So after a year of writing about music on my blog Johnny Ringo Reviews, I’ve learned one important thing: nobody really cares about music reviews. It’s just a sad fact, man…if somebody wants to know if a record is good, they’ll pull it up on Spotify or iTunes and listen for themselves, they don’t need a ten paragraph review describing the essence of the album. With that being said, the real challenge is finding new music that’s even worth listening to on the internet. Therefore, I’m using my monthly reviews column as a way to spotlight the best records released each month. All but two of these albums (Holy Grail and Gruesome Stuff Relish) are located on Spotify, and all albums are completely worth your time if you like heavy music.
Voivod – Target Earth
Next to Metallica, Voivod is one of the first thrash bands I ever fell in love with. Target Earth is their first album ever without original guitarist Denis “Piggy” D’Amour, as well as their first in over twenty years to feature original bassist Blacky. Despite having a new guitarist, the sound on this album is exactly what you’d expect to hear in a Voivod record. It’s got the sci-fi thrash elements from Killing Technology, as well as the groovier elements of albums like Dimension Hatross, in fact, you could really just say that it’s a perfect mixture of the many different styles of Voivod. This was definitely my most anticipated album of the year and it did not disappoint at all.
Cult Of Luna – Vertikal
I got into Cult Of Luna right around 2006 when their album Somewhere Along The Highway came out and they completely blew my mind. Here we are six or seven years later and they still have me scratching my head, shocked at how genuinely awesome they are. Vertikal continues to tread down the post metal path they helped create with Isis and Neurosis, but it also goes a lot deeper than just the standard Cult Of Neurisis riffs. The album actually has a strange, almost robotic feel to it at times. In fact, check out the eighteen minute track “Vicarious Redemption” which features a pretty massive dubstepesque breakdown in the middle that just disintegrates the mind. I fully intended on just reviewing this album after listening to it on Spotify a few times, but after hearing all the nuances in it and how deep and dark it is, I really had no choice but to buy the record and let it do with me what it wilt.
Hatebreed – The Divinity Of Purpose
If you’ve heard of Hatebreed, you obviously don’t need to read this review to find out what this record sounds like. Like almost every other Hatebreed album, Divinity Of Purpose features a punishing mixture of hardcore and thrash, but what separates it a little from past albums in their discography is the addition of catchier hooks, as well as more hardcore influence than past records. The album also features incredibly uplifting, positive lyrics that will brighten up the day of even the hardest of hardcore kids in Terror shorts.
Phil Anselmo/Warbeast – War Of The Gargantuas Split EP
I was initially psyched about hearing this split, because it features the debut of Phil Anselmo’s solo material. In hindsight, it’s kind of a bummer now because it’s gotten me even more psyched for Phil’s actual full length, but it won’t be out for a few more months. Musically, these songs seem to be very similar to what Pantera would sound like if they were able to record an album in 2013. Phil’s two songs “Conflict” and “Family, Friends are loaded with a lot of groove, but plenty of thrash as well, not to mention Phil’s signature vocal style, which is similar to his vocals on the new Down EP. If these songs are any indication of what Phil has in store for the future, the future is bright…and angry. As far as the Warbeast songs go, they are two throwaway songs featuring an old lineup, so they aren’t exactly standout tracks, but they don’t ruin the album by any means.
Blockheads – This World Is Dead
It seems that if there’s one genre in which the folks at Relapse Records never release a dud, it would be grindcore. This is Blockheads’ first album for Relapse, but these French speed-demons are veterans of the genre and they are completely deadly. If you like your grind to be angry, politically-charged and incredibly reminiscent of Nasum, this album is right up your alley.
Rotten Sound – Species At War
Most of what I said about Blockheads is also true for Rotten Sound. They are another example of the incredibly violent, technically proficient grindcore Relapse has been known to crank out over the years. Though this album only contains six songs, none of which are over two minutes, it is still heavy as hell with a nice death metal guitar tone and it absolutely crushes.
Holy Grail – Ride The Void
It seems that any band who plays heavy metal these days always gets thrown into their own little sub-genre. Holy Grail is a band who doesn’t really fall under any category but “heavy metal”. Their sound consists of straight forward, fast-paced riffs with power metalesque vocals and insanely catchy hooks. In fact, in my opinion, “Bestia Triumphans” reminds me of what Avenged Sevenfold would have ended up sounding like if they had never given up on making real heavy metal.
Newsted – Metal EP
This is the new solo project from the former bassist of such thrash icons as Metallica, Voivod and Flotsam and Jetsam, Mr. Jason Newsted. I didn’t know what to expect from an album featuring Jason doing most of the songwriting, but as it turns out, this record is pretty cool. I mean, it’s not really extreme metal or anything, but it’s got elements of thrash as well as straight up hard rock mixed that give it a very Motorheadian vibe. Though this album isn’t exactly perfect, it shows that Newsted is definitely in a good place creatively and I anticipate that the material on his forthcoming solo full length will be as good as most of these songs, if not better.
Denouncement Pyre – Almighty Arcanum
It seems that in the internet age of 2013, everyone and their mother has a black metal project. The problem is, most of those bands are kind of pretentious and lose the point of the genre. Denouncement Pyre are a band who obviously understands what the genre stands for, however, they also clearly understand that black metal is a genre that sounds best when its razor-sharp, insanely evil riffs collide head first with the brutal tone, groove and aesthetic of death metal. I’ve honestly gotten tired of quite a bit of the black metal coming out these days, but this album is one that I haven’t once had the urge to turn off before it’s over and it never actually gets boring.
Gruesome Stuff Relish – Sempiternal Death Grind
First off, I know what you’re thinking and I feel I am asking the same question…”what the hell is a Gruesome Stuff Relish?!”. Though I’m not sure what their name means, or even what the word “Sempiternal” means, I do know that these guys are a straight-up monstrous Spanish goregrind band. Their lyrics are all based on horror movies and their music is very similar to their Spanish goregrind neighbors in Haemorrhage. These guys obviously know their way around a Carcass riff or two, but they don’t really rip them off so much ass they make them incredibly brutal. This is definitely not the kind of band you put on for serious moments of reflection, it’s just wild, crazy, brutla goregrind.