Album Retrospective

Retrospective #9 – Tool

Tool are a band from Los Angeles, California. Forming in 1990, the bands original line-up included Maynard James Keenan, Adam Jones, Danny Carey and Paul D’Amour. 1995 saw the bands one and only line-up change when D’Amour was replaced by Justin Chancellor. Tool have released a mere 5 albums throughout their history!

It was June 1997, and I was somewhat indifferently watching MTV, when this video started that led to Tool becoming 1 of my top 3 favourite bands. The song was ‘Stinkfist’ and I remember being absolutely blown away by both the song and the video. I have been fortunate to see them live on just 2 occasions. First time was in 2001 at London’s Brixton Academy and then again in 2006 at London’s Wembley Arena. You will note the 2 venues are in London and fortunately, I lived in the South of England for 20 years.  Currently on tour in Europe in 2022, it is with a high degree of extreme disappointment that this tour does not include a date or 2 in Scotland.

The fact that I have only ever seen them live on 2 occasions is disgraceful, considering the extremely high regard I hold them in. That said, at least we have the albums.

Please welcome Retrospective #9, Tool.

Album Retrospective – Tool

Following the success of 1992’s debut EP, ‘Opiate’, Tool made the decision to lean away from the EP’s heavy sound, potentially as an anti-thesis to the burgeoning Grunge scene, but more than likely to create more atmosphere to Keenan’s dark and twisted lyrical content. Released in 1993, the album was called Undertow and it identified Tool as an incredible, technically proficient, band with deep and insightful lyrics, albeit with the dark undertones mentioned. ‘Prison Sex’, probably the best song on the album, is about child abuse. Nobody in 1992 was writing lyrics like this, we had not long emerged from the horrific Hair Metal scene, with bands like Motley Crue singing about girls or smoking in the boy’s room – you know, real intelligent stuff!  Meanwhile, Tool were getting videos withdrawn from MTV due to their lyrical content.

This was the only album to feature Paul D’Amour, and it is something he should be incredibly proud of being part of. In listening to the album as part of the retrospective, I totally lost my shit during ‘Bottom’, another stunning track.

Undertow is an album that demands your attention. With incredible videos featuring Adam Jones designed Stop-Motion techniques, Tool merely hint at that artistic future of the bands vision and sound.  8/10

September 1996 saw the release of their 2nd album, Ænima. If I were to concoct a list of my top 5 favourite albums of all time, this one would be near the top. There are very few albums I would deem as perfect, but Ænima is, to my mind, perfect. Be it through the cleverly placed interludes, the moments of extreme heaviness, sitting alongside superbly executed time signatures, there is absolutely no criticism that should be made about this album. When I heard ‘Stinkfist’ for the first time, I immediately went out to buy the CD. I was absolutely obsessed with the album from day 1.

Needless to say, the band still courted controversy with their lyrical content – again by MTV who refused to use the songs name when playing ‘Stinkfist’. ‘Die Eier von Satan’ is another controversial track. Designed to sound like a 1930’s Nazi rally, the industrial track is essentially a recipe for a Hash cake.

But it isn’t the controversies that make this album, it is the sheer quality of the tracks on offer, it is the way the album makes you lose your mind, makes you sing along to every single song and ultimately gives you goosebumps.  Perfection 10/10

It was then nearly 5 full years before we would hear a new Tool album. Yes, we had the Salival box set (which I only mention as I own it), but legal battles created by the folding of their record lable would apparently hinder the growth of the band. Well, it should have, but for the fact that Tool decided to write another absolute classic! Lateralus was released in May 2001 and eager fans, including myself, immediately gobbled it up. I remember buying it on the day of release, playing it constantly as I strived to learn all the lyrics. This was especially helpful when they band got 2 of the albums best tracks, ‘Parabola’ and ‘Schism’ onto the Guitar Hero game.

Salival by Tool

I loved the transition Tool were making into their sound, a more progressive form of metal and I was overjoyed when I got to see them live for the first time on this tour, especially at an iconic venue that is famed for its excellent acoustics, Brixton Academy.  I remember watching in absolute awe, just staring at the stage as the band exceeded the sky high expectations I had of seeing them live. 2001 was a good year! 9/10

Another 5 years and Tool were ready to release the 4th album. Called 10,000 Days, we were able to buy it in the UK at the beginning of May. I have the copy with the ‘eye glasses’, a gimmick that I don’t actually think benefits the album, but that is irrelevant. The songs themselves went even deeper into progressive territory and, again, many of them were absolute bangers, in particular the opening track, ‘Vicarious’. Yet again, the song made it on to a Guitar Hero game, demonstrating the popularity.

My life, around this time, was in a bit of a state, but I still managed to grab the chance to see the band at Wembley Arena in London, a far bigger, and far less awesome a venue than Brixton Academy. This time, I was in a seat with my friend, Simon, as we eagerly watched Mastodon open for the band. When Tool arrived, Maynard was situated on a riser in the back left of the stage, beside Danny and the drums, with Justin and Adam taking prominence at the front. Essentially a silhouette throughout the set, I again watched the band, awestruck at how cool it looked and how Tool were a proper band and that I was so happy that they were back! 9/10

My Favourite Tool T-Shirt
T-Shirt Back Print

Alas, my optimism that Tool were back was misplaced. As months became years and rumour replaced rumour, and as with so many of the bands I listened to in my 20s and early 30s, I grew apart from their music, listening to the albums less and less. Like many Tool fans, I didn’t think we would ever see the new album. Hope was just about extinguished, with potential release dates being mooted and then changed.

Then, in 2019, news broke of 2 new songs being played at a festival in the USA.  2 new songs…. I was beside myself. Then, in August 2019, Fear Inoculum was released and…. I didn’t buy it! Yes, I listened it on Spotify, as Tool had recently put their catalogue on streaming platforms, but they did not provide a ‘normal’ CD for anybody to buy. Instead, we had to buy a special edition at an exorbitant price, something I was, and am still not, willing to do. I love Tool and this is the only album I don’t own.  I go by the mantra buy, don’t Spotify, but I cannot do it on this occasion.

It is a shame, as Fear Inoculum is a fine album, albeit one that doesn’t really match up to the predecessors. Perhaps this is because of the excellent side projects the guys have had over the years, or more than likely it is because my musical taste changed drastically in the intervening 13 years between albums.  That said, I hope we get a new album fairly rapidly, with ‘normal’ version for us to purchase. 8/10

Listening to each of the albums during this retrospective, it is immediately obvious that the standard of each album is impeccable. The timelines between the releases has also not blunted the affection that I, and many others have for Tool. I now just hope for a Scottish date in the upcoming months so that I can see them live once again, as I don’t want to wait another 10+ years for this to happen.

Album Ranking

  1. Ænima
  2. Laterlus
  3. 10,000 Days
  4. Undertow
  5. Fear Inoculum

Off the beaten track – Check out the numerous Danny Carey Drum Cam videos on Youtube, although with nearly 24m views of We can assume most readers of this blog will have seen them.

Album Retrospective

Retrospective #8 – Therapy?

Therapy? are a band from Northern Ireland originally formed in 1989 by Andy Cairns and Fyfe Ewing. After recording their first demo, they recruited Michael Mckeegan on bass guitar. Both Andy and Michael have been the mainstay throughout the bands 15 studio albums.

My introduction to Therapy? was at Castle Donington’s ‘Monsters of Rock’ festival in 1994. I remember being on the band’s right-hand side of the stage (left hand side from the fans viewpoint), watch a trio tear up the stage early on in the afternoon. My abiding memory is Andy Cairns opening his mouth wide and it looking like a massive black hole due to the goatee he was sporting. Their set was absolutely fantastic and I immediately started buying their CD’s after returning from the festival. To my eternal shame, I cannot recall seeing the band again since – I possibly have, I used to booze a wee bit at festivals and have rather, lets refer to them as, ‘hazy’ memories, but I have never seen a dedicated Therapy? tour. That said, one of my favourite ever band t-shirts (sadly gone) was red, featuring the name Therapy? on my left breast, with a huge question mark and the word ‘Irony’ written on the back. If the band ever read this blog, I’d buy this t-shirt again if they re-issued it!

