) and I wasn’t disappointed.

The band released three songs ahead of the album launch (the title track, “Hardwired… to Self-Destruct”, “Moth into Flame”, and “Altas, Rise!”) and they were good… really good.

Hardwired… seems to include something from about every Metallica album. It has a better production than either St Anger or Death Magnetic, and the songs are more accessible and coherent—a consequence perhaps of Hetfield and Ulrich taking back the songwriting reigns? They’re like a metal Lennon and McCartney.

They’ve released the entire album, video by video too. Check it out on the Metallica YouTube channel.

My only criticism, I think, is that the album is probably about 30 minutes too long. It could have been shorter and punchier; as it is it begins to feel like it’s dragging during the last 20 minutes.

1. Opeth—Sorceress

Opeth - Sorceress cover shows a peacock
Opeth-Sorceress

And so to my number one album of 2016… Opeth—Sorceress. Another album that I was greatly anticipating, and wasn’t disappointed.

It was recorded at Rockfield Studios in Wales, where Queen’s A Night at the Opera was recorded back in 1975. And like its predecessor, it has a retro prog feel to it.

I know there has been a lot of controversy in some metal circles about the direction that Opeth has gone. Rewind 10 years and they were very much a progressive death metal band with blast beats and growling vocals. They have now dropped the cookie monster vocals, the songs are heavy in a more doom/prog style rather than relying on heavily overdriven amplifiers and pounding drums.

What I loved about Opeth from the first time that I listened to them was the breadth of musicianship. Their melodies were intricate and beautiful, their songs were a fusion of light and dark, and they very much did their own thing. None of that has changed.

This is a beautiful and rich album. Check it out.

My albums of 2015

Album covers 2015
Album covers 2015

In 2014 I bought 23 new albums, I thought then that was pretty few. This year, however, I appear only to have purchased (or acquired) 15 albums that were released during these last twelve months—see the covers above.

One was a reissue (Opeth—Deliverance and Damnation), one was a free download (Slayer’s “When the Stillness Comes” for Record Store Day), and two were sent to me for free to review (Krysthla—A War of Souls and Desires, and Siderian—Cancel Your Future).

As last year, I suspect a significant factor in my buying so few new albums was my 195 metal CDs project which sees me reviewing a different album every week. Remarkably, after a solid day catching up with about a month-and-a-half of reviews I am currently still on track to finish that project in November 2016.

Top 15 artists (Last.fm)

Before launching into my top 10 though, I’ve just taken a look at my Last.fm top 15 artists over the last 12 months. This reflects what I’ve actually been listening to over the last year: at home, at work, and on my Android phone.

Top 15 artists over the last 12 months
Top 15 artists over the last 12 months

The first thing to note is that the number one artist there, Diabolical Masquerade, accounts for three of my 195 metal CDs that I reviewed this past year. Death’s Design (2007) has definitely been one of my favourite albums of this year but it comprises 61 tracks which explains why it shot to the top: that’s only about ten listen-throughs.

Marillion take #2 simply because I was learning the lyrics to Misplaced Childhood (1985) ahead of Fish’s farewell concert in Glasgow earlier this month.

And then we’re back to the usual contenders. Comparing this with last year’s chart makes for interesting reading. Lamb of God (who released a new album in 2015) rose nine places, while Iron Maiden dropped from #2 to #14 despite a new album; Steven Wilson replaced Porcupine Tree, and Opeth fell from #1 to #6 but curiously with more tracks played.

Overall, it would appear that I have actually listened to significantly more music in 2015 than the year before.

  1. Diabolical Masquerade (604 tracks played)
  2. Marillion (597)
  3. Lamb of God (441)
  4. Fish (435)
  5. Steven Wilson (425)
  6. Opeth (379)
  7. Slayer (298)
  8. Queen (273)
  9. Sepultura (271)
  10. Megadeth (265)
  11. Metallica (259)
  12. Dream Theater (219)
  13. Faith No More (214)
  14. Iron Maiden (213)
  15. Godflesh (205)

Looking at my most played tracks during the past year, 11 of the top 15 are from Steven Wilson’s Hand. Cannot. Erase. album. That’s the entire album! And removing the 61 track Diabolical Masquerade — Death’s Design anomaly from the results, Steven Wilson’s latest album was indeed my most played album of 2015, followed by Marillion—Misplaced Childhood, and then Lamb of God—VII: Strum und Drang.

