9 – Deftones – White Pony (2000)

Sometimes you stumble across bands you just aren’t ready for. Back in 2010, I attended my first festival. It was Download and some band were subbing to Rage Against The Machine called Deftones. I’d not checked out any of their stuff and they did not impress me. Only one of my mates, a fine fellow nicknamed Blink was into them at the time. He shook his head whilst we all acted really bored.

Fast forward probably a few years and I made friends with a great lady (nicknamed Pinky) who had started working in the same office as me. As we grew to know each other, the main connection we seemed to have was music. I remember a discussion were we spoke about our favourite bands. Pinky happened to bring up how much she loves Deftones. The next thing I did perhaps wasn’t my cleverest idea, I said I’d seen them but didn’t really “get them”. I think the phrase “hell hath no fury like a womans scorn” would apply well here, as I was given a look of sheer disgust and disdain. That look alone was almost enough to convince me to give this band another choice and I finally got round to it this year.

I can tell you now that I’ve completely embraced this album. Deftones produce track of track of bittersweet perfection on here. Heaviness is perfectly mixed with melody and Chino’s vocals simply take it soaring to new levels. It’s a touchy feely album but at the same time has a whole load of balls and comes across as incredibly genuine. There’s some great riffs on here, but there’s nothing overly self-indulgent and technical that some metal bands are sometimes guilty of. Here is a bunch of guys just producing honest expressions on life with their music, a la punk. I always pick up on the sheer passion of feeling in these songs above anything else and that’s no bad thing when a band puts this much into it. They go into melancholic and angry moods with equal ferocity. The songs are fantastic too, this isn’t just a case of me going “oooo it’s all emotional I love it”.

This album’s a walking contradiction for me, as it sounds equal parts humble and subtle as it does massive and elevating. For me to make such a shift on this band is a dedication to just how strong this record is. So sorry Blink and Pinky, you were right all along. In fact, to prove me even more wrong, I saw Deftones live this year and they were one of the highlights of a seriously fucked up weekend.

Personal Fave Track: “Back to School (Mini Maggit)”

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10 – Devin Townsend – Ziltoid the Omniscient (2007)


A concept album with a storyline based on a omnidimensional, omniscient space alien who threatens to invade planet Earth in search of humankinds finest cup of coffee isn’t something you come across every day. In fact, I’m probably doing the likelihood of that happening a big disservice. More like every millennium perhaps?

Before I heard this, I was worried that this was going to be one of those “funny” albums that’s full of gimmicks, focuses too much on the comedy aspect and gets old after five minutes. I’ve always loved Devin’s more reflective stuff and I thought I wouldn’t click with this album. Not for the first time, I was completely wrong.

This album is in fact a space metal epic with really well constructed songs which portray the storyline perfectly. When listening to this, I could really picture the cosmic goings on in my mind. It’s progressive and over the top, but what sets it apart from other records of this nature is just how accessible and above all how FUN it is.

That’s largely down to the main character of the story, Ziltoid. A being from a galaxy far, far away who is parts evil genius equal to parts bumbling nerd, you can’t help but laugh and end up loving him a bit. Him and his ridiculous adventures provide a fantastic basis for these songs and they are integrated perfectly to ensure we never sway to far into “funneh comedy rock” territory. The spoken word sections provide amusement and you’ll probably find yourself quoting this record, confusing as well as intriguing your family and friends in equal measure.

I think it speaks volumes that Devin felt the need to release a sequel to this and play a show at the Royal Albert Hall (yes, really!) dedicated to good old Ziltoid. So, throw away your seriousness for a second and revel in an entirely bonkers space adventure.

Personal Fave Track: “Planet Smasher”

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1 – Devin Townsend – Ocean Machine (1997)


Every now and then, an album comes along and completely knocks you for six. You never expect albums to make such an impact on you. Your always just looking for something enjoyable to listen to. When those special albums arrive, they grip you and don’t let go for a long time (sometimes never!). Whilst in their grip, you might completely reevaluate what you listen to or even further still make you think about who you are as a person or how you are living your life.

This was one of those albums for me. I remember listening to this for the very first time and feeling like I was having some sort of epiphany. The amount of times I’ve put this album on when I’m struggling with the anxieties of everyday life or just had no idea what to listen to I couldn’t possibly count. I feel like this album has taught me lessons and I’m almost still as floored by this album after listening to it for the umpteenth time as I am the first time I heard it.

It’s just about a metal album, but it’s one so filled with pop like melodies it’s a very light one. And this is where this album truly shines, in its melody. It completely lifts you up and barely let’s go. The melody never sounds cheesy, but instead completely heartfelt. There are moments in this album when you’ll feel like singing your heart out and going nuts, but there’s also moments when you’ll find yourself wanting to reflect and think about your own life.