As Therapy? are still an active band, I have the opportunity see them in the future.

Please welcome to part 1 of Retrospective #8, Therapy?.

Album Retrospective – Therapy?.

1991 saw the debut ‘album’ from Therapy?, entitled Babyteeth. With its short running length and featuring only 7 tracks, it is slightly longer than an EP but shorter than an album. Incredibly raw, the album doesn’t really have any real stand-out tracks, with only the single, ‘Meat Abstract’ really making any sort of impact. It is probably fair to say that, back then, my musical taste would have caused me to write Therapy? off if this was my first introduction to the band. Fortunately, it wasn’t, and so I can see the mini-album for what it is, a stepping stone to greatness.  5/10

Early 1992 saw the 2nd release from Therapy?, Pleasure Death. Again, it is a massive stretch to call this an album due to the lack of tracks and running time, but I have decided to include it in the retrospective in an effort to elucidate the growth of the band. Pleasure Death is a step up from their debut. It allowed the band to impact on the Independent Charts, demonstrating a growing maturity with a sound that hinted at an alternative punk genre.

Similar to their previous release, there are few stand-out tracks. It is an album of the whole rather than the individual, with only ‘Potatoe Junkie’ making any real impact. However, Pleasure Death saw the band courted by major labels, before they settled on A&M Records for, what I would describe as their debut album proper. 5/10

As these 2 releases are not proper albums, they will not form part of my Album rating in this retrospective.

Later on in 1992, the band released ‘Nurse’on the A&M label. The album eschews their previous punk leanings, introducing what has been described as a more, ‘grunge’ sound. Whilst I dispute this comparison, there can be no doubt that the boys were beginning to gain their own self-identity and the delivery on ‘Nurse’ reflected this. That said, once again, to myself at least, there is only 1 stand-out track on the album, namely ‘Teethgrinder’. This is an album that is not as good as people think it is, and once again, it is an album that didn’t immediately grab me when I bought it, albeit long after its initial release. However, the next album was about to change everything for the band. 5/10

In 1994, I went to my 2nd Monsters of Rock Festival, where the 2nd band to appear on the main stage was Therapy?. They blew my tiny mind. It wasn’t long after that I had a shiny CD in my fledgling CD collection filed under ‘T’. Yes, I file my music in alphabetical and chronological order.

Troublegum, in my humble opinion, has a subtle hint of classic about it. This is the first Therapy? release to have multiple tracks that stand-out. Released in 1994, it opens with ‘Knives’ and you know that this is a band who have discovered who they are. Long gone are the punky leanings of the 2 mini-albums, with their 2nd A&M album also delivering a robust boot to the testicles of the previous release.

Ironically, a friend from my university days, am man I wish I was still in touch with, told me in 1996 that the bands earlier releases were far superior to Troublegum. Will, my friend, if you ever read this, I would love to have a beer with you to see if you think the same way, hell I’d like to have a beer anyway.

There are issues with the album. Although it consistently holds your attention. It is front loaded. The best songs would be side A of a record. I found that on listening for this retrospective, it was the first half of the album that reminded me more of my life in the mid 90’s. Although a minor quibble, it did disappoint me a little. 8/10

1995 saw the release of the band 3rd full album, ‘Infernal Love’. I remember playing this at work, working in a bakery where my brother and I ‘ruled’ the CD player. Alas, my brothers taste in music is not the same as mine and so this album went down like a lead balloon. The band made a decision, let’s call it a dubious decision, to fill the ‘gaps’ between songs with what can only be described as am ambient distracting annoyance. This was incredibly disappointing, as there are a number of decent tracks on the album, a number of which are ballads. It would be interesting to hear a thoroughly modern remix of this album without the incidental nonsense.

This album was unfairly maligned in my opinion. Although not as strong as Troublegum, it again demonstrates the progression of the band. I love ‘Me vs You’ and ‘Misery’ is a truly brilliant track. This album still has a warm place in my 90’s heart. 7/10

1996 saw founding member and drummer, Fyfe Ewing, leave the band, as well as seeing the band add a cellist in Martin McCarrick. After all, what rock band cannot be improved by a cellist. To be fair, the dude also played guitar!

Semi-Detached was the 4th full album released in 1998 and it has a handful of bangers about it. ‘Safe’ is a truly superb song and ‘Stay Happy’ also impresses. Although the loss of Fyfe Ewing was probably felt keenly by the remaining duo, the album doesn’t reflect this. It is an enjoyable romp, shorn of the shenanigans of the interludes interrupting the previous album. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this album in my retrospective, as I didn’t remember it as being so strong. 7/10

 Not long after, 1999 to be precise, Therapy released, what this retrospective has determined, my favourite album. Suicide Pact – You First does not merely have a dark title, it is a dark album. Although the first 2 tracks are incredibly strong, it is ‘Jam Jar Jail’ where Therapy? really hit their stride. This song is truly stunning. Another banger is ‘Ten Year Plan’ where I have my favourite lyric by the band, ‘I just wanna get drunk and headbang’.   This album has nothing but top tunes and my retrospective reaffirmed by love.  9/10

In 2001, I was a couple of years out of University, living with my 1st ex-fiancée and having to have a real job to pay a mortgage. Alas, this has no impact on my opinion of Shameless, the 6th full album by Therapy?. I recall the anticipation for this album prior to its release…. and then the stifling disappointment upon listening to it. This album sounds like a band going through the motions, unhappy and devoid of inspiration. I was gutted. I don’t recall listening to this album in the last 20 years before this retrospective and I cannot say if I will ever visit it again. Shameless is a disappointing album where no single track stands out. 5/10

The 7th full length album, High Anxiety was released in 2003 and this album saw Neil Cooper replacing Hopkins on the, erm, skins (rubbish pun intended)…. and it immediately saw an improvement from the previous effort. Unlike the previous album, and by no means perfect, this album has a handful of superior tracks. This includes ‘Hey Satan – You Rock’ and the superb ‘If it Kills me’. High Anxiety appears to see Cairns and McKeegan recover their mojo with a band change, with McCarrick standing firm with his cello, prior to exiting the band!  6/10

Shameless was the last Therapy? album I bought. As previous retrospectives have stated, my musical taste evolved and Therapy? were a band that disappointedly fell by the wayside, only to rise like the proverbial phoenix from the flames. 

Part 2 of this retrospective will soon follow.

Album Retrospective Uncategorized

Retrospective #6

System of a Down are an Armenian-American band that rose from the ashes of the band Soil in 1994. Over a 7-year period, they released 5 full length albums and are often discussed as being a nu-metal band, although I prefer to think of them as alternative metal.

In the mid ’90’s, I bought a copy of Kerrang! and included with the, then very good, magazine was a 2-track cassette by a band called System of a Down. Featuring the songs, ‘War’ and ‘Suite Pee’, I played it so much at University that my friend Mark would rip the piss out the former, shouting ‘We will fight the Heathens’ at the top of his voice. Mark used to also take his amp to the front door of our flat, turn it up to 11 and play a single power cord and then put everything back in his room. He was, and is, a cool dude, but I digress. Because of this cassette, I like to think of myself as an early adopter of SoaD and I quickly became a big fan, eager to lap up their new, original take on metal.

Jumping to the head of the queue due to a brief conversation with Gareth Endean (author of ‘Half a Ton of Heavy Metal’ – a great book, buy it on Amazon), Retrospective #6 is the excellent System of a Down.

Album Retrospective – System of a Down.

In 1998, soon after hearing the promo cassette of ‘War’ and ‘Suite Pee’, I eagerly snapped up the eponymous debut album by SoaD and was immediately blown away by the originality and sheer heaviness of the music. Serj Tankian’s vocals were immediate, especially in ‘Spiders’, one of the songs released as a single, with the other being ‘Sugar’. I tried to get everybody to listen to this album.  I couldn’t get enough of it, be it fighting the heathens, or storming poor June. Tankian may have written a vast majority of the lyrics, Daron Malakian gets a writing credit on ‘CUBErt’, but the band utterly shred on each track. Shavo Odadjian, the coolest looking of the band, and John Dalmayan have supreme control of the songs on bass and drums respectfully. As a result, there are no weak moments on this.  Listening to the album for the first time in a decade or so, I was immediately struck with how relevant it still sounded, despite the fact it was released last Century. It should be deemed a classic and is essential listening. 9/10

SoaD were then left with the supreme difficulty in trying to impress me with their 2nd album, Toxicity, released in 2001. Fresh out of university, with a job and some actual money to start building on my CD collection, I was absolutely beside myself when, on September 3rd, I was able to drive down to Our Price (gone but not forgotten record store) and pick up a shiny new copy. This excitement was peaked by my seeing for the first time at the 2001 Reading Festival a few days previous, I saw them for the final time in 2003 as well.