Onto the votes for this year…

10. Iron Maiden—The Book of Souls

Iron Maiden—The Book of Souls

Iron Maiden’s highly anticipated 16th studio album was made all the more dramatic in 2015 as it wasn’t released until after singer Bruce Dickinson had been given the all-clear from throat cancer.

It was received with great enthusiasm. Blabbermouth gave the album 9.5/10, The Guardian gave it 4/5. Metal Injection was a little more reticent asking “whether it is entirely consistent enough to successfully contend against the leaner 80’s albums is debatable, but the fact that the  band is even attempting something of this scope and accomplishment is a wonder to behold.”

The first single “Speed of Light” is a raw, stripped down track that immediately left me feeling quite cold. It felt like a left-over B side from the Somewhere In Time (1986) sessions.

The problem I have with modern Iron Maiden is ironically exactly what I felt most excited about when Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith returned to the band: there are three guitarists. There was something punchy about two: one rhythm, one lead. With three the song writing seems to be compromised: too many chords, too few riffs.

It is a marvellous album. But I’m with Metal Injection: it doesn’t excite me as much as anything the band put out in the 1980s, or indeed Brave New World (2000) after Dickinson returned. Sorry, Eddie…

9. Metallica—Pier 48, San Francisco

Metallica live at San Francisco, Pier 48

I’m a big fan of Metallica live. Their 40th anniversary concerts are amongst the best live albums I’ve ever heard. I would love them to put them out on DVD.

This live recording from their gig at Pier 48, San Francisco — a private show for Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff — is like a best of from the first six albums. It was also a free download from LiveMetallica.com.

8. Maiden United—Remembrance

Maiden United—Remembrance

Maiden United, who perform acoustic renditions of Iron Maiden songs, came from an idea by Joey Bruers to put on a spectacular and different show for the Dutch Iron Maiden fan club convention. Maiden founder and bassist Steve Harris would be in attendance so it had to be good. It’s more than that: it’s great.

This is their third album, and I never tire of listening to these interpretations of classic Maiden songs, particularly “Strange world” and “Remember tomorrow”.

7. David Gilmour—Rattle That Lock

David Gilmour—Rattle That Lock

David Gilmour is by far one of my favourite guitarists in all of this fine world. Apart from James Hetfield’s rhythm playing, Gilmour is probably the one guitarist whose style I have most studied and tried to emulate in my own playing.

This album is one of my most recent purchases this year so I have not had much time to absorb it, but “A boat lies waiting” (track 4), his tribute to long-time friend and musical companion Richard Wright, is one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard from Mr Gilmour. It reduced me to tears on one listen.

6. Faith No More—Sol Invictus

Faith No More—Sol Invictus

Now things are getting tight: it feels so wrong to place this album at number six.

I was so disappointed when Faith No More split back in 1998. When they reformed and toured in 2009 I bought a ticket to see them live. It was the most expensive concert ticket I’ve ever bought.

This… is a brilliant album. It’s the grown-up big brother of Angel Dust (1992).

5. Steven Wilson—Hand. Cannot. Erase.

Steven Wilson—Hand. Cannot. Erase.

Steven Wilson is a musical genius. I’ve loved pretty much everything he’s touched: Porcupine Tree, collaborations with Fish, Storm Corrosion with Opeth’s Mikael Åkerfeldt. This solo album is no different.

This concept album is inspired by the story of Joyce Carol Vincent who died alone in her flat in London and whose body wasn’t discovered for almost three years. I’ve watched the documentary about her, it’s so sad. She was young, she was popular, and yet when he died… nobody noticed.

The album is delicate, it’s deep, it’s complex. It is quite simply beautiful.