Behind the soaring melodies, there’s ambient touches which give the whole thing an ethereal like quality. It sounds completely different and almost feels like your participating in some emotional journey whilst listening to it. Devin really has completely outdone himself here, and I’m not sure he’ll ever create anything I enjoy as much as this one.

As you can probably tell from this review I’m almost completely in love with this album. I honestly feel like it’s impacted on me massively and I hope anyone else who listens appreciates this as much as I do. Cause if it does, you’ll probably be changing a few things about yourself or even your life for the better too.

Personal Fave Track: “Seventh Wave”

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2 – Gravediggaz – 6 Feet Deep (1994)


What do you get when you combine a group of super talented rappers probably completely high on weed with Wu-Tang Clan style production and an unhealthy obsession with horror films? You get one of the most sinister, menacing and probably dopest Hip Hop albums ever that’s what. In fact, I reckon Darth Vader could have played this to Luke Skywalker to convince him to join the Dark Side.

This album draws you into its shadowy world and will not let go. The theme of impending doom and horror throughout this album is such a refreshing contrast to some of the more clichéd Hip Hop out there. The aggressive rhymes tell morbid tales of death, the devil and ghoulish goings on with a strictly dark sense of humour. The production completely nails the eerie atmosphere and when combined with verses this good ensures almost every track is a classic.

So, give this a listen and indulge your dark side. Come now, we have cookies.

Personal Fave Track: “Diary Of A Madman”

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3 – Alice in Chains – Dirt (1992)


Many considered grunge to be the death of metal back in the 90’s. Whilst the thrash bands of the 80’s gradually descended into identity crisis mediocrity, grunge seemed to be the “in scene”. Whilst all the big grunge bands offered different, it is perhaps ironic that Alice in Chains are now looked upon almost as a metal band. They were part of the scene that “killed metal” after all. Listening to any of Alice in Chains albums you can hear why they are well liked amongst metalheads and this is the album that is considered their magnum opus.

It’s easy to hear why. Here Alice in Chains perfectly combine Jerry Cantrell’s sludgy, doomy riffs with Layne Staley’s desperate, dirty sounding vocals to produce great song after great song. Not to mention the delicious group harmonies which cut through the gloom and provide some irresistible hooks. It all contributes to an atmosphere like a druggy desert party that’s gone wrong, which isn’t perhaps a great surprise with the substances the band were probably experimenting with at the time.

There’s just so many fantastic songs on here. Songs that were huge at the time and still get played today. Which for me illustrates just how good this album is. That some dreary band from a limited scene could produce this album and it bear so many hits. If I was to recommend one album to listen to from the grunge era, it would be this one. Without hesitation.

Personal Fave Track: “Sickman”

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4 – Leftfield – Leftism (1995)


When I say the words “dance music” followed by the words “dub” I imagine some of you will cringe as you imagine almost endless “wub wub wubs” in the form of dubstep battering down your ear drums. Some of you will no doubt smile in delight, as you imagine an intoxicated version of yourself waiting for the beat to drop (whatever that means, I’m no expert!) before exploding into a variety of dance moves.

Way back in 1995, Leftfield released this gem of an electronic album which combined the sounds of dance with dub and reggae. Whatever your feelings on dubstep, chuck all your preconceptions regarding this combination of genres out of the window. This is primarily an ambient electronic album, which subtly brings in elements from dub and reggae. This could be reggae vocalists, tribal sounding drumming or some very dubby sounding basslines. It’s all done so seamlessly.

It’s completely chilled out, yet makes for an enthralling listen. It flows effortlessly, with some more uptempo numbers thrown in for variety. It’s pure ear candy and is one of the albums you could really zone out to if you really wanted to. Highly recommended.

Personal Fave Track: “Inspection Check One”

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5 – Autopsy – Mental Funeral (1991)


It takes a truly special death metal album to stand out from the crowd. For every blood stained masterpiece, there’s probably at least one thousand boring & repetitive records which focus far too much on been brutal rather than been memorable. This is one of those special albums. It’s cover gives you an idea what to expect. An indescribable, hideous creature lurching from its lair. It’s a slimy mass that looks like it could burst open any minute and change into something even worse.

This is ugly, brutal death metal with large dollops of doom. It’s riffs are from the Black Sabbath school of thought, only made to sound even nastier. It’s drums are primal thumpings and the bass forms another layer of sludge. The vocals are inhuman barks sound like some monster lurking in the sewers.