I was excited, but nervous.  How could it match up to what I deemed to be a classic?  Then ‘Prison Song’ starts and the relief sets in.  Toxicity is brilliant. With Malakian having far a bigger influence in the song writing, shared with Tankian, it seems to be a more balanced album, but for me it lacks the excitement and spontaneity of their debut. Somewhat controversial, it was released just before 9/11 and features lyrics including the words, ‘Self Righteous Suicide’ in ‘Chop Suey’, it didn’t hinder the sales. Indeed, ‘Chop Suey’ is one of the best songs on a very strong album. This is SoaD’s 2nd essential album. 8/10

The 3rd SoaD album was released late in 2002 and was called, ‘Steal This Album’. I remember at the time there was a small furore surrounding the name of the album.  Were they encouraging the thieving from music stores, illegal downloading or merely copying it from your friend?  In reality, it was none of these things. It was until recently that I found out that ‘Toxicity II’ was an actual thing, where tracks had been leaked onto the internet without the knowledge or consent of the band. SoaD then decided to record/rerecord, alter/change and probably ignore some of these tracks that then became the 3rd album proper.

In truth, this was not an immediate hit for me. I found, and still do find, the opening track, ‘Chic ‘N’ Stu’ intensely irritating. I can’t elucidate further, as I don’t know why it bugs me, I just hate the chorus. Yes, there are some grade A SoaD material, ‘A.D.D. (American Dream Denial)’ is superb. However, for every ‘Mr Jack’ – Excellent, there is an ‘I-E-A-I-A-I-O’ – not so excellent. It is an album that sounds like the band didn’t want to release. It is also an album that is also quite critical to the evolution of the band, a juxtaposition if ever there was one. 7/10

‘Mesmerize’ was the 4th album and it was released in May 2005 and it was noticeable that the dynamic in the band was different. No longer was Tankian the sole lead vocalist. Malakian was now sharing vocal duties, having moved on from the previous harmonising. With the best will in the world, Daron Malakian is not in the same league as Tankian as a vocalist.  I mean this as no slight, Serj Tankian is an outstanding singer that few other vocalists could match on a SoaD album.

The ultimate effect of this is that ‘Mesmerize’ is often disjointed, with the twin vocals struggling to intertwine. Songs like the thrashtastic, ‘Cigaro’ are almost ruined by Malakian advising that his ‘cock is much bigger than yours’. In saying this, the trademark lyrical themes are still in play, and the band stay true to their beliefs.  The fact is the album is just a little bit off.  7/10

A mere 6 months later, ‘Hypnotize’was the 5th and final album (so far) to be released by SoaD. Ostensibly recorded within the timeframe as its predecessor, it is essentially, if not part of a double album, a true companion piece for ‘Mesmerize’. Again, we have the dual vocal attack throughout a lot of the album, but it is when they main protagonists harmonise that the album hits its heights especially in 2nd track ‘Dreaming’ which has some wonderful moments.

Within the 2 releases, there is a truly outstanding album (think Use Your Illusion), but unfortunately these albums do contain filler, which is disappointing. We can speculate, perhaps, that the guys released these 2 albums because of the ‘Toxicity’/’Steal This Album’ debacle with unreleased and unfinished tracks being dumped online.  8/10

I must admit that, at the time, I really disliked the final 2 albums. I felt like the band had blown a huge opportunity to dominate an area of metal that had been vacated by RATM, a band delivering songs with political and social disparity messages. I was truly disappointed. It was this fact that led me to comment on Facebook posts by Gareth Endean in the Half Ton of Heavy Metal Facebook page. I essentially said these albums were pish, to which Gareth promptly and subtlety advised me I may be wrong. 

I had not listened to a System of a Down album for many many years, probably 15 years in the case of the last 3. I was presently surprised. I have missed SoaD and the later albums are far better than I have given them credit for. I have been very pleasantly surprised and this has been a very enjoyable retrospective for me.

Album Ranking

  1. System of a Down
  2. Toxicity
  3. Hypnotize
  4. Mesmerize
  5. Steal This Album
  6. Find out more – Check out Serj Tankian’s 2007 solo album, Elect the Dead
  7. Off the beaten track – check out the bands  2001/2003 Reading Festival sets on You Tube.

Type O Negative formed in Brooklyn, New York in 1989. Pioneers of the Gothic Metal genre, they released 7 albums up until Peter Steele’s untimely death in 2010.

Although I was aware of Type O Negative having seen the video for ‘Black No. 1 (Little Miss Scare-All) on countless occasions, it was not until I saw them live at the Donington Monsters of Rock Festival in 1996 that the band forced themselves into my steadily growing CD collection.

My, rather sketchy, memories of that day included a genuine Man Mountain on stage with a chain as a guitar strap. Peter Steel was a huge man who utterly dominated the 2nd stage at the festival. With a mere 30 minutes on stage, Type O Negative boasted of playing a grand total of 3 songs. Their set was enough to win me over.

Peter Steele with Chain guitar strap

Joining Bassist/Lead Vocalist Peter Steel in the band were, Ken Hickey on guitars/backing vocals, Josh Silver on Keyboads and backing vocals and original drummer Sal Abruscato. Type O Negative benefited from having a relatively stable line-up throughout their history, with only a change in drummer, with Johnny Kelly beating the skins following Abruscato’s departure.

Retrospective #5 features the incomparable Type O Negative.

Album Retrospective – Type O Negative.

In 1991, rising from the ashes of Carnivore, Type O Negative formed and quickly released their debut album via Roadrunner Records. Slow Deep and Hard was the, not-so-subtle, title of the album and merely hinted at the sound the band would cultivate and make their own.

This album was, and still is, a strange listen for me, as I had heard some of their later albums before this. I wasn’t expecting the lack of a gothic sound. This album takes a number of metal elements and crushes them together to create a sound that, to be perfectly blunt, would not have encouraged me to purchase future albums. However, luckily, Type O Negative were a band who continually evolved with each album.  6/10

This evolution, however, wasn’t immediately apparent, as the follow up album was a ‘live’ album featuring renamed tracks from their debut as well as a few other additional releases. When I say Live, I mean it wasn’t. 1992’s The Origin of the Feces was a studio album with additional crowd noise added and is billed as being ‘Not Live at Brighton Beach’. As it is a studio album, it makes it onto the retrospective.

Again, I bought this album prior to hearing the debut which has led me to have a sense of love for the album that Slow Deep and Hard wasn’t able to capture. Songs such as ‘I Know You’re Fucking Someone Else’, although featuring on the debut with a different name, seem to fit The Origin of the Feces in a more natural manner. The genius of this album was the inclusion of, what was to become a Type O Negative trait, of cover versions. An outstanding cover of Sabbath’s ‘Iron Man’ was accompanied by an alternative version of ‘Hey Joe’, entitled ‘Hey Peter’. Both covers are well worth your time. 7/10

By the summer of 1993, Type O Negative had finally managed to hit their stride, and it was their first truly gothic album, an album that defined a genre. Bloody Kisses is, without a shadow of doubt, a magnificent album. Featuring truly epic songs, including the aforementioned ‘Black No 1’ as well as ‘Set me on Fire’ and, perhaps my personal favourite, ‘Christian Woman’, it is not a short album. But it utterly envelopes you in its dark humour and I still, to this day, sing ‘Christian Woman’ in my head on a consistent basis, although Jesus Christ doesn’t really look like me at all.

