BPMHILL’s Best Albums of 2021

As it turned out, 2020 was only part one of a difficult and frankly batshit time to exist on planet earth. Fortunately, through all the muck that was 2021, we’ve been graced with some truly stunning works of art. These are the albums that were able to blend all the pain and beauty this year had to offer. Here are the albums that I continue to spin since release and will be spinning for the foreseeable future:

Best EP’s:

  1. Bodom After Midnight – “Paint the Sky with Blood”
  2. Cult of Luna – “The Raging River”
  3. Soen – “The Undiscovered Lotus”
  4. Enslaved – “Caravans to the Outer Worlds”
  5. Insomnium – “Argent Moon”

Best Live Albums:

  1. Ulver – “Hexahedron: Live at Henie Onstad Kunstsenter” & “Scary Muzak”
  2. The Pineapple Thief – “Nothing But the Truth”
  3. Enslaved – “Cinematic Tour 2020”
  4. Devin Townsend – “Galactic Quarantine”
  5. Paradise Lost – “At the Mill”

Best Vinyl Variants:

  1. Opeth – Blackwater Park 20th Anniversary & In Cauda Venenum Connoisseur Edition
  2. Esa Holopainen – Silver Lake
  3. Ulver – Vargnatt reissue
  4. Deafheaven – Infinite Granite
  5. White Ward – Love Exchange Failure reissue
  6. Freddy’s Nightmares OST
  7. The Ocean – Phanerozoic I & Phanerozoic II reissues
  8. Between the Buried & Me – Colors II, Come Ecliptic reissue, The Parallax II reissue
  9. Agalloch – Pale Folklore & Bloodbath – Resurrection Through Carnage reissues via Nesi Media
  10. The Dillinger Escape Plan – Ire Works & Miss Machine reissues

Best Studio Albums:

This definitely was not the easiest year to pick a best of list. I enjoyed a ton of albums but ultimately narrowed it down to twenty that have stuck with me for a variety of reasons. There are certainly some that didn’t make the cut and I’m still likely exploring those and haven’t quite figured them out yet. Devin Townsend’s The Puzzle/Snuggles and Swallow the Sun’s Moonflowers being a couple of examples. There are also a few that came very close like Maiden’s Senjutsu and Mol’s Diorama but ultimately I had to cut somewhere so here we are.

  1. At the Gates – “The Nightmare of Being”: What do you mean Carcass isn’t #1?? Well what can I say other than At the Gates put out the album that really defined this year for me. The dudes put out some of their best riffs and catchiest songs to date. “Spectre of Extinction” is easily one of the best songs they’ve written and a track I simply can’t stop listening to. Not only that but ATG went full prog and I’m a damn sucker for that. Check out “The Fall Into Time” for one example of this. This is epic, brutal and exactly what I want from one of the classiest Melo-death bands around. Songs to Listen To: Spectre of Extinction, The Fall Into Time, Eternal Winter of Reason
  2. Harakiri for the Sky – “Maere”: One of the most emotional and heartfelt albums this year comes from Harakiri for the Sky who took things up yet another notch with “Maere”. The album starts with a proper banger in “I, Pallbearer” and doesn’t let up. Songs to Listen To: I, Pallbearer, Sing for the Damage We’ve Done, Song to Say Goodbye
  3. Between the Buried & Me – “Colors II”: Very few bands would risk making a sequel to one of their most beloved albums. Count on BTBAM for fully embracing it and making an album that while attached to the core of the original Colors, is really its own beast entirely. It’s an incredibly varied album and truly distinct. It doesn’t rely on its sibling and yet clever traces of the DNA are woven in. This is how you write a sequel. Songs to Listen To: Revolution in Limbo, The Future is Behind Us, Bad Habits
  4. Leprous – “Aphelion”: While the last album, “Pitfalls”, was somewhat a change of pace for the band, Aphelion manages to mix the sound of that with some of their earlier albums and creates one of their finest moments yet. This has potential to become one of my all time favorites from the group and I’ve yet to grow bored of a single track. Songs to Listen To: Nighttime Disguise, The Silent Revelation, Silhouette
  5. Rivers of Nihil – “The Work”: Rivers of Nihil pulled off quite an ambitious record with “The Work”. This could have easily gone poorly with a fairly big leap from what they did on “Where Owls Know My Name”. Fortunately with this innovative band at the hull, we’re treated to a great blend of genres and excellent songwriting. Songs to Listen To: Clean, Terrestria IV, Wait
  6. Deafheaven – “Infinite Granite”: I’ll admit this one has been all over the map for me but I feel very comfortable where it stands on my list now. I was lucky enough to see the band perform the album front to back live and it changed the full experience for me. If you’ve previously written it off, I highly recommend catching Deafheaven’s 2022 tour if they make a stop in your city. Songs to Listen To: Great Mass of Color, Mombasa, In Blur
  7. Steven Wilson – “The Future Bites”: Possibly my most decisive choice here (along with Deafheaven) but where “To the Bone” felt like a warm up for this direction, Wilson fully commits to an electronic sound. For my money, it works brilliantly. That isn’t to say I don’t miss his guitar led albums like “The Raven that Refused to Sing” but this is still a prog album in its own way. Just perhaps not what most are used to in the traditional sense. There are plenty of masterful tracks to discover here for the open minded. Songs to Listen To: King Ghost, Man of the People, Eyewitness. Note: I’m cheating a little bit as Eyewitness isn’t from the album proper but one of the many great tracks that was recorded during the sessions. How it isn’t on the main album is beyond me as it’s wonderful.
  8. Dream Theater – “A View from the Top”: Did you really think Dream Theater’s latest wouldn’t be on my list? Admittedly, I don’t know if this one will stick with me as much as their last album, “Distance Over Time”, did which is why it’s lower down the list. Regardless, it’s a damn fine collection of songs by one of the best bands out there. Songs to Listen To: Answering the Call, The Alien, A View from the Top
  9. Mastodon – “Hushed & Grim”: This is an overwhelming and lengthy listen and yet it’s absolutely stunning. It may be awhile before I can claim it’s their best since “Crack the Skye”, but I can say with certainty that the band sound on top of their game. This was only further solidified when I saw them perform several of the tracks live earlier this month. Songs to Listen To: Pain with an Anchor, Pushing the Tides, Gigantium
  10. Tribulation – “Where the Gloom Becomes Sound”: I was debating as to which album would ultimately get the final slot in the top 10 and I found that out of the rest of the top 20 here, this is the one I came back to the most. Though it may not beat out 2015’s “The Children of the Night” in the bands discography, it’s a very solid album. Plus the vinyl exclusive track “The Damphir” is one of the best Tribulation songs period. Songs to Listen To: Hour of the Wolf, Leviathans, Funeral Pyre.
  11. Khemmis – “Deceiver”
  12. Vola – “Witness”
  13. Archspire – “Bleed the Future”
  14. Wolves in the Throne Room – “Primordial Arcana”
  15. Spiritbox – “Eternal Blue”
  16. Cynic – “Ascension Codes”
  17. Gojira – “Fortitude”
  18. Carcass – “Torn Arteries”
  19. Soen – “Imperial”
  20. Perturbator – “Lustful Sacraments”

