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Musictalker’s Top 10 CDs of 2012

It’s that time of year that every music blogger out there releases his and/or her subjective list(s) for the year’s top CD releases.  Well, I believe it’s about time I release mine.  Keep in mind that this is just a small fraction of the whirlpool of awesome music we, the consumers/fans/listeners, received in this alleged last year of our existence.

 

10. Slash feat. Myles Kennedy & the Conspirators – Apocalyptic Love

I have always enjoyed Myles Kennedy’s voice ever since I first heard Alter Bridge’s “Open Your Eyes” back in 2004. He is a very talented vocalist.  Hell, he sounds better than Axl on most of the Guns N Roses songs when he sings them live with Slash.  As for Slash, he needs no further praise or recognition, seeing how he is renowned for the great music he puts out there.  Apocalyptic Love is no exception.  This record is a hard rocker through and through, bringing listeners everything they could expect from a team such as Myles and Slash.

9. Shadows Fall – Fire From the Sky

As 2009’s Retribution was a fantastic expression of Shadows Fall’s passion for their uncompromised style, 2012’s Fire From the Sky was no less satisfying.  The new record has the band’s signature sound written all over it.  While all of the tracks rock harder than Clint Eastwood’s porch chair in Gran Torino, one stand-out song is “Blind Faith,” which exemplifies the sheer power and precision the band offers in their songwriting.

8. Matchbox Twenty – North

My regular readers may recall my previous review of this new Matchbox CD, the band’s first full-length effort in ten years.  In that review, I emphasized my opinion that North sounds nothing like the music from MB20’s glory days.  I stand by that observation, but would like to add that it is a noteworthy 2012 release.  Songs like “English Town,” “Parade,” and “She’s So Mean” grew on me and eventually won me over, leading to their placement of #8 on my top ten of 2012.

7. Jack White – Blunderbuss

Blunderbuss is Jack White’s debut solo album and offers everything he’s about.  It brings in elements of each of his projects, both past and present, with his personal spin.  For instance, “Sixteen Saltines” and “Freedom at 21” are both quite reminiscent of a band called The White Stripes.  “Love Interruption” kind of sounds like something The Dead Weather could release.  You get the idea.  If you’re curious about his live show as a solo artist, feel free to give my concert review of his Boston show a read.

6. God Forbid – Equilibrium

God Forbid’s sixth full-length, Equilibrium, portrayed a new direction for the band’s music.  This new release was the first without lead guitarist Doc Coyle’s brother, Dallas, on rhythm.  Therefore, this was also the first GF album to feature former Himsa guitarist, Matt Wicklund, shredding opposite to Doc.  With that said, even an occasional listener of this band could hear a difference between 2009’s Earthsblood and 2012’s Equilibrium, both of which have shown GF reaching new ground.  Wicklund undeniably helped bring something new to the table, and he proved to be a good addition.  This new record has fantastic hooks, rhythms, solos, melody, and everything else crucial to making a good metal album.  Be sure to check out “Where We Come From.”  It’s a great song and has a really good music video.

5. Deftones – Koi No Yokan

Released on November 13th, this late 2012 album showed great potential.  As the follow-up to 2010’s Diamond Eyes, Koi No Yokan sees Deftones treading somewhat new territories.  Diamond Eyes sounded like a standard signature Deftones record.  Conversely, the new release is something really special with its outstanding emotional power and new instrumental techniques in addition to the band’s signature sound.  Stand-out tracks include “Leathers,” “Poltergeist,” and “Tempest.”

4. Ellie Goulding – Halcyon

Despite the increase of electronic elements from her debut album, Lights, to 2012’s Halcyon, Ms. Goulding manages to deliver a solid effort with this new release.  While my album review may not show, this album really grew on me.  Most of the songs are exceptionally catchy and have a tasteful amount of electronic aspects included.  While this is indeed a solid release, the most noteworthy songs are as follows: “My Blood,” “Only You,” “Hanging On,” “Figure 8,” and “I Need Your Love [feat. Calvin Harris]”.

3. Testament – Dark Roots of Earth

In my initial review of this release, I absolutely raved about it. My feelings toward this record have not changed one bit.  This is a fantastic effort from Testament, showing why they are known as the unofficial fifth band, if there were to be a “Big Five” and not just “Big Four.”  Dark Roots of Earth is the concoction created when Testament tossed their old school thrash metal roots, Chuck Billy’s heritage, the influence of all of their previous albums, and some elements of modern metal into a blender.  The result was better than any cocktail I have ever tasted.  That’s not saying much, though, seeing as I barely ever drink…