Bloody Kisses was the first Type O Negative album I bought, and I utterly adore it. It contains my two favourite Type O songs and it has a special place in my heart. There is a reason why it became a platinum album and for many years I considered it to be a perfect album up until I saw them live for the first time at Donington Monsters of Rock in 1996. Needless to say, perfection was to be redefined. 9/10

3 days after blowing my mind at Donington 96, Type O Negative released October Rust, their first without original drummer Sal Abruscato . I bought this almost immediately. I had always considered their 3rd album to be perfection and this was the album to prove me wrong. I remember playing this constantly. Not long after, I went to University and this album was a constant on my very heavy metal Sony CD player. Again, the album demonstrates a dark humour in amongst the gothic metal overtones.

October Rust is one of the most consistent albums I have ever heard. There is absolutely zero weak songs, it is perfectly produced and it is, to my ears, pretty much flawless. I remember having one of my many drunken conversations with my best pal, Kenny, about this album, where I talked about how the best songs on Bloody Kisses were better than the tracks on October Rust, but the actual album was not as good as October Rust. Peter Steele and the boys had reached a high that, unfortunately, they would find impossible to hit again. 10/10

One of the biggest surprises in doing theses retrospectives is rediscovering albums that I had previously disregarded. 1999 saw the release of the bands darkest album to date, World Coming Down. Featuring tracks such as. ‘Everyone I love is Dead’, and, ‘Everything Dies’ you begin to get the state of mind the Peter Steele was in. At this time in my life, I had recently graduated from University and was wondering where life was going to take me.  So, when this album came out, I never really gave it the chance the band deserved. Yes, I still played the album, but I never really listened to it, never listened to the more ‘upbeat’ tracks, ‘All Hallows Eve’ or ‘Pyretta Blaze’.

What has happened since I listened to this album for the retrospective, is that I now understand the content. It has hit a home run with me and I regret not listening to this more than I did in the last 20 years. Instead of being a weaker album than the previous 2, it is actually every bit as strong an album as Bloody Kisses.  9/10

Almost 4 years then passed before the band released album No.6, Life is Killing Me. Unfortunately, my retrospective listen to this album did not change my thoughts about it. When I bought this in 2003, I immediately to a dislike to it. For every good track like ‘I don’t Wanne be Me’, there was a ‘I Like Goils’. To say I was disappointed is a massive understatement. Following on from my, now incorrect, opinion of the previous album, I felt that I had moved on from the band. If you have read my previous retrospectives, you will see that my music tastes were changing around this time and so, it was with very fond memories, that my heart said a fond goodbye to Type O Negative. 6/10

So, it is with a slight hint of disgust about myself that I must admit that I did not have a clue that Type O Negative released a 7th album until I started this retrospective. I had always assumed that they only had 6, this is how much I switched off to the band.

In 2007, their last album, this time with a new record label, SPV Steamhammer. Having listened to this for the first time after revisiting their previous 6 albums, I was eager to see if they could recapture lost glories, make me feel like man in his 20’s again. Alas, it was not to be.  A new record label did not mean a new start and Dead Again, is an album that make you feel the guys were going through the motions.  I was pretty disappointed, especially as there will never be a chance of a redeeming album. 5/10

On April 14th 2010, Peter Steele died. I remember being absolutely devastated at reading this news. Although latter day Type 0 Negative albums hadn’t hit home with me, their music was a massive part of my younger life.

Type O Negative were at the forefront of an entire genre, perhaps releasing the definitive Goth Metal album in Bloody Kisses. It is perhaps fitting that the remaining members of the band did not continue as Type O Negative as it leaves Peter Steele’s legacy intact.

Album Ranking

  1. October Rust
  2. Bloody Kisses
  3. World Coming Down
  4. Origin of the Feces
  5. Life is Killing Me
  6. Slow Deep and Hard
  7. Dead Again
  • Find out more – Check out  their 2007 set Live at Wacken on You Tube.
  • Off the beaten track – Check out the 10 Unforgettable Peter Steele Moments on You Tube, including his Jerry Springer appearance.
Album Retrospective

The Almighty were a Scottish band, forming back in 1988. Over a 12 year period, they released 7 studio albums, with line-up changes throughout their career. Only Ricky Warwick and Stumpy Munroe remained a constant throughout.

The Almighty’s importance to me and my journey through heavy metal can and should not be underestimated. In the late 80’s/early 90’s, I listened to the ‘Mega’ bands, such as Iron Maiden, AC/DC, Guns n’ Roses and Bon Jovi. The Almighty were the first ‘small’ band that hooked me. This wasn’t a band that played arenas or stadiums. This was a hard-working, hard-rocking band who built themselves a fan-base that still supports frontman, Ricky Warwick, to this day.

Being a fan of The Almighty has nearly gotten me into a fight, upset my wife and taught me that bigger name bands are not necessarily better bands.

Please welcome Retrospective #4, The Almighty.

Album Retrospective – The Almighty.

In 1989, Blood Fire and Love was released via Polydor records and it was a bit of a banger! Full to the brim of anthems, it was an introduction that bands dream of. From the opening track, ‘Resurrection Mutha’ it grabs you and doesn’t let go. Even when it slows things down, with the title track especially, it turns things up to 11 with other tracks.  To this day, I still sing ‘Full Force Loving Machine’ and ‘Wild and Wonderful’ in my head. In fact, I still own a ‘Wild and Wonderful’ t-shirt that is slightly worse for wear. My wife is disgusted that I have not thrown this out, but hey, ‘I’ve taken all that I can from the skies up above, don’t believe in God but I do believe in love…..’.

This t-shirt lost its sleeves in the mid 90s.

On a journey in a van from England to Scotland in 1991/92, I can’t quite remember, it was getting late in the evening and there was a rock show on a Scottish radio station. They were counting down a list of Scottish Rock/Metal bands and this was the first time I ever heard The Almighty. ‘Free n’ Easy’ was the song and it was taken from the, nothing short of superbsophomore album, Soul Destruction. I was hooked.  Immediately, unabashedly, complete and utterly.

Free n Easy

Again, Soul Destruction was a mixture of Hard Rock songs, with a smattering of slow songs, such as ‘Little Lost Sometimes’. Again, it is full of anthemic bangers, ‘Crucify’, ‘Devil’s Toy and the aforementioned, ‘Free n’ Easy’ are proper headnodders!  The Almighty were on their way. World domination beckoned….. then lead guitarist, Tantrum, was no longer in the band.

Tantrum was replaced by the, ‘star of Waynes World and Canadian Club Whiskey’, Pete Friesen. Friesen was Alice Cooper’s guitarist and so he had a bit of pedigree. I remember reading a Kerrang! interview with Ricky Warwick, where he waxed-lyrical about the technical know-how of Friesen with regards to guitar tuning. It was also around this time that I saw The Almighty for the very first time, at Donington Monsters of Rock 1992. My abiding memory of that day was that it was very wet, but it didn’t rain on The Almighty’s opening set.


The band premiered a new song from the upcoming new album, ‘Addiction’. I was blown away with how heavy it was, and how radical a change it was from songs on the previous 2 albums. Friesen obviously had an impact on the upcoming album and I was gutted to have to wait over 6 months, it wasn’t released until April 1993 to get my grubby little hands on it.  I bought it on cassette, and I still have it to this day. To my everlasting joy, my version of Powertrippin’ also has the ‘bonus’ Donington live set on there.

Powertrippin’ has a different sound to it, it still features the trademark ‘slower’ songs, but it came out at the beginning of the ‘Grunge’ era, and the sound of the album is more akin to that than the previous hard rock from before. It is all the better for it. This is an album that is well worth an hour or so of your time.

In 1994. The Almighty changed record labels, and again there was a slight evolution of their sound. I remember buying this on the Saturday of its release, putting the cassette in my car stereo, driving home and, as I ejected the cassette, it caught in the stereo and the tape snapped. I immediately turned on the engine, drove back to the shops and bought a 2nd copy.  It is worth it Crank is their 4th album and it is cracking. ‘Wrench’, ‘Jonestown Mind’ and ‘Crank and Deceit’ dominate a very good album. One of the funnier album reviews appeared in a UK newspaper, I forget which one, but it would appear the song, ‘Crank and Deceipt’ scared the reviewer a little, as he criticised the song as being, ‘expletive laden’ and gave it a very low review.  The Almighty were not made for pop music reviewers.