Memo’s Monthly Favorites: June 2021

Hello everybody! Happy 4th of July! We are finally halfway down with the year. Although this hasn’t been a crazy year for music so far, I have a feeling things are going to start picking up. Just this past month there have been a lot of great singles. I’m going to cap it at 6 tracks in this article because I can easily write a ten-page essay on just the singles alone. There were a lot of big-name artists dropping projects this past month. There were a lot of great projects in general released this month. Let’s just hope this summer goes even crazier. I have a few recommendations for you all today. Let’s jump into it.

Song Honorable Mentions:

Nxtime & Dev Lemons – keep in touch: Nxtime X Dev Lemons is a heavenly collaboration we all needed. This bedroom pop track has pretty, dreamy, and quirky production. Although this track is about how difficult dating is, the production gives off some great summery vibes. I like Ray Rubio’s singing, but it is tough to compete with Dev’s performance. She is quickly becoming one of my favorite up-and-coming artists. 

Declaim, MED, and Madlib – All Over The World: This track has Madlib production…do I need to go on? Like most Madlib beats, this track has a chill and lofi feel to it. It has this wonky sound looping in the background. It is honestly a very pretty beat. Both Declaim and MED give great verses. The chorus is dope. If you’re a fan of straightforward boom bap hip hop, definitely don’t miss out on this track. Yall old heads would love this!

Pa Salieu – Glidin’ (feat. slowthai): Brooooooo! THIS SHIT GOES CRAAAZZY!  The chorus on this track is so catchy. It is hard not to groove to this track. Pa Salieu has so much personality. He just seems like a cool person in general. Slowthai absolutely kills his feature. A slowthai feature never misses. This grime beat is absolutely perfect for these two artists. Man UK hip hop is so underrated. Don’t sleep on UK rappers!

Tkay Maidza – Cashmere: Just like the early 2000’s Lakers, Tkay Maidza just got herself a three-peat. SHE HAS NOT MISSED ALL YEAR. This is the third single for her upcoming EP Last Year Was Weird, Vol. 2. Cashmere is probably the best track she released this year. I love the colorful and angelic production. Tkay’s voice is so smooth and pretty. This track is AMAZING! I can’t wait to watch her perform this song in September. I also can’t wait for her new EP. I can’t believe it’s dropping in less than a week!

