The Year In Review – Top 10 Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Albums of 2015

“Good day
My name is Necropolis
I am formed of the dead
I am the harvester of the soul meat
And I suck the lives from around my bed
My own two sons I gave them breath
And I filled their living corpses with my bile
What humanity I knew I have long forgotten
For me eternity is nothing
But a short while…” 

– If Eternity Should Fail, by Iron Maiden

Eternity might be nothing but a short while for the harvester of the soul meat, but for us mere mortals it looked like 2015 was never going to reach its end. Well, the year is finally phasing out and 2016 is already knocking on our doors, promising to be a much better (and less tragic) time for mankind. With that said, once again as a tribute to all bands and musicians who kept our hearts warm in the throes of a world crisis, here is The Headbanging Moose’s Top 10 Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Albums of 2015, excluding of course all EP’s, best of’s and live albums. Profitez-en bien!

Iron Maiden_The Book of Souls1. Iron Maiden – The Book of Souls (REVIEW)
As you read through the pages of The Book Of Souls you’ll inevitably realize that Iron Maiden’s gonna get us all, no matter how far.
Best song of the album: The Red and the Black

moonspell_extinct2. Moonspell – Extinct (REVIEW)
While this distinguished Portuguese Dark Metal band is among us, we can rest assured good and meaningful music is far from being extinct.
Best song of the album: Extinct

Stratovarius_Eternal3. Stratovarius – Eternal (REVIEW)
The Finnish masters of Power Metal are back with a beautiful album made to be eternal.
Best song of the album: My Eternal Dream

battle beast_unholy savior4. Battle Beast – Unholy Savior (REVIEW)
Battle Beast want the world and everything in it, and they’re definitely on their way to conquer it all with their brilliant brand new album.
Best song of the album: I Want The World… And Everything In It

My God-Given Right5. Helloween – My God-Given Right (REVIEW)
It’s our God-given right to keep banging our heads to the music by the happiest and most awesome Power Metal band in the world.
Best song of the album: Creatures in Heaven

scorpions_return to forever6. Scorpions – Return to Forever (REVIEW)
This rock may be rolling home after so many years of good service, but it still has A LOT to teach the world on how to make true Hard Rock.
Best song of the album: Rock ‘N’ Roll Band

cover7. Marduk – Frontschwein (REVIEW)
The Babylonian gods of Black Metal return with more of their blasphemous and apocalyptic war-themed music.
Best song of the album: Thousand-Fold Death

CoF_Hammer of the Witches8. Cradle of Filth – Hammer Of The Witches (REVIEW)
The metallic coven instituted by one of the most important Extreme Metal bands of all time keeps haunting our world with their music.
Best song of the album: Onward Christian Soldiers

Survivalist Album Cover9. 4ARM – Survivalist (REVIEW)
A phenomenal heavy music album full of groove, fury and energy by an extremely talented Thrash Metal band from Down Under.
Best song of the album: Poisoned Mind

Slayer_Repentless10. Slayer – Repentless (REVIEW)
Live fast, on high, repentless, and keep listening to Slayer until the day you die.
Best song of the album: Repentless

And here we have the runner-ups, completing the top 20 for the year:

11. Vanden Plas – Chronicles of the Immortals – Netherworld II (REVIEW)
12. Monolith – Against The Wall Of Forever (REVIEW)
13. The Agonist – Eye of Providence (REVIEW)
14. Acrassicauda – Gilgamesh (REVIEW)
15. Vingulmork – Chiaroscuro (REVIEW)
16. Vorna – Ei Valo Minua Seuraa (REVIEW)
17. Dys Inbunden – One With Morbidity, The Opus Misanthropy (REVIEW)
18. Deadly Circus Fire – The Hydra’s Tailor (REVIEW)
19. Tsar Bomb – Exterminans IX:XI (REVIEW)
20. Profane And The Sacred – Chapter 1 : A Long Time Coming (REVIEW)

As this year we had tons of amazing EP’s being released by extremely talented bands from all over the world, why not providing you our Top 10 EP’s of 2015, right? (To be fair, although shorter in duration, some of them are significantly better and more complex than several full-length albums that became available throughout the year.)