It was this album that nearly got me into a fight, or more specifically, my ‘Jonestown Mind’ t-shirt, complete with the lyrics, ‘You’re the Jesus that didn’t get nailed’ emblazoned on the back. In a bar in Leicester, I was wearing this t-shirt when I got a tap on the shoulder with an older Gentleman who proceeded to tell me how offensive he found my t-shirt and explain what would happen if I didn’t take it off…….. instead a debate ensued around the lyrical content of the song and we parted with no aggression.  Happy days!

In 1996, The Almighty released their 5th album, Just Add Life. Again, there was a slight evolution in their music, this time with Horns being added to some of the tracks.  In truth, it works more than expected. ‘All Sussed Out’ is a fine song, full of quotable lyrics (“You can’t fight the power, if you ain’t got the power to fight”). It is another strong album for the boys, but alas, it marked the end of phase one of the band.  Our intrepid heroes had attempted to break into the US Market earlier in their career, but to no avail, and, despite never having dropped the ball with the quality of music, they decided to call it a day and it was over.

All Sussed Out

Except it wasn’t. In 2000, the band reformed with Nick Parsons replacing Pete Friesen on guitar and the eponymous 6th album was released. I was genuinely excited when I read that a new album was coming out and immediately bought it on CD. I wouldn’t say that the album disappointed me, it has a handful of excellent tracks, ‘Broken Machine’ and ‘USAK 47’ totally hit the mark, closely followed by ‘White Anger Comedown’ and ‘I’m in Love (with Revenge), but for me, some of the old magic was gone. It didn’t have the same feel about it as the pre-split albums and it still has the feeling that The Almighty had lost their mojo.

The band then followed up with the 7th and, so far, final studio album in 2001, the quickest time between releases in the bands history. A new bassist was introduced, Gav Gray, replacing founder member, Floyd London. Psycho Narco was the name of the album and to this day, it remains the album I have listened to the least. Even on this retrospective, it is an album that just doesn’t excite me in the same way their earlier albums did. Perhaps this is because of my ever evolving musical taste, but perhaps it was because Ricky had outgrown the style of music that The Almighty had developed. It is no coincidence that his first proper solo album was an acoustic album. I may be guessing, but perhaps both Ricky and myself moved away from The Almighty at a similar time.

It was an absolute joy for me to listen to these albums again, for the first time in many years and it is somewhat disconcerting the sheer amount of lyrics I remembered and could sing along to. Below is my ranking of these albums and I would urge you to check them out if you can and let me know your thoughts.

Album Ranking

  1. Soul Destruction
  2. Crank
  3. Powertrippin’
  4. Blood Fire and Love
  5. Just Add Life
  6. The Almighty
  7. Psycho Narco
  • Find out more – Check out ‘Blood Fire and Live’, released prior to Soul Destruction
  • Off the beaten track – Track down a copy of (Sic) – Eyeball Kicks EP for Ricky Warwick’s early solo material after the split of the band in 1996
Album Retrospective

Retrospective #3 – Monster Magnet

Monster Magnet are New Jersey’s finest! Originally formed in 1989, only Dave Wyndorf remains from the original line-up. This retrospective will cover their first 10 studio albums and does not include their latest 2021 covers album.

In the 90’s, it was very hard to find Metal on terrestrial television in the UK. We had a show originally called the Power Hour, that changed to Raw Power that morphed into something like Noisy Mothers or similar. Because us metal heads are nocturnal, they showed this show about 3am on a Saturday Morning. This was before modern technology let you set things up in advance with series links or anything spectacular like that. No, in my youth, I had to set my VHS video recorder to record the show on tape.  It was worth it. In addition to falling in love with the presenter, Nikki Groocock, I later saw a music video that led me to fall in love with New Jersey’s finest.

‘Negasonic Teenage Warhead’ was the song and Retrospective #3 is Monster Magnet.

Album Retrospective – Monster Magnet.

Before we start on the full album retrospective, I need to advise that I think Dave Wyndorf epitomise a Metal God. Skinny as a rake, long hair, shades and seriously charismatic. Dave Wyndorf is ultra-cool. He also shares the same birthday as me, which obviously makes me every bit as awesome as Dave.

Spine of God was the first full album released by Monster Magnet. It was released in 1991 in Europe, and 1992 in the USA. Deemed a ‘classic’ by many, to me it is an album where Wyndorf was finding himself and the sound of the band. Deeply rooted with a 70’s psychedelic vibe, it was a precursor to the ‘Stoner Rock’ tag that would follow the band to this day. It has sprinklings of prog about it and it is a very enjoyable listen if you can get by the particularly ropey production. The importance of this album, however, should not be understated, as it is one of the earliest examples of Stoner rock. The importance of the album is all well and good, but many look at it with rose tinted glasses and fail to acknowledge that it is average at best. 5/10

Although not rating highly with me, Monster Magnet’s debut album secured a deal with A&M Records, where Wyndorf’s creativity spiralled magnificently.  Superjudge was their 2nd album and it was a level above their debut. This was not reflected in the sales it should have made. You see, Superjudge was released in 1993. This was the time of Grunge. People were buying albums by the likes of Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden in this period. How was a Stoner Rock band ever going to stand out? The genre was not cool enough to become mainstream, and so it remained underground with bands like the mighty Kyusscarrying the Stoner torch alongside Monster Magnet. It is with Superjudge that Monster Magnet subtly moved away from the overt psychedelia of their debut and began to stretch their wings. 7/10

In 1995, Monster Magnet hit the big time…. Well, for me they did as this was the year I heard ‘Negasonic Teenage Warhead’ for the first time. Interestingly, it is more akin to their debut, with its psychedelic leanings, but make no mistakes. This is a rocker. This is Wyndorf exercising his inner Rock God, standing astride the Stoner genre like a colossus. The album, ‘Dopes to Infinity’ is riddled with great tracks, with ‘King of Mars’and ‘Dead Christmas’ being stand-outs – the latter often getting airplay in my house on or around Christmas day. Although this is their best album so far, people are still buying later era Grunge albums as well as listening to music from a new genre that was in its infancy ‘Nu-Metal’. Fortunately, Monster Magnet prevailed and we were in for a Stoner classic! 9/10

1998 saw me buy my first Monster Magnet CD. Powertrip was their 4th album and it was absolutely stunning. No longer were the band stifled by other genres of metal. Wyndorf had released perfection.  I remember hearing a song called ‘Bummer’ on a compilation CD, potentially from Kerrang! or Metal Hammer, and it utterly ripped me apart from the inside out. It was ‘Negasonic Teenage Warhead’ plus infinity. I bought the CD on the day of release and played it constantly, much to the annoyance of a few of my University friends. The singles were also superb, true genre classics, ‘Space Lord’is still awe inspiring. I then got to see the band for the first time at Metallica’s ‘Big Day Out’ festival at Milton Keynes Bowl in the UK. This gig demonstrated the fact that Wyndorf is a Rock God, setting fire to his guitar, refusing to leave the stage. This is when I truly fell in love with Monster Magnet. Alas, it was not to last. 10/10

God Says No was released in 2000, and I greedily snapped it up, perhaps unfairly, expecting a similar experience that their previous album gave me. The potential was there, there are BIG tunes on there! ‘Doomsday’ and ‘Heads Explode’ are particularly good, however over here in the UK, we received 2 bonus tracks, of which ‘Silver Future’ is an absolute stunner. The problem was that the album isn’t as consistent as Powertrip, and so perhaps I have judged it too harshly in the past.  It is an album that should be judged on its own merits, as this improves the listening experience. 7/10

It was the release of Monotholic Baby in 2004, on a new record label, where my interest in the band started to drift. Rooted firmly with a 70’s vibe, the album has 3 cover songs included, of which ‘The Right Stuff’ is worth a listen, as is ‘Monolithic’, however, the album does tend to meander. This is fine if you like a tickle psychedelica in your tunes, but alas, my musical journey was heading in a different direction that that of Dave. Although I own this album, this retrospective was probably the first time I had listened to it in 15 years.  It maybe another 15 before I venture into it again. 5/10

In 2006, Dave Wyndorf overdosed on prescription medication. Speaking to Blabbermouth, Dave said that they were anti-anxiety drugs, intended to help solve sleep issues he had whilst touring. Fortunately, after a spell in hospital, Dave recovered and Monster Magnet was able to continue. I remember this time vividly, reading the stories in Kerrang! and Metal Hammer at the time, just hoping he would be OK.