Remi Wolf – Liz: This month has been a great month for singles. If the competition wasn’t so neck and neck this track could have easily been my favorite song of the month. The instrumental on this track is beautiful. It is another dreamy bedroom pop track with a cool bass and amazing electric guitar playing towards the end of the track. The instrumental is amazing, but it can’t top Remi’s performance. Her singing gives me goosebumps. You can tell Liz means a lot to Remi just by listening to the passion in her voice. Go listen to this track right now.

Album Honorable Mentions:

EXUM – Xardinal Coffee: Mates is back at it with another fire recommendation. Not going to lie, this album is pretty weird, but I love it. EXUM is such an amazing performer. Whether he is rapping, singing, or screaming he always sounds amazing. EXUM reminds me of both Ski Mask the Slump God and IDK, but even more chaotic. I love how well the production compliments EXUM. The beats always match his energy in this diverse tracklist. This album has no misses in my opinion. Go give it a listen.

Backwash – I Lie Here Buried with My Rings and My Dresses: I am in love with this album! The haunting and creepy horrorcore production is to die for. I love the inclusion of metal in this industrial hip-hop album. The rapping is S tier level good. Backxwash can fucking spit man. She gives an incredible performance on basically every track here. Confession time. I just listened to this album for the first time two days ago. I didn’t listen to this album when it first came out because I heard a snippet on twitter and got scared, so I kind of started avoiding this album. I’m glad I did finally give this album a chance because it is quickly becoming one of my favorite albums of the year. I wouldn’t be surprised if I ended up liking this album more than this month’s album of the month. Although this album isn’t for everybody, give it a chance. Maybe you will be pleasantly surprised like me.

Your Old Droog – Time: This is by far one of the most underrated albums of the year. Droog made a great contempt album about time. Time is referenced in each track in one way or another. There are tracks where Droog is talking about his younger self, his career, and even mortality. There is even this very cool storytelling track about a time machine taking people back in time. The lyrics are great. The production is very lush and classy. There are a lot of great features like MF DOOM, Aesop Rock, and Blu. What’s not to love?

Bo Burnham – Inside (The Songs): Let me start off by saying this, the best way to experience these songs is through Bo Burnham’s Netflix comedy album Inside. This comedy album does not flow nicely since it is meant for a comedy special. The reason why I am adding this album is that the highs on this album are HIGH. Some of my favorite tracks of the year are in this album. “Comedy”, “White Woman’s Instagram”, and “Welcome to the Internet” are in constant rotation for me. This album can be very funny, but it can also be depressing. The special is mostly about Bo’s mental state during the pandemic, and you can tell the pandemic had an effect on him while watching the special. I totally recommend this special and album. I am sure you will be able to find something you like.

Mother Mother – Inside: After blowing up on Tik Tok, you would think indie rock band Mother Mother would capitalize the attention by dropping a safe and generic album. Luckily this is not the case. This album does go into a darker approach. The dark mood is the result of the band’s experience during the pandemic. I do really enjoy this darker approach. In fact, I wish they went further with this sound because the album does get more upbeat further into the album. With that said, I do like the serene moments. I think for the most part the band gives a pretty good performance. Even with some flaws, I do really enjoy this album. Give it a try.

Favorite Song of The Month:

Jasiah – Art of War (feat. Denzel Curry & Rico Nasty): When a track starts off with “Yo, this the type of shit to make you curb stomp a newborn baby”, you know it will be an aggressive banger. I love the experimental and industrial production. It is almost as hard-hitting as the rappers. Every rapper here did not miss. Denzel Curry goes in with a fiery flow. Jasiah’s chorus is the type of shit you headbang to. Rico woke up and chose violence. I love how cartoony and squeaky her delivery is. This track is insane. I fucking love it. It definitely deserves to be the song of the month.

Favorite Album of The Month:

Tyler, The Creator – Call Me If You Get Lost: I’m not going to lie, I am a huge fan of Tyler. I am definitely biased, but god damn this is amazing. Tyler really showcased his skill set on this album. The production is great. He somehow mixes this artsy sound with a rugged hip-hop mixtape vibe. DJ Drama’s adlibs definitely further pushes that mixtape sound. Tracks like “LUMBERJACK” and “JUGGERNAUT” are crazy bangers with amazing production. Tyler also shows off his lyrical chops in songs like “WILSHIRE” and “MASSA”. There are a lot of great highlights in the tracklist. Although this isn’t my favorite Tyler album, it is a great way to end off this amazing three-album run.

These are my monthly favorites! Let me know what you have been listening to!

2+2 Reviews: Evergrey, Cult of Luna, Soen, Gojira

Welcome to 2+2 with BPMHill and George Folz.  Thanks for coming back or joining in for the first time and hope you will continue to check out our posts through the year.  We’re expecting a lot of new tracks/albums to come from the summer through fall 2021 as bands start to unleash what they’ve been sitting on during the pandemic.  In the meantime, we have terrific new tracks from Evergrey, Cult of Luna, Gojira and Soen to discuss. 