1. Goatchrist – The Epic Tragedy Of The Cult Of Enlil (REVIEW)
2. Dö – Den (REVIEW)
3. Chip DiMonick – Uncaged (REVIEW)
4. Omega Diatribe – Abstract Ritual (REVIEW)
5. The Passion Of Our Souls – Soulmates (REVIEW)
6. Velaverante – My Dark Images (REVIEW)
7. Novallo – Novallo II (REVIEW)
8. Meridius – Meridius (REVIEW)
9. Judas Avenger – Judas Avenger (REVIEW)
10. Pergana – The Visit (REVIEW)

One thing that 2015 taught us all is that Heavy Fuckin’ Metal is still alive and on fire, and based on the music by countless independent bands reviewed here (that for different reasons did not make it to our top 10/20), it will keep shining brighter than ever for many years to come. Take a listen at the music by Rifftera and Amanita Virosa (Finland); Reanimator and Fractal Generator (Canada); Sarpentra and The Prophet (Russia); Dzhatinga and Irreversible Mechanism (Belarus); Helligators and Lykaion (Italy); Warmask and Hateful Warfare (Brazil); Morkesagn and Gasoline Guns (Ukraine); Void Creation (Austria); Nachtlieder (Sweden); Fjorsvartnir (Denmark); Broken Rain (Slovakia); Lanthanein (Argentina), among many others, and there you have the future of heavy music. And, obviously, don’t forget to listen to the METAL MOOSE RADIO SHOW every week, and to always HAIL SANTA!

Metal Xmas and a Headbanging New Year! See you in 2016!

And now, last but not least, a Christmas message from Eddie and the boys…

Album Review – 4ARM / Survivalist (2015)

A phenomenal heavy music album full of groove, fury and energy by an extremely talented Thrash Metal band from Down Under.

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Survivalist Album CoverWhen I saw Australian thrash metallers 4ARM here in Toronto opening for Slayer in 2013 I knew there was something special about those guys, as I was able to truly enjoy their performance even knowing nothing about their music. That’s what high-quality music does to people, and that’s what will happen to you when you take a listen at Survivalist, the magnificent new album by this Melbourne-based Groove/Thrash Metal band.

Put together the speed and violence of Testament with the modernity and groove of Trivium, adding to that beautiful mixture the talent and refined technique of this band from Down Under, and the final result is an album (or should I say a concept album, as each song is a different “chapter”?) that will become an intrinsic part of your day-to-day playlist so awesome it is. Not only that, the album art by Colin Marks at Rain Song Design, who have already worked with bands such as Exodus, Whitechapel and Suicide Silence, wraps up the musical content perfectly. With that said, let me stop typing for a few seconds while I hit play to listen to Survivalist for the 100th time.

Opening this beautiful album we have Eyes of the Slain, and it’s such a great start it’s hard to explain what it represents in just a few words. Its intro reminds me of some excerpts from the biggest classics by Trivium, before turning into fast and technical metal music perfect for circle pits with the vocals by Markus Johansson being more melodic than the average in Thrash Metal. Besides, there’s an awesome dose of melancholy and anger in this song that only makes it more remarkable. In the following tune, Fragment of a Dream, the riffs are so amazing I dare you to not enjoy them. The level of professionalism is outstanding, and I’m sure you’ll be singing its catchy chorus for days in a row (“HUMAN nature is to kill / NEW WORLD disturbing of the beast / ODER chaos / Reality is hardly what it seems / HUMAN nature is to will / NEW WORLD survive in the extreme / ORDER chaos / Belief is just a fragment of a dream”). In addition, what lead guitarist Evan K and drummer Michael Vafiotis do with their instruments is beyond amazing.

Poisoned Mind is not just another kick-ass tune: it’s an extremely dense and complex composition with the whole band demanding we bang our heads nonstop during its execution, with highlights to the beastly and harmonic drumming by Michael and to the sick bass lines by Andy Hinterreiter. This is in my humble opinion the best song of the album and a lesson in Heavy Metal that truly deserves our recognition. Slowing down a bit (but as heavy as hell), 4ARM deliver the groovy Poverty of Flesh, where its lyrics blend perfectly with its instrumental parts. Markus and Evan offer us a feast of riffs and solos only bands like Trivium and Exodus can do, and if you’re a longtime fan of Testament you’ll go crazy with the last part of the song for sure.