The musical upshot of this was that 4-Way Diablo, their 7th album, was delayed a year, finally being released in 2007. This is the last Monster Magnet album that I bought and, until very recently, I had not listened to it since that year. A slight improvement on the previous album, it lacks the joy and oomph of the early albums. During my research for this retrospective, I found an interview with Dave, where he says it was recorded in ‘the wrong key’ and that is why songs from this album are never included in their live set-list. I find this a bit strange, surely they could play them live the way that they ‘should’ have been recorded?  Perhaps it is, and I am speculating here, that this album reflects a bad time in Dave’s life and also that it isn’t very good?  6/10

By now, it was obvious to me that my musical tastes, heading towards Death Metal and other forms of Extreme Music was at a tangent to that of Monster Magnet, and although I still adored their earlier albums, I never listened to any of their post 2007 material until a few weeks ago. Part of the reason that I want to write these retrospectives is to try to reconnect with bands that left me behind, or that I had left behind. So, it was with keen interest that I started listening to modern Monster Magnet for the first time.

Mastermind was released in October 2010 on a new record label, Napalm Records. I was gobsmacked when I listened to the opening tracks. My Monster Magnet was back, in a manner of speaking.  The band I had abandoned were back with swagger, still hinting at the 70’s vibes, but with a hard rock exterior that all but ditched the psychedelic overtones. I made a mistake in never listening to it. Tracks like ‘Gods and Punks’, ‘100 Million Miles’ and ‘Dig That Hole’ prove that Dave was back. Mastermind should be noted as being lead guitarist Ed Mundell’s final album with the band, meaning that he left on a High.  8/10

Album number 9 was released in 2013 and, after listening to the previous album for the first time, I was genuinely intrigued to see if Monster Magnet would continue in this new vein, or would they slip back again? In truth, Last Patrol does a bit of both. It is not as strong as the previous album, but it retains a sense of fun, it doesn’t take itself too seriously, which gives it a sense of charm. More of a traditional Stoner Rock album that previously, it goes to show that Dave will never stand still and, love them or loathe them, Monster Magnet will march to the beat of their own drum. 7/10

Mindfucker was released in 2018 and is the final album of this retrospective (remember – no cover albums will be included). It seems now, that Monster Magnet have found their groove. A 70’s influenced Stoner/Hard Rock band. This is a very enjoyable listen, again not quite hitting their highs, there are a handful of ‘fillers’ on here, but the hard hitting tunes prevent it from ever getting close to being a generic album, especially songs like ‘Soul’ and ‘Mindfuck’. Dave Wyndorf is now 64 years old. He still the epitome of a Metal God.  7/10

  • The DevilsHorns must listen – Powertrip
  • Find out more – Check out the original versions of their latest album A Better Dystopia
  • Off the beaten track – Check out Ed Mundell’s band The Ultra Electric Mega Galactic

A Friday Night Wasted

So, tonight is Friday and I found myself at a loose end. So, whilst partaking in a few Brewdog Punk IPA’s, I found myself getting even more confused about building this webpage. There were numerous issues.

Firstly, my Spotify link has failed. I have an evergrowing playlist that contains songs that were stuck in my head. If a song enters my internal radio unbidden, it gets added to the playlist. It is eclectic and I can’t get it embedded properly.

My twitter feed also failed in a similar manner. I am useless. But hey, it’s all fun learning, so I will get it right. The site at the moment is a ‘less is more’ style.

Anyway, the main reason for my post is that the next retrospective is almost upon us. I can reveal I am 2 albums away from finishing the works of New Jersey’s finest

Monster Magnet

Album Retrospective

Retrospective #2 – Devin Townsend

Devin Townsend burst on to the scene in 1993 providing vocals in Steve Vai’s ‘Sex and Religion’ album. Since then, he has amassed 25 studio albums in a variety of different genres as a solo artist and the leader of various bands.

Album Retrospective – Devin Townsend

Prolific is, perhaps, a word that still lacks the gravitas to describe the recorded output of one Devin Garret Townsend. He has released, on average, an album a year since his debut release in 1995. I first became aware of Devin following his brief stint in my favourite band, The Wildhearts, where he played guitar on tour with them. It was during this tour that he signed with Century Media, ultimately releasing his debut album, Heavy as a Really Heavy Thing, via Century Media Records, under the name of Strapping Young Lad. Essentially a solo album, with a wee bit of help along the way, it is entirely possible that the world of metal was not ready for this type of ‘extreme metal’. Not fitting into any of the traditional genres, it is a slightly flaky album that only hinted at the awesome SYL would release over the coming years.  6/10

I actually thought I was relatively knowledgeable about Hevy Devy’s output (Hey – check his website I am allowed to call him that). So, when carrying out the retrospective, I was genuinely shocked to learn that he had released a punk album, of sorts. Punky Bruster – Cooked on Phonics was that album, and it goes to show Hevy Devy has a bit of humour about him. Originally release under the band name, Punky Bruster, it is a parody album about a Death Metal band that sells out and releases a Punk album….and it is brilliant fun. I never knew this existed and I would urge you all to go to your streaming platform of choice and fire into it. You will not be disappointed, it is fantastic fun!  8/10

Then there was City, the 2nd SYL album. Hevy (hey I can do this….), by now, had assembled a genuine band, and it showed. City is an absolute beast of an album, truly extreme, unrelenting in the heavy!  It is an album high that Devin would never quite reach again with the SYL output, despite delivering high class albums under the line-up. Songs like, ‘Underneath the Waves’, ‘Detox’ and ‘All Hail the New Flesh’ are the aural equivalent of having a butcher forcibly remove your spleen as you sit and eat a donut. This is a genuine, must listen, album and if you consider yourself a fan of extreme metal, I would imagine this is in your collection. 10/10

Then, Devin through a wee bit of a curve-ball. He followed up a seriously heavy album by creating a new band and releasing the album Biomech.  Originally released under the band name of Ocean Machine, it served notice that Devin was not limited in his song writing ability or stylings. This is a criminally underrated album, featuring tracks that have stood the test of time. ‘Regulator’ regularly forces itself into my head, my internal radio (© Ginger Wildheart) if you will. ‘Bastard’ is also superb.  This is the perfect entry album if you want to listen to non-Hevy Devy. 8/10

Infinity was the first Devin Townsend album I bought and so it holds a special place in my heart. Recorded and released after he was diagnosed as Bi-Polar, it is the first album released under his own name, featuring several great songs, and a few oddities. ‘Wild Colonial Boy’ is one of the odd tracks, an oddness that Devy would seek out in more detail in future albums. This album feels like Devy is beginning to gain confidence in his ability to capture his audience, allowing a certain amount of audacity to be present (check out the song ‘Ants’), knowing that his audience are there with him. 8/10

This, more confident, Devy moved onto his next project, where after a dalliance with Jason Newsted, then of Metallica, was curtailed, allegedly by the control freaks in Metallica, he enlisted the help of his SYL bandmates. Although it was the SYL line-up, Physicist is very much a solo album released, once again, under his own name. It was supposedly meant to be a project featuring Newsted, so it is no surprise that the album has a thrashier feel about it, however the album does have a lack of feeling about it. Where Infinity took the listener on a journey, Physicist seems to have left them at the station, with just the engine pulling away. Perhaps if it had been recorded as intended, it may have had a different feel. 5/10

Terria is an album that almost feels like a bounce-back. Gone is the lack of direction found in Physicist, and welcomed in is another, new, direction by Devy. Again released under his own name, Terria is an album that begins his journey into more poppy ambience territory, whilst still keeping an air of heaviness – the pure ambience would follow soon after. An introspective look into his Canadian homeland, Devy recaptures the territory lost in his Physicist experiment and, as such, it is a recommended listen. 7/10