First up is Evergrey:

Evergrey – The Beholder

BPMHill:  Long time fan of both Evergrey and Dream Theater here, so having a collaboration track between Evergrey and James Labrie, the vocalist of Dream Theater, is kind of a huge deal.

That “The Beholder” is such a catchy and excellent track just makes this collab even more exciting.  

Oddly when this track first dropped on Thursday, I saw several people say they couldn’t find Labrie on the track, which unless they didn’t actually listen to the song, it’s pretty hard to miss his vocals.  Tom Englund’s and Labrie’s vocals are both really distinct and I think the contrast here is part of what makes the track special.  Not to mention that when Labrie comes in, the rest of the music (other than synths) drops out, leaving a perfect spot for Labrie to shine.   

Englund and Labrie are actually two of my favorite vocalists so hearing them work together is a real highlight of the year so far. 

I also have to mention how much I dig the synths throughout this track.  Rikard Zander (keyboards) has been with Evergrey since 2002 and he’s continually added really hooky moments with his keys throughout their discography.  

By the way, this track comes from album number twelve, “Escape of the Phoenix”, for the band and I’m impressed that the singles I’ve heard so far sound as fresh and unique as they do.  I’m eagerly awaiting my copy from Germany as we speak.      

I’m curious George, are you familiar with Evergrey?  If so, have you kept up with them through the years?  I also would love to know your thoughts on Labrie and his work with Englund here.

GF: So, this was the first I’d heard of Evergrey, and the first time I’d heard LaBrie sing in a long time. 

Dream Theater is one of those bands whose chops I respect more than I can say, but I just… it’s hard for me to get into their music as a whole. 

Strangely enough, the DT tune I listen to most often is a live medley off of their, “A Change of Seasons EP.” It’s basically them running through various sections of, “The Rover,” “Achilles Last Stand,” and “The Song Remains the Same,” with LaBrie outsinging Robert Plant at every turn.

Pretty great stuff.

I really appreciated this, as it had a really classic metal feel to me– something that could cruise comfortably in the lane of the tunes found on “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath.”

The three most formative bands when it came to my metal experience as a young person were Metallica, Deftones, and Sabbath, so I’m always appreciative of a heavier tune where there’s some real-deal singing involved. Both LaBrie and Tom Englund show up to work here, and I’m for it.

I actually dug the synths a lot here, too. I felt like they really added a lot of color to the track– warm earth tones, that sound hot, without overwhelming the other instruments. 

While not especially long, the song has a somewhat epic feel about it, and I appreciate that too. It kinda towers in its own particular way, and I think that’s cool.

Cult of Luna – Three Bridges

GF: I’m not gonna lie, YouTube is kinda killing it with their music recommendations as of late.

In February, they showed me the VOLA track we reviewed, and this month, they put me back onto Cult of Luna.

I’ll admit, I’m not SUPER familiar with CoL’s music, but the first time I heard, “Vertikal,” wayyyyyyyyy back in October of 2012, I made note of it.

While this track has been out for a couple of months now, the EP that it’s from, “The Raging River,” just came out on February 5th.

It’s the EP’s introductory track, and what an introduction it is.

The song begins as a low-key, eerie, affair, that almost has shades of industrial music to my ears? 

I think one of the things that endeared this to me is that when the screamed vocals come in, the music doesn’t explode in the background as a compliment, or, at least not initially. It’s an unconventional choice, and I think it only adds to how uncomfortable the minor-key magic is, bubbling in the background?

The song doesn’t really develop anything along the lines of traditional, “pretty,” melodic work until about a third of the way into the song, and after it’s initial introduction, it slips into the background.

I think what I appreciate most about this song is how intentional it is– the band knows exactly where to layer what, and how to both add and subtract flavors to give this some seasoning that’s almost proggy?

Idk– how did you feel about these elements of the song, Brandon? As someone who’s listened to more Cult of Luna than I, does this feel like a real evolution of their sound? What are your thoughts?

BPMHill: George, I’m so glad you’re rediscovering Cult of Luna.  I think they’re one of the most consistent post-whatever bands around.  Even if the tracks on the “The Raging River” EP are leftovers from “A Dawn to Fear” (their last full length), they are all uniformly good songs.  

“Three Bridges” is one of my favorite songs offered on the EP.  It might be a touch predictable for the band but I don’t think that hurts the track in any way.  It reminds me a little of the atmosphere they had on their album, “Eternal Kingdom”, which I absolutely love so I’m all for a continuation of that style.

Johannes Persson’s absolute throat destruction just blows my mind every time.  He’s very precise live as well and I think he’s at the top of his game right now.  I actually filmed a bit of their last concert in LA so you can see what I mean on my Insta:

Also, to your point George, I love when the vocals come in, as perhaps what you might expect to happen musically, doesn’t.  Cult of Luna are masters at this kind of foreplay.  They build layer upon layer and then (sometimes abruptly) will leave your jaw on the floor.  