But don’t you get that on every brutal or death doom album I hear you cry. Yes, you are do, but it’s how Autopsy execute (‘scuse the pun) these elements that make it a classic. See, Autopsy completely embrace the avant-garde (by brutal death metal standards) on this album. There’s interludes, tempo changes and just nothing it quite as you’ll expect. You’ll think you’ve got a song sussed, then suddenly a totally unexpected riff comes out of nowhere and you won’t know what’s hit you. Yet it all fits perfectly well, nothing sounds out-of-place. It’s heavy as hell, yet still sounds somewhat thoughtful.

The production helps as well. It sounds like it was recorded in a cave somewhere, but that perfectly fits the vibe. I’ve seen quite a reviews for this with something along the lines “Enjoy the filth” and five-star ratings which sums it up. This album is pure filth, and I imagine anyone with an interest in remotely dark music will probably lap this up. If it is your thing, I guarantee you’ll be alternating between scowling and smiling like a serial killer throughout. You can thank me later.

Personal Fave Track: “Hole in the Head”

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6 – Baroness – Blue Record (2009)


I’ve got a huge amount of respect for Baroness. For a band to bounce back from a horrific bus crash (minus two of the original members) shows tremendous strength. Just read this post from the year anniversary of the accident here and tell me that’s not amazing. Before the crash, Baroness were already making waves with some remarkably different metal albums. Though they seem destined to be forever in the shadow of Mastodon, who broke from the same scene about the same time I believe. It’s unfortunate, but I think anybody who listens to both bands will appreciate the differences between the two and love the pair of them.

Whilst it could be argued that Baroness belong in the sludge metal scene, their sound is unique and it’s difficult to really pigeonhole them. That to me is a sign of a special band who should be applauded. On this album the riffs are sludgy, but with a big dollop of Led Zeppelin like folky melody thrown in. It’s an album with an organic beauty to it and quite often I find myself closing my eyes and imagining myself in some strange mystical, fairy like land. Yet, this melody is perfectly balanced with some thundering metal riffs and shouted vocals. It really hits a sweet spot for me.

I’d recommend this to anyone who likes their rock and/or metal to be a bit different and alternative. If you’re a sucker for melody you’ll probably lap this up too.

Personal Fave Track: “The Gnashing”

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7 – Queens Of The Stone Age – …Like Clockwork (2013)


Ahh, Queens Of The Stone Age. One of my favourite bands. Ever since I bought “Songs For The Deaf” I would never quite be the same. So, to say I was stoked about this album and any subsequent touring would be a severe understatement. My expectations for this album were fairly high, but I was realistic. I wasn’t expecting another Songs For The Deaf or even another Rated R, because both those albums were moments in time that have passed. Homme doesn’t quite seem like the crazed drug lunatic he was, but he’s such a good musician he doesn’t need to be.

I think this comes across in this album. This is the sound of a musician maturing and really focusing on the songwriting, over say a riff. There’s been some real thought gone in this album and it just feels like Homme & his band are doing what comes naturally. The album itself is almost indie-like, it’s filled with jangly guitars and catchy choruses. However, it has a dark and bleak underbelly which makes it sound completely unique. For every “rock” moment, there’s some strange breathing, odd keyboards or melancholic pianos which add atmosphere and depth. It has some of the rock swagger of some of QOTSA’s earlier works combined with slower, stranger touches. There’s quite a bit of melancholy on here as well, which really isn’t a bad thing at all.

All in all, Queens Of The Stone Age have created a rock album that sounds different and fresh in 2013, when the genre seems stuck in proverbial dead-end as most of it’s been done before. That to me is to be commended, and however you like your Queens, you should appreciate that they can still produce music that’s a little bit different.

Personal Fave Track: “I Appear Missing”

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8 – Clutch – Earth Rocker (2013)


“Rock is dead” is one of those phrases that gets repeated quite often by people who never had any interest in rock music in the first place and/or people who will listen to only the sickest new Hip-Hop or electronic mix tape. They think the guitar is unfashionable and almost treat it with disdain.

Whilst hipster attitudes might make you think you’re ubercool, there’s a huge downside. You’re neglecting some brilliant guitar music that will most likely kick your arse. It doesn’t care if it’s cool, it just goes for the jugular.

So, here we are in 2013 with Clutch releasing an album that makes you stuff any “Rock is dead” comments right were they belong. This is 45 minutes of sheer unadulterated hard rock which is a joy to listen to. It’s not cliché, and sounds like more aggressive stoner rock with a huge dollop of the blues. It’s an album that feels like it’s going back to the roots of rock ‘n roll yet sounds completely fresh even today. There is simply not a bad track on here, even the slower songs absolutely nail it. There’s no irritating cheesy token ballad that the record company told them to write, it just all kills.

Another album I don’t feel like I can say a lot about, just listen to it. Everybody needs a little bit of top-notch rock in their life and that’s a fact.

Personal Fave Track: “Crucial Velocity”

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