Part of the joy of being a fan of Devy, is the fact that you never know what is going to happen next. Having released 4 solo albums after the last SYL release, Devy got the SYL boys back in the studio to release the eponymous Strapping Young Lad. However, SYL marked a change in tone from the first 2 albums, become a much more straight-forward sounding metal album, slightly leaning to Death Metal. The production is nowhere near as crisp as the previous albums, it is, without a doubt, the weakest SYL album released.  There was, perhaps, a reason for this….. 6/10

A potential reason for the weak SYL album may have been that, the ever prolific, Devy was hard at work on another album, this time with a new band The Devin Townsend Band as well as embracing a new genre, Progressive Metal. The resultant album, Accelerated Evolution, is nothing short of stunning. Devy breathes live into Accelerated Evolution with apparent ease. Songs like ‘Deadhead’, ‘Suicide’ and ‘Slow me Down’ are stand-outs in an album full of highlights. It is one of my favourite Devy albums. It also appears to be the album he put more effort into in this timespace.  9/10

Remember when I mentioned ‘Ambient’ earlier……. Well, next up is Devlab. This is nearly 66 minutes of my life I will never see again. If you like pure ambience, great.  Fire in and listen to it. Until my retrospective, and like Punky Bruster, I never knew this existed. Unlike Punky Bruster, I still wish I never knew about it.  Avoid! 0/10

So, after a dalliance with ambience, it is only natural that Devy returned to, yes – you’ve guessed it – Strapping Young Lad. What an album it is.  Alien, like previous SYL albums, puts the heavy back into Hevy Devy. It is dark, probably due to the state of mind of the main man himself, but it is also monolithic in its intent. Not a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, it goes to show how Devy cannot be pigeonholed…. I mean, Ambient to Extreme Metal?  Who does this? 7/10

Alas, the 2nd of the Devin Townsend Band albums, Synchestra, was Devy’s next release.  It was the final album under this band name and it didn’t come close to matching the brilliance of the 1st album. 14 tracks long and coming in at over 65 minutes, Devy appears to have forgotten the ‘off-switch’ on Synchestra and it is, at least, 15 minutes too long. Unusually for Devy, the quality control seems to have gone missing on this one. 6/10

Fortunately, Devy is not a man for standing still, and the Heavy returns with, what is until now, the final SYL album, The New Black. It is a beast! Slightly more melodic than any previous SYL release, it still manages to maintain the manic feel, listen to ‘You Suck’ for proof. Apparently, Century Media put a strict deadline in place for the recording, which if true, probably helped to maintain the quality control that was so missing on Synchestra. If there is not to be a new SYL album, and there is nothing to indicate that Devy will go back to this, then The New Black is a fitting way to end what are the genre of Devy albums that I enjoy the most. 8/10

The Hummer is 73 minutes of Ambient Pish. No Devy, NO!  0/10

In 2007, Hevy Devy introduced the world to Ziltoid, releasing his, fully solo album, Ziltoid the Omniscient.  In order to understand the album, you need to know Ziltoid’s back story, you see, this is a concept album, and it is absolutely fantastic. Ziltoid is an Alien, from the planet Ziltoidia 9 to be accurate, and he loves his coffee. So he travels to Earth in search of the ultimate cup of coffee, only to decide he doesn’t like it. Therefore, in what can only be described as, ‘a slight overreaction’, he orders his plant to attack earth.  With his humour fully on display, Devy provided the perfect comedy album, full of tunes and riffs lesser mortals would die for.  This is Devy at his playful best and it is a must listen. 10/10

After Ziltoid, Devy took a well-earned break to recharge his batteries, and get a haircut, becoming the shiny bonced man we know and love now. After rediscovering himself, he announced the formation of The Devin Townsend Project, with an initial 4 album plan. The first of those was Ki and to be honest, I never really got it. Again, it is very long, well over an hour again, and it contains to many ambient elements for my tastes. Ambience is not a genre I embrace. Although I eagerly snapped the CD up, obtaining a signed copy, it is one I have never really listened to with any great enthusiasm. 5/10

Addicted soon followed, this time with a different band line-up, as the DTP was designed to evolve with each release. It was released in the same year as Ki, but it is streets ahead in energy, resulting in greater enjoyment. Mercifully shorter than its predecessor, Addicted show that the drug and alcohol free Devy, still has the song-writing skills that make him so appealing. 7/10

Devy then released the 3rd and 4th albums from the DTP, namely Deconstruction and Ghost respectively. Of the pair, Ghost is perhaps more accessible, but the more enjoyable listen is the former. A concept album, Deconstruction is more complex than its companion and, as a result, delivers a more intense listening experience. This is not the last time that Devy would provide a dual album release. 8/10 and 7/10

Originally a 4 album plan, Devy then surprised everybody with Epicloud, the 5th DTP album. A pop Metal album, it is a joyful listen, with co-vocalist Anneke Van Giersbergen providing a stunning alternative to Devy’s vocals. Also present are Gospel choirs, bringing a sense of grandeur to a very enjoyable album. One very good addition to the album is an improved version of Kingdom, from his Physicist album, demonstrating how weak that particular album was. Epicloud was a very strong release that still sound great today. 8/10

Casualties of Cool was the next Devy project, a standalone album full of country, blues and, unfortunately, ambience. It is different to any previous Devy release, originally released on the, now defunct, Pledge platform. Another album with an underlying concept, Devy has been quoted as saying how much he loves it and how satisfying it is. Alas, I believe it is dull and I personally don’t have the imagination to derive anything from it. This probably says more about me than it does the quality of the album, as I know of many Devy fans who love it. 5/10

In 2009, Devy announce the follow-up to Ziltoid the Omniscient, and it sent quite a few of us into a minor frenzy. Could he pull it off, would it be as quirky and fun?  It would take another 5 years before it would surface, being released they say before my Birthday. I obviously received it as a birthday present, although I had heard it previously for a website I was writing for at the time. Z2 is a double album, with the first album called Sky Blue and the 2nd album being the actual follow-up to ZIltoid, Dark Matters. Again, Devy hits the biggest of Home Runs. Sky Blue is a very enjoyable romp, but it is Dark Matters that impressed me the most. It actually helps to improve your enjoyment of the previous Ziltoid album. It helped to introduce a range of Merchandise, including Ziltoid puppets and Poozers.  Dark Matters on its own is a perfect 10, however Sky Blue just lowers the score for Z2. 9/10

Ziltoid the Omniscient in puppet form

Transcendence was the first album that was not solely produced by Devy and, in truth, does not really comply with the Devin Townsend Project ethos by featuring different musicians for each album. This is no bad thing, as the band members all had input into the album. Almost unheard of in Devy’s output.  The result is a fairly enjoyable, but not outstanding, prog-style album. It has reworkings of a few earlier Devy tracks, including ‘Truth’ from Infinity – a song I didn’t think needed reworking as well as ‘Victim’ from Physicist – a song that benefits from reworking. I find this album slightly disappointing. 7/10

For the final album in this retrospective, Devy put the DTP on hold and released the solo album, Empath. Again, a full-on progressive rock/metal album, Devy throughs caution to the wind, looking to release his one true vision on the masses. This is an album that does not immediately hit home. It is the definition of a slow-burner and then, when it clicks, it is an album of such beauty that you wonder why it took so long to hit home.  It is Devy at his eclectic finest. 9/10

  • The DevilsHorns must listen – City
  • Find out more – Check out the Making of Empath videos on YouTube
  • Off the beaten track – why not check out Ziltoid TV, again found on YouTube
Album Retrospective

Retrospective #1 – Rotting Christ

True Black Metal Legends, Rotting Christ have amassed 13 studio albums and numerous live albums since their humble beginnings in Athens back in 1987.

Back in 2019, at London’s ULU, I turned up with my good friend ‘Evil’ Jim, who is not evil in the slightest, to watch UK Death Metal titans Bolt Thrower decimate an enthusiastic crowd. However, it was the opening band that left me with a lasting impression.  Rotting Christ were that band and they have since become my favourite extreme metal band. So, what better way to introduce The DevilsHorns Blog than by an album retrospective of one of the most influential extreme metal bands of all time?