The section that does this the most for me is the buildup at around the six minute mark.  It’s haunting and you know we’ve been building to a crushing climax and then Johannes comes back in, along with drums.  Also, good point on the proggy, yet organic nature of the structure here.  I definitely feel that as well.  As typical, Cult of Luna delivers.

Soen – Lumerian

BPMHill:  What a killer opening to the new album, “Imperial”, from Soen.  I liked the singles initially released, but this has become my favorite track on the album.  Love Lopez’s intro on drums and Cody Ford’s opening riff.  It really kicks off the song in an exciting manner.

I’m also a huge fan of the production on this song.  It’s really clean and you can hear every instrument and Joel’s vocals clearly.

When this band first appeared, some were quick to dismiss them as a TOOL and Opeth worship group, but I think the band is really operating on their own level entirely.  Particularly here on their fifth album.  They sound like Soen…which is a very good thing.  

The chorus is hooky and I think it’ll play exceptionally well live with an audience.  While everyone in the group is a technical player, their particular blend of prog metal generally doesn’t go off on random tangents with insane guitar solo’s.  While I’m all for that style too, it doesn’t suit what Soen has been aiming for  

“Lumerian” balances some heavy riffage with top-tier clean vocals, in addition to some light but stunning synths.  I can’t wait to see where the band goes from here. 

Gojira – Born for One Thing

GF: So, I’m gonna lose any and all metal cred that I might have, because (I think) this is *winces* the FIRST Gojira song I’ve heard.

I know, I know… sinful.

But, do you ever have that thing with a band where you’re like, “Oh, I know I’m gonna love them. There’s no rush to check them out, because I’m sure they’re gonna be great?”

That’s how I’ve felt about Gojira for as long as I’ve known about them.

In any case, this song has sold me.


There are pinch harmonics…

There’s some OG Slayer flavor…

The bass rides up in certain spots, and goes to WORK, WORK, when it’s not busy sounding like Clayface, engaging in a mutation celebration (#rhymeslikedimes).

In any case, I pretty much love all parts of this song. The chorus was a little bit of a hard sell for me at first, but I’ve come to appreciate it, as I feel like it almost throws a little bit of swag and groove into the mix. That’s not especially common in modern day metal, and I’m glad they’re rocking with that sound.

I had to draw two different St. Louis apartment complexes this week for a commission, and this powered at least one of those drawings, exclusively.

This is a muscular tune, with equal doses of immediacy and panic, so it gets two thumbs up from me.

If you like what you’ve heard, drop us a note in the comments section and please support the artists.

BPMHILL’s Best Albums of 2020

More than almost anything in a hellish year that we’ve all just had, music has been the glue keeping me together. No matter what mood I’m in, there’s a variety of great new tunes that can either help me feel better or conquer whatever problem is in front of me. I found that this year in particular I was not only listening to older records I’ve always loved but also exploring a lot of new artists I had previously not given a chance. I’m so glad I had some time to really dig into new artists as there were several great finds, some of which are on this list. Without further ado, here are my favorite Albums, EP’s and Live releases for the year.

Best EP’s:

I don’t always mention EP’s on my lists but when I do it’s because they’re F*#@in’ awesome so maybe check these out.

  1. Nuclear Power Trio – “A Clear and Present Rager”
  2. Soilwork – “A Whisp of the Atlantic
  3. Ihsahn – “Telemark” and “Pharos”
  4. Carcass – “Despicable”
  5. Thomas Giles – “Feel Better”

Best Live Albums/Virtual Streaming Shows:

Since mid-March in the US, artists had to start cancelling their tour plans and many bands either released killer previously recorded live albums or got creative and did a live streaming show (or both if you’re Devin Townsend).

  1. Devin Townsend – “Order of Magnitude: Empath Live Vol 1” (and all of his virtual shows)
  2. Katatonia – “Dead Air” (Live Stream/Album)
  3. Greg Puciato – “Fuck Content” (Live Stream/Album)
  4. Deafheaven – “10 Years Gone” (Live in Studio)
  5. Tesseract – “Portals” (Live Stream)
  6. Dream Theater – “Distant Memories: Live in London” (Live Release)
  7. The Black Dahlia Murder – “Yule ‘Em All” (Live Stream)
  8. Insomnium – “Winter’s Gate” (Live Stream)
  9. Imperial Triumphant – “An Evening With Imperial Triumphant” (Live Stream)
  10. Leprous & Ihsahn (Live Stream)
  11. Swallow the Sun (Live Stream)
  12. Iron Maiden – “Nights of the Dead: Live in Mexico City” (Live Release)

Best Studio Albums:

  1. Haken – “Virus”: The album I’ve listened to the most and has stuck with me through the year. Haken continue their upward trajectory with “Virus”, one of their best albums yet. Incredibly catchy vocal melodies and terrific musicianship. Do NOT miss. Songs to listen to: Canary Yellow, Prosthetic, Carousel
  2. Intronaut – “Fluid Existential Inversions”: Intronaut knocked it out of the park with their latest album. New drummer, Alex Rudiner, adds a new layer to the band and his work (along with the rest of the band) is very impressive. I keep coming back to this album and rotating my favorite songs as every single one is great. Songs to listen to: The Cull, Cubensis, Pangloss
  3. Imperial Triumphant – “Alphaville”: I know I’ve said it before but Imperial Triumphant are one of the best bands today and you’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t listen to their new album, “Alphaville”. Featuring some of the best musicianship this year or any other, they are not a band you simply put on in the background. This is a challenging, disgusting and truly rewarding listen. I can’t wait to see what the group does next. Songs to listen to: City Swine, Atomic Age, Transmission to Mercury
  4. Myrkur – “Folkesange”: I can always count on Myrkur to do something different with each new album and on this one, she does away with any trace of metal and instead embraces folk entirely and it’s beautiful. Songs to listen to: Leaves of Yggdrasil, House Carpenter, Harpens Kraft
  5. The Ocean – “Phanerozoic II: Mesozoic | Cenozoic”: Confusing album title aside, The Ocean continue evolving with one of their finest albums to date and one of the most enthralling works of art about (checks scribbled notes while listening to said album)…dinosaurs since “Jurassic Park”. Songs to listen to: Jurassic |Cretaceous, Triassic, Holocene
  6. Enslaved – “Utgard”: I’ll admit that this album took awhile to stick for me but when it finally clicked, I fell for it. I should never doubt Enslaved as every album is excellent. The band is at their creative best and have a seemingly endless amount of brilliant riffs at their disposal. Songs to listen to: Homebound, Storms of Utgard, Flight of Thought and Memory
  7. Greg Puciato – “Child Soldier: Creator of God”: If you’ve been reading my posts for a bit, you’ll already know I’m a big fan of Greg’s and thus two releases with him made my top ten. His debut solo album is absolutely stunning. On an initial listen, it might seem bi-polar in nature, bouncing between aggressive songs like “Fire for Water” to dark synth-wave tracks like “Temporary Object”. However, I found the more spins I gave it, the more it opened up to me and all the pieces came together to form a truly wonderful piece of art. Songs to listen to: Temporary Object, A Pair of Questions, Fire for Water
  8. Old Man Gloom – “Seminar VIII: The Light of Meaning & Seminar IX: Darkness of Being”: Old Man Gloom made a new double album and it’s both devastating and crushing. Aaron Turner has been one busy dude between this band, Sumac, his solo albums and multiple other projects but somehow every single release is top-notch. This release is one of the bands most varied and perfect for newcomers to start with. Songs to listen to: Death Rhymes, By Love All is Healed, The Bleeding Sun
  9. Killer Be Killed – “Reluctant Hero”: This insanely talented group have been secretly working on their second full length for a few years. The time since their debut has given the musicians a chance to stew on each track and it really paid off. This is even better than their first release and a must-listen for metal fans of all kinds. Songs to listen to: The Great Purge, Dream Gone Bad, Deconstructing Self-Destruction
  10. Finntroll – “Vredesvävd”: We’ve had to wait seven long, cold years in between albums but Finntroll made it count with their seventh studio album. Catchy and inventive, there’s no band that sounds quite like them and that’s a very good thing. Songs to listen to: Att Doda Med En Sten, Forsen, Mask
  11. Paradise Lost – “Obsidian”
  12. Ulver – “Flowers of Evil”
  13. The Black Dahlia Murder – “Verminous”
  14. White Stones – “Kuarahy”
  15. John Petrucci – “Terminal Velocity”
  16. Pallbearer – “Forgotten Days”
  17. Katatonia – “City Burials”
  18. Silent Skies – “Satellites”
  19. The Night Flight Orchestra – “Aeromantic”
  20. Sumac – “May You Be Held”

In case you missed it, here’s my list of top songs for the year. For more Best Albums lists check out FancyMemo‘s, and UndercoverSadGirl‘s lists.

Metal in the Morning – Imperial Triumphant’s “Excelsior”

One of my absolute favorite discoveries this year has been the band, Imperial Triumphant. Their new album, “Alphaville”, is phenomenal and will (SPOILER) definitely be on my Best of 2020 list.

The group has been making the most of their time in quarantine, not only releasing “Alphaville”, but they recently did a live concert, made some kick-ass coffee, and now have a brand new music video for their track, “Excelsior”. As expected, it freakin’ rules.

Check it out below and if you dig it, support Imperial Triumphant on Bandcamp.