4. Slayer—Repentless

Slayer—Repentless

If my car was hooked into Last.fm then this album no doubt would have recorded more plays: I played this album almost constantly to and from work for about four weeks.

Following Jeff Hanneman’s sad death in 2013, and drummer Dave Lombardo’s unceremonious dismissal there was much debate as to whether Slayer could return with anything half decent. Oh, and boy did they!

Exodus guitarist Gary Holt has been an excellent successor to Hanneman. His playing certainly complements Kerry King’s.

This is by far the strongest Slayer album, I’d say, since probably 1990s Seasons in the Abyss. Welcome back, boys!

3. Krysthla—A War of Souls and Desires

Krysthla—A War of Souls and Desires

If I could give all my top three albums equal place then I probably would, but I’m forcing myself to make a decision and so this amazing album sadly drops to third place.

Over on my 195 metal CDs blog I gave this album 100%. As I said there:

Their overall sound seems to be somewhere between modern Napalm Death and Meshuggah. And that is a pretty darned interesting and exciting place to be. The playing is precise, in places like math metal, twisting. And turning. Stopping and. Starting. Something that. Gutworm. Did.

I speculated in that review that this album might well make my top three best albums of 2015. And here it is. This is definitely a band to look out for in the future. Brilliant!

2. Martha Bean—When Shadows Return to the Sea

Martha Bean—When Shadows Return to the Sea

I was first turned on to Martha Bean by four cousins of her cousins with whom I sang in the National Youth Choir of Great Britain, back in the day. They kept posting little plugs here and there for her music and one day this year I thought that I’d go check her out and see what her music was all about.

“Flippin’ ‘eck! she’s brilliant,” I posted on my friend Steph’s Facebook wall. And sure enough she is.  Go check her out yourself on Bandcamp.

Her style is beautiful and delicate but with an underlying strength. She plays mostly guitar or piano, backed by drums, bass and cello (played, I believe, by her dad).

This so very nearly made it to number one. Held off this year by these guys…

1. Lamb of God—VII: Strum und Drang

Lamb of God—VII: Strum und Drang

The first album since vocalist D. Randall Blythe’s release from Czech prison and subsequent trial and acquittal (if you’ve not read his book Dark Days: A Memoir order it today—it is beautiful and funny and wonderfully, wonderfully written) and it is brilliant.

This is a more mature Lamb of God. They have their usual bite and twistingly heavy riffs. But this time round they’ve shaken things up with guest vocalists who bring melodic singing and even the first ever clean singing on a Lamb of God record from Blythe—and he has a lovely baritone voice.

My favourite track probably has to be 512, the number of the final cell he shared with a couple of Mongolian prisoners in Prague. “Six bars laid across the sky…” he sings, and you’re transported there. “My hands are painted red / My future’s painted black / I can’t recognise myself / I’ve become someone else / My hands are painted red / My hands are painted red”. Such pain, such experience etched into each word.

I’ve only been to three concerts in the last two years: two of those have been to see Lamb of God, including this year on my birthday. One of the best concerts I’ve ever been to.

This album is going to see me through to next year and beyond. Strum und drang indeed: storm and stress.

My albums of 2013

Montage of album covers

This review is a few days late, due to a nasty chest infection that’s been plaguing me from before Christmas.

If I thought that 2012 was a frugal one in terms of album-buying, 2013 was even more so with only 12 albums or EPs added to my collection (and of those 3 were gifted to me).

Much of my music listening during 2013 was focused on my 195 metal CDs project: I acquired 195 CDs via Freecycle and I’ve been trying to review a CD each week.

10. Steve Lawson and Daniel Berkman—Accidentally (On Purpose)

Steve Lawson and Daniel Berkman—Accidentally (On Purpose) (2013)
Steve Lawson and Daniel Berkman—Accidentally (On Purpose) (2013)

www.stevelawson.net

This is an album that I have been guilty of not listening to enough this past year. I suspect it’s because this is music that deserves space and time. It’s a beautiful, atmospheric album that immediately makes me feel as though I have been transported to an enormous enclosed space, somewhere peaceful like a cathedral or the Tate Modern.