Album Retrospective – Rotting Christ

Although they formed in 1987, releasing a handful of Demo’s and EP’s, it wasn’t until November 1993 that they released their debut album, Thy Mighty Contract.  The album marked a change in sound from their early origins, more of a grindcore/death metal sound, evolving into a proto-black metal sound that differed from the bands Norwegian Peers. Often criticised for its poor production, it must be taken into account that Black Metal, and particularly Southern Europe Black Metal, was in its infancy. Nobody knew how to record this new genre, and it is fair to say that they didn’t get the best out of Sakis ‘Necromayhem’ Tolis’ vocals. It also didn’t help that the studio they used was sparse, with only room for an electric drum kit, leading to the trade-mark, click-drum, blastbeats used by Themis ’Necrosauron’ Tolis.  It was a promising start. 6/10

Within a year, Rotting Christ, released their 2nd and final album on the Unisound Records label, and it is an absolute beast! Non Serviam is, in my opinion, the definitive 90’s era Rotting Christ album. Translating as ‘I will not serve’, it has become the band motto, with Sakis even sporting a tattoo bearing the slogan. The album has bona-fide classics on there, co-written by Sakis and Jim ‘Mutilator’ Patsouris, with ‘The Fifth Illusion’, Non Serviam and Saturn Unlock Avey’s Son regularly appearing on my playlists. It is this album that allowed the band to take a massive step forward. 9/10

Triarchy of the Lost Lovers is the 3rd album and was the first on a major label, Century Media Records. It also marks another subtle shift in the overall sound of the band, introducing a Gothic influence. Being part of a major label brought a degree of professionalism to the recording, a professionalism that was reflected in the overall album. That said, in the excellent book by Sakis and Dayal Patterson, ‘Non Serviam – The Official Story of Rotting Christ’, Sakis tells of how he got ill with measles early on in the recording process, hindering his vocals. To be fair, you wouldn’t know it from listening to the album and it is, again, a masterclass in the genre.  8/10

Prior to the release of A Dead Poem, the band was hit with a body blow when Mutilator left the band. Like most extreme metal bands, Rotting Christ could not make a living out of the band and so, with a young family, the main lyricist Jim ‘Mutilator’Patsouris bowed out, but not before leaving a few more words for Sakis to put to music. It was, in my opinion, the end of the bands classic era, leading to Rotting Christ becoming an autocracy, with Sakis becoming the leader, with his brother Themis taking a supporting role. The end of an era was compounded by the changing of the Rotting Christ logo, which may or may not have been with the bands permission. According to Tolis and Pattersons book, Sakis was never made aware of it, or didn’t read the memo. That said, A Dead Poem, features one of my favourite songs by the band, ‘A Sorrowful Farewell’ is truly immense and is a must listen for anybody interested in getting to know this band. 6/10

1999 saw the release of Sleep of the Angels, an album where you truly notice the departed Mutilator. Although Sakis had previously contributed lyrics, it wasn’t his primary job. Sleep of the Angels was true Sakis album. Although they had a full band, it was Sakis who contributed the guitars, bass and lyrics. He even had a hand in the drums. It is an album where Sakis is finding his feet, and it shows. Arguably their weakest album, it is also transitional, a learning process that would ultimately lead to far better things. 5/10

Khronos saw the band move back to a slightly more aggressive sound, slightly eschewing the previous gothic tones. The album has a handful tracks that demand repeat listening. ‘Art of Sin’ is one of them, with a compelling riff it dominates the album as well as the opener ‘Thou art Blind’. They also include an excellent cover, ‘Lucifer of London’. A decent listen, it does seem that they are trying just a little too hard on occasions. This should not, however, be treated as a criticism, as it is a step forward from the previous album. 7/10

If Khronos was a step towards the older Rotting Christ sound, Genesis completed the circle. This was compounded by the return of the classic logo, with Century Media and/or the band realising the folly of the so called ‘clean’ logo. Not only was Genesis a return to a ‘heavier’ sound, it also hinted at the future, with ‘Lex Talionis’featuring Gregorian chants. The irony of the biblical album name should not be overlooked, as this was a new beginning for Sakis and Rotting Christ. 8/10

 Sanctus Diavolos holds a special place in my heart. After seeing Rotting Christ for the first time in 2010, this was the first album of theirs that I bought. Truth be told, straight from Sakis’ opening scream in ‘Visions of a Blind Order’, I was transfixed. There is absolutely nothing about this album that I dislike. I would not say it is perfect, but the low points of this album are pretty high. It also has the benefit of having 2 of my favourite Rotting Christ songs, ‘Thy Wings, Thy Horns, Thy Sin’ as well as a song that I believe every metal fan should listen to at least once in their lives, ‘Athanati Este’, arguably the finest song ever written by Sakis. Sanctus Diavolos also marked a major point in the history of Rotting Christ by being their final album for Century Media. 9/10

Season of Mist became the new, and current, home of Rotting Christ. Another Major label, the fact the band signed to another prestigious Metal label goes to show the respect a Black Metal band had gained over the years. Theogonia was the name of their 9th full length studio album, and truth be told, before my restrospective, it had passed me by. I never really gave the album a chance on the few listens I gave it. I don’t own it, so it never really entered my playlist, a scenario that is particularly disappointing. It is a particularly enjoyable listen, and you realise how much Sakis has grown into the role of being Rotting Christ. 8/10

2010 saw the release of Aealo, the album that was released just prior to me seeing them live for the first time. Unfortunately, despite having a few tracks that almost hit home, it doesn’t light a fire between my very heavy metal loins. ‘Fire, Death and Fear’ is a decent enough song and ‘Nemtheanga’ from Irish legends ‘Primordial’, lends his considerable talents to ‘Thou art Lord’. Overall, Aealo is slightly disappointing. 5/10

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Sakis Tolis and Rotting Christ is their most recent output. I had the pleasure of reviewing Κατά τον δαίμονα εαυτού, an album I gave 4 ½ stars out of 5.  Originally thought to be name after the Aleister Crowley quote,’ Do what thou wilt’, Sakis has since sought to clarify the meaning, according to Wikipedia, as ‘True to Your own Spirit’. To my ears, we have now entered the true sound of Rotting Christ. A sound that elevates the band from being a Black Metal band into being one of the only true Heavy Metal Bands in existence. This is the album that gives Rotting Christ the credit they deserve. It is an album that has not aged, an album that is still fresh and an album that brought the band to the mainstream listener who never considered listening to a ‘satanic’ band. Κατά τον δαίμονα εαυτού is nothing short of outstanding. 10/10

At the time of writing, Rituals is the penultimate Rotting Christ album. Perhaps not up to the standards of their previous opus, it is still an outstanding slab of metal. Described as Sakis most personal material to date, the album features many different languages and influences. It encapsulates the listener and provides a continuum to the previous album. I believe that it is not as good as Κατά τον δαίμονα εαυτού, but I know many people who think this is better. I’d suggest listening to both, then buying them both. What Rituals does provide, is evidence of the song-writing prowess of Sakis, a man who has gained experience, album by album, finally stepping out of Mutilator’s shadow, ultimately exceeding the early Rotting Christ output.

In 2019, Rotting Christ unleashed the utterly compelling The Heretics, a mesmeric album full of quotes, riffs and superbly delivered material. The Heretics is a culmination of every Rotting Christ album that precedes it. Blastbeats, riffs, imagery, atmosphere, choral chanting, it has it all. There are too many songs to mention, as each song brings its own juice to the album, be it ‘Heaven, Hell and Fire’or the Edgar Allan Poe influenced ‘The Raven’. This is, simply put, a stunning album. It does not matter if you love the early Black Metal band, or the mid years gothic tinged, through to the melodic band we know now, The Heretics is just about perfect. 10/10

  • The DevilsHorns must listen – Non Serviam
  • Find out more – Book, Non Serviam – The Official Story of Rotting Christ by Sakis Tolis and Dayal Patterson
  • Off the beaten track – buy Under our Black Cult the definitive early years compilation featuring early Demo’s, EP’s and Live albums.