Metal in the Morning – Enslaved’s “Jettegryta”

Enslaved have been a fascinating band to watch evolve since their inception in the early 90’s. Their first few albums such as “Vikingligr Veldi” and “Frost” were icy Viking black metal but with enough twists and turns to stand out from the numerous other bands in the genre. Their next several albums continued in this direction but it was clear they weren’t interested in repeating themselves. They’ve consistently progressed and have added new sounds and incredibly catchy riffs on each album. Personally, I’m a huge fan of their run of albums between “Below the Lights” and “Axioma Ethica Odini” but the band is consistently putting out excellent and varied releases so they never fail to impress. With their fifteenth album, “Utgard”, about to release, Enslaved have proven they aren’t stopping anytime soon. If anything, they are continuing to embrace new ideas and push boundaries even further. They’ve also brought a new drummer along for the ride. Iver Sandøy goes all Phil Collins, pulling double duty with drums and clean vocals on some tracks. Anyhow, “Jettegryta” is their second single of three and is probably my favorite song so far. That opening riff. That first howling death growl. That shift at the three minute mark which is so epic. The song kicks so much ass. May Enslaved forever reign.

“Utgard” will be released October 2nd.

Additionally, the music video is insanely cool. Check it out here:

Fresh Earworms – Haken “Virus” Review

UK’s Haken has returned with “Virus”, a thematic and conceptual follow up to their 2018 album, “Vector”, with references to classic tracks like “Cockroach King” from 2013’s “The Mountain”.  Their new album and sixth overall, is one of their finest albums to date.  Haken began work on “Virus” back when writing “Vector” in 2017 and the timely title was purely coincidental with the current pandemic.  Serving as both a terrific new album for fans and a great entry point for those just beginning their journey with the band, “Virus” captures the band in peak creative form.

What I’ve really come to appreciate with Haken’s output is their refusal to stay in one lane for too long.  Similarly to bands like Between the Buried and Me and Leprous, every album since their debut pushes them further both in terms of technicality, songwriting and even genre.  While “Affinity” is a hard album to top for me personally (and is one of my favorite prog metal albums period), the band is really doing some incredible work on “Virus” and they deserve to net an even bigger audience with this one.  Haken has created a story arc that expands across multiple albums but it still manages to feel contained and fresh.    

First track and single, “Prosthetic”, absolutely rips.  This is one of Haken’s heaviest tracks to date.  The chorus is catchy and I love vocalist Ross Jennings’ work here. The guitar solo is also top-notch.  This opening section gives me strong “Honor Thy Father” vibes.  While Haken has always clearly had some inspiration from Dream Theater (and let’s be honest, what prog band in the last decade or so doesn’t), they’ve always found unique ways to sprinkle their influences in.  

Next up is “Invasion” and one of the other singles released prior to album launch.  This track is really hooky and has several really tasty riffs.  I’m particularly fond of when the vocals kick in at the beginning.  The chorus is also catchy and there is some great interplay between Connor Green on bass, Richard Henshall and Charlie Griffiths on guitars and Raymond Hearne on drums throughout.   

The third track, “Carousel”, might be my favorite track on the album.  It features excellent vocals from Ross but I also really dig the structure and sound here.  It goes in unpredictable directions and features excellent musicianship from all members.  I particularly love where it goes around the four minute mark.  Also, that absolutely stunning segment a little after the seven minute mark.  This is probably unintentional, but nonetheless, I appreciate the lyric regarding “sinking in the mire” which reminded me of the vastly underappreciated track, “Beneath The Mire”, by Opeth.  Regardless, “Carousel” is Haken crafting one of their best songs to date. 

The fourth track, “The Strain”, reminds me of a few tracks from “Affinity”, mainly “Red Giant” and “The Endless Knot”.  It certainly sets itself apart though.  While this song took the longest to sink in for me, over the many listens, it has finally opened up for me. I particularly like the section in the middle of the song where Ross sings “When did we make our peace, violence?”  The outro is also a strong finish to the song.  

The fifth track, “Canary Yellow”, gives me chills.  Really epic and beautiful all in the span of four minutes.  The ending of this one is truly amazing and I can’t wait to hear it live.  I may be alone here but parts of this track remind me of the song, “The Garden”, from Rush.  

Also, they produced another music video for this track and it’s really wonderful too.  It reminds me a little of Jess Cope’s videos for Steven Wilson, which is to say, this video is gorgeous.      

The behemoth “Messiah Complex” follows and this is one of the bands best long tracks.  They’ve consistently had at least one lengthy track since their debut, “Aquarius”, and while it isn’t their longest, it’s a great mix of what Haken does best.  It also references “The Mountain”, in the lyrics and songwriting.  I also appreciate what Diego Tejeida is doing on keyboards during this song (and throughout the album).  He is a balanced player that can be front and center one moment and then he will layer thoughtful and subtle keys underneath the rest of the band members.  Anyhow, this song comes to a momentous close and will surely become part of the bands setlists in the future.  

The final track, “Only Stars”, is short and sweet.  It wraps up both “Virus” and previous album, “Vector”, beautifully.  It’s reminiscent of “The Path Unbeaten”, which though that was a bonus track on “The Mountain”, tied everything up neatly.  