2. The Sword – Apocryphon

Nowadays, I like to preview my music online before I buy it, as any knowledgeable CD buyer would do.  Well, I did a lot of that with Apocryphon.  Being a little tight on money, I have started being more selective in my purchases.  So, when Newbury Comics had a Buy Two, Get One Free deal on all new and used CDs, I pounced on that and grabbed The Sword’s new record, along with those of Deftones and Machine Head (the new live album).  While I thoroughly enjoyed all three CDs off the bat, Apocryphon was my instant favorite.  It was everything a metalhead could ask for from The Sword.  It’s heavy, melodic, and shreds better than the bad guy in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

1. Of Monsters and Men – My Head Is An Animal

Now, this may surprise some of you.  Why would a folksy indie rock band ever be at the top of a “best of” list written by a metalhead?  Well, I will tell you why.  While I do love my hard rock and metal, I like to switch it up every now and then.  When I do that little switch, I like to hear some catchy tunes.  Of Monsters and Men’s My Head Is An Animal provided just that.  The songs just make me want to sing along, and I like that, because I like to sing.  While I enjoy their overplayed single, “Little Talks,” I like “King and Lionheart” better.  It’s just good stuff.  Check it out if you haven’t already.

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[REVIEW] Testament – Dark Roots of Earth

Old school thrash titans, Testament, will release their follow-up to 2008’s The Formation of Damnation on Tuesday, July 31st for North American fans.  Everyone else will hear Dark Roots of Earth today.

As you may have seen in my review of the first two singles off this highly anticipated release, this record sounds very old school with a small modern taste.  The album title accurately portrays the music found within its case.  Testament brought back a lot of their old school thrash roots.  Formation was heavier and had a much more modern sound.  It could have even been called a death metal record and put alongside their 90’s catalog.  On the other hand, Dark Roots is a straight-up, old school thrash shred-fest.

This new album actually has a tribal vibe, for which Chuck Billy’s Native American heritage can be thanked.  With this sound, Chuck returns to his old school thrash singing and veers more away from his death metal growls.  However, his growls can still be found at points on the record.

A slightly surprising aspect of this new album is the use of muffled commentary during songs as if it were a Megadeth song.

Overall, this is a fantastic record.  It will definitely give Overkill’s The Electric Age and Kreator’s Phantom Antichrist a run for their money for the best thrash record of 2012.  Arguably, the best part of Dark Roots of Earth is Alex Skolnick and Eric Peterson’s guitar work in each and every song.  They are both so precise and while a lot of it is solid shredding, there is still more than enough melody involved in each solo.

While every song on this record is solid, my favorites, so far, include “Rise Up” (a heavy thrash anthem-type song), “A Day in the Death” (extremely reminiscent of old school Testament with phenomenal guitar work), and their cover of Queen’s “Dragon Attack” (featured on the deluxe edition), in addition to the rest of the record.  If you typically enjoy Testament’s ballads, check out “Cold Embrace.”  It has an extremely melodic intro and is pretty mellow throughout, at least in terms of the rest of the album.  If you prefer the heavy thrash metal Testament always delivers, listen to the entirety of Dark Roots of Earth!

It should be noted that Gene Hoglan (Death, Dark Angel, Strapping Young Lad, etc.) filled in on drums in the studio for this release as Paul Bostaph had previously left Testament.  A casual listener probably would not know the difference, except that Hoglan’s drums tore everything up on this record.  The whole band sounds tight throughout Dark Roots, raising the surprise that Hoglan had not previously been a regular member.  With that said, however, Hoglan had also filled in on drums for Testament’s 1997 release, Demonic.

 

 


[REVIEW] Testament – “Native Blood” [new song 2012]

San Francisco Bay Area thrash metal legends, Testament, have just released another new track online.  “Native Blood” comes off of their upcoming follow-up to 2008’s Formation of Damnation, which is titled Dark Roots of Earth.  The band previously unleashed a shred-fest of a new song called “True American Hate,” also appearing on the new record.  Both new songs sound like vintage 80’s Testament in every way.  I cannot even say that there is much of a modern tinge, because “Native Blood” sounds like it could be straight off of The New Order (1988) or The Legacy (1987).  However, “True American Hate” sounds slightly more modernized, yet still obviously Testament.  The latter offers more aggression than the former, as hinted at from the song’s title.

Anyway, “True American Hate” has magnificent guitar work, leading the listener to focus mostly on that, and rightfully so.  Both Alex Skolnick and Eric Peterson are phenomenal guitarists, as shown through this one song.

While the aforementioned song is an absolute shred-fest, “Native Blood” is more of a straight-up thrasher.  The listener can easily visualize the mosh pit opening up in a brutal fashion during this song, whereas with “True American Hate,” fans will want to watch the precision and technique of the guitars at work.  That is not to say, though, that “Native Blood” is not a good guitar song, because that would be incorrect.  This song shreds, too, but not to the extent of its predecessor.

The bar for Dark Roots of Earth has been set very high after the premieres of these two songs.  July 31st better come sooner, because the new Testament foretells some major bang-overs (see what I did there?).

Check out “True American Hate” here:


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