4armSounding like the good times of Metallica mixed with the latest works by Trivium (and 4ARM’s own personality, of course), Lights Out presents great lyrics once again (“It’s in the darkest times / We reveal who we are / Those that can endure / And live beyond the scar / Scars are but a darkness of the soul / Revelation of might, silent control”), and it’s amazing how in just seven minutes they were capable of fusing three or four different “songs” in a very progressive and melodic way. In the next song, In Living Decay, they come blasting a powerful blend of 80’s Thrash Metal with modern extreme music right in our faces. I can imagine the smile on Michael’s and Evan’s faces while playing this song, and in the case of us metal fans, the question is: how not to get into the mosh pit with this song?

Now try to imagine if Dream Theater were a Thrash Metal band. Well, the song Ignitor would probably be the result in your mind. It’s nonstop violence with a strong melody and guitar solos tailored for any guitarist in the world to admire, with highlights to the vocals by Markus for giving genuine life to the lyrics. Last but not least, if 4ARM started the album on a high note, why not closing it with another brilliant tune, right? And for that they chose the title-track, Survivalist, the longest and most introspective of all tracks. This is a stunning semi-ballad where the music follows its sorrowful lyrics flawlessly (“And so it’s come to this / As the days cease to exist / Life in decline / Stare at the abyss / Count down the days yet still insist / There’s always time”), with the final guitar solo by Evan being so awesome it really makes me feel sad the album is over.

I’m not only going to say Survivalist is one of the best albums of 2015 so far,  but that its level of professionalism is absolutely unbelievable for a 100% independent band. How come 4ARM do not have a record label yet playing this first-class metal music? Anyway, you can give them a shout at their official Facebook page, and also purchase Survivalist on iTunes or on their BandCamp page. I really don’t know how we all survived until today without this album on our hands, but that’s how life is. At least we have it now to be listened over and over again, which reminds me what I’m going to do next.

Best moments of the album: Eyes of the Slain, Poisoned Mind and Survivalist.

Worst moments of the album: Honestly, there’s absolutely nothing bad or weak on this album.

Released in 2015 Independent

Track listing
1. Eyes of the Slain 7:30
2. Fragment of a Dream 4:47
3. Poisoned Mind 5:11
4. Poverty of Flesh 7:37
5. Lights Out 6:59
6. In Living Decay 4:45
7. Ignitor 5:22
8. Survivalist 8:31

Band members
Markus Johansson – vocals, guitars
Evan K – lead guitars
Andy Hinterreiter – bass
Michael Vafiotis – drums

Concert Review – Slayer (Kool Haus,Toronto, ON, 11/21/2013)

Is it a tornado? Is it a tsunami? No, it’s motherfuckin’ OLD SCHOOL SLAYER NIGHT in Toronto!

OPENING ACTS: 4ARM and Gojira

Yesterday night was one of those things that will be forever in our minds, hearts, aching necks and torn muscles. I must admit I was really tired after a full day at work, and driving from Oakville to Toronto when it’s raining it’s not fun at all, but what happened at the Kool Haus last night was worth every minute spent in traffic downtown.

Before I start, I have to say something amazing I saw lat night, which was the huge number of parents with their small kids at the concert. There was this father with his son, who was pretty excited for the concert, so I asked him how old his boy was and he said “he’s 11 now”. That’s about when I started listening to Slayer! That made me sleep better this night (even with my neck killing me), knowing the future of mankind doesn’t look so bad while we still have headbanging kids like that.

The first band of the night was 4ARM, from Melbourne, which means we have another good Metal band from Australia now. It was a decent concert that I liked a lot, even though I knew nothing about their career. Quick question: why do over 50% of the metalheads today, including band members, look so much like Jesus Christ even when singing about Jesus being a lie is their favorite topic? Anyway, that was a good warm-up for the rest of the night and a good chance to enjoy some beers while listening to some fuckin’ heavy tunes.

Then came Gojira, or Godzilla in Japanese, which by the way was the original name of the band. If you like to bang your head non-stop like a mutherfucker, you must listen to this neck-breaking French band: they are far from being the fastest band in the world, but they’re as heavy as an obese elephant and perfect for having a beer and smashing your neck. I don’t know a lot about the band; however, songs like L’Enfant Sauvage and The Heaviest Matter of the Universe sounded excellent for live concerts. Merci beaucoup, Gojira, for such a nice performance!