This has been a year of increasingly feeling pressured and busier. What might be interesting would be to see if playing this more over the next few months might give me the sense of space that it offers me each time I do listen to it.

Listen and buy on Bandcamp.

9. JJ Hrubovocak—Death Metal Christmas

JJ Hrubovcak—Death Metal Christmas (2013)
JJ Hrubovcak—Death Metal Christmas (2013)

http://deathmetalchristmas.bandcamp.com/album/death-metal-christmas

I reviewed this album on my 195 metal CDs blog. This was my conclusion:

This is clearly a death metal album first and foremost, and a Christmas-themed one second. It is beautifully played, produced, and mixed. If you like death metal then you will love this and will have something to put on over the Christmas break to counter the endless repeats of Slade, Jona Lewie and Cliff Richard.

I gave the album a solid 98%.

8. Metallica—Dehaan at Orion Music, Detriot, MI

Dehaan (Metallica)—Orion Music, Detriot, MI (2013)
Dehaan (Metallica)—Orion Music, Detriot, MI (2013)

livemetallica.com

On 8 June 2013 played a surprise gig at their own Orion Music + More festival in Detroit, MI under the name Dehaan. (Dane DeHaan played the lead character in Metallica’s 2012 film Through The Never.)

2013 marked thirty years of Metallica’s Kill ‘Em All (1983) album. This live recording (available to buy and download from livemetallica.com) is said album played live from start to finish. It’s solid, it’s tight, it’s just as exciting as the original.

You can watch the full gig in HD on YouTube:

7. Amplifier—Echo Street

Amplifier—Echo Street (2013)
Amplifier—Echo Street (2013)

www.amplifiertheband.com

As I’ve no doubt mentioned on this blog before, I first stumbled on Amplifier when they supported Melissa auf der Maur back in 2004, I think. Having decided to avoid the support band we wandered in on the final two or three songs of their set and I loved them, and I’ve bought everything they’ve brought out since.

Echo Street is a gentle, melodic album in the prog genre, but not in a clichéd, ‘muso’ way. I actually think that I prefer this to their critically acclaimed 2010 album The Octopus. It still doesn’t have the excitement and energy of their debut album, though, which for me remains my favourite in their back catalogue.

An honourable mention should also be given to their Sunriders EP, also released in 2013.

6. Ancient VVisdom—Deathlike

Ancient VVisdom—Deathlike (2013)
Ancient VVisdom—Deathlike (2013)

http://ancient-vvisdom.bandcamp.com/

While the lyrics and song themes are a bit too satanic for my liking, I do love the music which might best be described as gothic doom acoustic black-metal.

Having learned to play the guitar on a cheap nylon acoustic guitar—learning mostly rock and metal songs—this album really appeals to me. I love the interplay of electric and acoustic guitars.

This is quite a gentle, melodic album but with quite a dark, melancholic feel to it.

Definitely a band to keep an eye out for.

5. Stone Sour—House of Gold & Bones, Part 2

Stone Sour—House of Gold & Bones, Part 2 (2013)
Stone Sour—House of Gold & Bones, Part 2 (2013)

www.stonesour.com

I’m sure when I review House of Gold & Bones, Part 1 last year I said that I still needed to read through the lyrics to figure out the story behind the album. Unfortunately, that is still the case… and so I’ve now also got this album to read through too. One day… maybe…

What can I say? I love Stone Sour: heavy, melodic, delicate, powerful. What’s not to like, and Splitknot buddies Corey Taylor’s voice and Jim Root’s guitar playing are exquisite.

I’ve not listened to this album enough. It certainly deserves it.

4. Newsted—Metal EP

Newsted—Metal  EP (2013)
Newsted—Metal EP (2013)

http://newstedheavymetal.com

When I saw that Jason Newsted (formerly of Flotsam & Jetsam, Metallica, Echobrain, and Voivod) had a new EP out I was keen but a little apprehensive. I have owned a few of Newsted’s Chophouse Records offerings in the past (IR8 vs Sexoturica and the two Papa Wheelie albums) and I found them quite… rough and unstructured.