Haken worked once again with Adam Nolly Getgood on the mix and in my opinion, this is one of their best sounding albums.  If you enjoyed “Virus”, I also highly recommend checking out the instrumental mixes that come with the deluxe edition as it’s a real treat to hear all the layers underneath the vocals. 

“Virus” is now available digitally on ITunes and Amazon, while the deluxe physical edition can be found on Century Media’s site.

Fresh Earworms – Thomas Giles “Feel Better” EP Review

Just a quick introduction as I’m new to Indie Pong.  I’m your resident metalhead but I do dabble in the genres & sub-genres in and slightly out of metal including rock, prog, and even synthwave (the darker the better).  I’m the guy who wears a Ghost shirt one day and Dream Theater the next, with probably a Nile hat for good measure.  Anyhow, whether you enjoy death, black, thrash, tech, djent, symphonic, power, prog, post, doom, speed, whatever-core or any amalgamation of those sub-genres, I’ve got you covered with the latest and greatest. 

Some may be familiar with Thomas Giles as the singer of the incredibly diverse prog metal band from North Carolina, Between the Buried and Me (AKA BTBAM).  He’s also offered guest vocals on notable albums from Devin Townsend, Ayreon and August Burns Red.  What you may not know is that he has been putting out top-notch solo releases between his main band albums for years and with a brand new, surprise release EP out called “Feel Better”, it’s time to dive into his individual work.  His last full length from 2018 entitled, “Don’t Touch the Outside”, was a good album that further showcased the many talents of Giles.  The single from that album, “Milan”, featuring Kristoffer Rygg of Ulver, is a perfect starting place with Giles’ solo work and also a nice bridge into this EP.  “Feel Better” further solidifies this direction with three new tracks that are lush, emotive and uplifting.  Just what you need during the continued quarantine.  

The first track up is Fade It Out.  Bear with me, but I get slight Springsteen’s “Secret Garden” vibes during parts of this song, particularly at about the 2:17 mark.  In any case, I really like what Giles is doing on this one.  It’s straight forward but effective and the combination of keys, guitar and Giles’ always satisfying vocals are really special here.  

Next up is Never Enough.  Love the keys Giles lays down on this one.  The chorus also reminds me a bit of what Tommy offers with BTBAM (“Dim Ignition” from the “Coma Ecliptic” album comes to mind) but slowed down and more ambient.

The final track of the EP is Better, which is the most relaxing track offered here and the one I responded the most to.  Highly recommend listening to the FLAC files on high quality headphones and letting this one wash over you.  I’ve been a fan of Thomas Giles since 2005 when BTBAM released their now classic album, Alaska.  It has been very impressive to see how much Giles has continued to improve as a vocalist and musician overall and his solo releases continue to show just how versatile he is.    

Feel Better EP is now available on Bandcamp, Itunes, Spotify and most other digital platforms.  Check it out and let me know what you think in the comments.

Hot Stuff 2020 (Metal)

Week in and wee out I’m searching for the hottest of the new music…yes also in this metal world… Metal, Doom, Stoner, Psychedelic Rock, Death Metal, Black Metal, Sludge Metal, Progressive Rock, Avant Garde Metal, Noise Rock, Alernative, Experimental… you name it.

This is Week 10 of this 2020 and right now 90 tracks in this Playlsit full of riffs4u. This week 10 new additions https://open.spotify.com/playlist/030P0s9johBplxVtcw6fkV?si=ZYm7lX_iR5my3NlSzchrEA


Here we can fin some really known bands such as Trivium (close to 2 M followers at Spotify) with their new single Catastrophist released last week or some very unknow but really powerfull including Basalt from Sao Paulo Brazil (Doom Black Metal just over 200 followers) so the name of the game is the same as always is… #SUPPORT !!!

Also you can find Intronaut and their new album Fluid Existential Inversions 9 tracks and 53 minutos of great progressive metal the best you can find this year so far. And the new album by Wasted Shirt (Ty Segall and Brian Chippendale from Lighning Bolt) Noise rock a thing to be heard no doubt (IMHO mandatory).

Novena from the UK and their three singles released so far of their debut album Eleventh Hour out March 06 (also progressive metal)

Havok (trash) just 6 days afeter they release their single Phantom Force is already over the 60 K streams (Spotify) part of the new album “V” out May 01.

Hyborian (desert rock / stoner) and ther Volum II out March 20 and 8 track work already out three and here the oppening track Driven By Hunger.

Etherius is a band that I’m really excited for, an instrumental progressive metal band that I really enjoy and I’ve following for a while since their begining and seams this is only a single, let’s wait and see if there is more coming.

And finaly but not least Demise of the Crown from Canada and their second single Fixated part of their upcoming album Life in the City no exactly date yet but at some point next summer.

Never enough riffs but it’s all for this week, see you next!!!