But this EP is brilliant. It’s heavy, it’s melodic, the production is fabulous, and Jason’s vocals have never sounded so good.

The only problem is that this EP is just too short. Which leads me nicely on to…

3. Newsted—Heavy Metal

Newsted—Heavy Metal (2013)
Newsted—Heavy Metal (2013)

http://newstedheavymetal.com

When I saw that Jason Newsted (formerly of Flotsam & Jetsam, Metallica, Echobrain, and Voivod) had a new full-length album out I was really excited. His previous EP Metal was fabulous!

Eleven tracks of full-on metal. Newsted is clearly going for a modern take on old school metal with elements of the early days of thrash circa 1983/84. A few of the tracks have leanings towards Metallica’s debut Kill ‘Em All.

I’d love to see Newsted playing this live, and I look forward to hearing more.

Review

2. Fish—A Feast of Consequences

Fish—A Feast of Consequences (2013)
Fish—A Feast of Consequences (2013)

http://fishheadsclub.com

It’s been six years since Fish’s last solo album 13th Star (2007) and he’s certainly returned with a really strong collection of songs, his tenth solo album since leaving Marillion in 1988.

Nestled in the middle of the album is his “High Wood Suite”, which is a sensitive, dare I say beautiful, collection of five songs about the first world war, a war in which both his grandfathers fought.

I bought the deluxe edition which includes a 100-page book, 24-bit FLAC digital download and a ‘making of…’ DVD, which has some touching footage of Fish visiting the locations in France where his grandfathers fought nearly 100 years ago.

A beautiful album. Welcome back Fish!

1. Steven Wilson—The Raven That Refused To Sing (and other stories)

Steven Wilson—The Raven Refused To Sing (2013)
Steven Wilson—The Raven Refused To Sing (2013)

http://stevenwilsonhq.com

I’ve been a fan of Steven Wilson and Porcupine Tree for quite a few years now, and I was keenly awaiting the release of this album, particularly having heard how strong his collaboration with Mikael Åkerfeldt had been in 2012 with Storm Corrosion.

I wasn’t disappointed.

This album has quite a retro 60s/70s feel to it. It’s rock, it’s prog, it’s beautiful and melodic and in places captivating. No more so, I think, than his song “The Watchmaker” which I found myself playing over and over again. It’s a song which is heart-breaking in its beauty and fragility.

An obvious next step, having loved everything I’ve heard of his so far, would be to complete my collection of his music. But… have you seen how much he’s put out?! If I do this review next year will need to be called “My favourite Steve Wilson albums that I listened to in 2014″…

Storm Corrosion

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yZhP9Mtxo5c]

Video for Storm Corrosion’s song Drag Ropes.

An album that I’ve been anticipating for quite some time is Storm Corrosion: a collaborative project between Mikael Åkerfeldt from Opeth and Steven Wilson from Porcupine Tree. It was released in the UK on Monday 7 May.

I loved the last Porcupine Tree album, The Incident; the last Opeth album, Heritage, has been a grower; I enjoyed Steven Wilson’s second solo album Grace for Drowning. I knew that this album wouldn’t sound like any of these.

In an interview with Steven Wilson about the record he said

“If anything, it’s even more orchestral, more stripped down, even more dark, twisted and melancholy… but it certainly feels like it comes from the same place as Heritage and Grace For Drowning, which indeed it does because it was written during the same period. We were, in a way, egging each other on to do those particular records but also at the same time coming up with the music that’s now going to be on Storm Corrosion. So it’s a very orchestral record, as you’d expect, the songs are quite long and develop in unusual ways. I’m realistic about it, that half the people are going to hate it and half the people are going to fall in love with it. I’d be happy with that anyway.”

Metal Underground

I fell in love with it.

The album is dark and atmospheric and beautiful and odd and unexpected and it has the feel of a 1960s soundtrack (which is perhaps why I like the video to Drag Ropes so much). In many ways it reminds me of Richard Thompson‘s 1997 collaboration Industry with bassist Danny Thompson (no relation).

It is very much worth checking out.

I give it a rating of 5/5