And it was so funny between Gojira and Slayer, when the DJ was playing some AC/DC songs and some guys (including myself) started singing “Aaaaaaaa… SLAYER! Aaaaaaaa… SLAYER!”, instead of “thunder” in Thunderstruck. There are things that only Slayer fans can do.

SLAYER

IMG_1445Whoever is responsible for the management of the venue can definitely change its name to “Kool Hell” or “Slaughter Haus” from now on. I think any Slayer concert should be used for human population control, especially if it’s an OLD SCHOOL SLAYER NIGHT like last night in Toronto. The mosh pits were insane; it was like Hell on Earth! In fact, the entire venue was a mosh pit.

Talking about the concert itself and the band, and I know it doesn’t matter what or how I say it here, I’ll never be able to describe in words the perfection of the show. I’ve seen Slayer live a lot of times (how the hell am I still alive?), and they’ve never disappointed me. Slayer always delivers a brutally awesome performance on stage, no matter where they are. When the intro to the classic Hell Awaits started and the white sheet that was covering the stage went down, there they were: Tom, Kerry, Gary and Paul, all ready for some fuckin’ Thrash Metal, and the fans answered the best way possible with a crazy mosh pit.

After that it was a sequence of old classics to make all diehard fans go crazy: the fast Antichrist and Necrophiliac, the cool Mandatory Suicide and Captor of Sin, and then we had the havoc anthem War Ensemble. There’s nothing I can say about this song except HOLY FUCKIN’ SHIT! And when I thought I could have a break and breathe for a few seconds, they come with an avalanche of classics including some of my all-time favorite Slayer songs such as At Dawn They Sleep, Die by the Sword and Spirit in Black. Do you want to rest now? No, you don’t, because the next song is Seasons in the Abyss, which was sung out loud by all fans at the venue in a celebration of Thrash Metal.

IMG_1456

R.I.P. Jeff Hanneman!

Although we all love Jeff Hanneman (RIP) and respect that amazing punk attitude he brought to Slayer, we have to admit Gary Holt is a beast and a perfect fit for Slayer. I don’t want him to leave/end Exodus, no way, but the Thrash Metal riff master adds so much value to Slayer that it’s impossible to think of anyone else that could replace him now. And as a tribute to one of the most underrated guitar masters of all time, Kerry and Tom decided to add the magnificent Strike of the Beast to their entire tour. Holy shit, that was brutal and unforgettable! And just when things didn’t seem they could get more awesome, Slayer provides us another annihilating sequence with Dead Skin Mask (also sung by everybody there), one of the most violent songs in the world and one of my favorites Raining Blood, and the fuckin’ old school Black Magic. Was it the end (of the world)? No, there was still time for the encore, the famous one with the Heineken/Jeff Hanneman flag on the back with the obscure South of Heaven and my top Thrash Metal track of all, the slashing anthem Angel of Death. Although in my opinion Dave Lombardo shouldn’t have left Slayer, I feel really good with the monster Paul Bostaph on drums, and what he did in Angel of Death just confirmed my feelings.

Finally, it’s always a pleasure to see Tom Araya and Kerry King playing live. The first is always so serene and enjoys so much having a good time with the fans (he even  demanded the security guys to bring back one fan that was supposedly doing something wrong and was about to be expelled), while the other is an unstoppable shredding machine with his pretty evil guitar.

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I swear I tried hard to find a Metallica T-shirt, but there was none. The Kool Haus in Toronto was a huge SLAYER NATION (the T-shirt I got yesterday!) last night, with no room for pussies. Well, there were many girls there, but they were not pussies at all (although they do have one): they were slamming in the pit with no mercy of the poor (or lucky?) guys close to them. Next time someone tells me Metallica is heavier than Slayer, I’m going to slap that stupid idiot in the face.

I didn’t see a single person that was just “OK” when that Armageddon came to an end. Quite the contrary, everybody was exhausted, sweating like a pig, but with an immense smile on their faces. I unfortunately hit a guy’s nose with the back of my head, and it might have hurt a lot on him (I feel so sorry for that guy). I also got a kind of a bruised eye, but nothing compared to a guy with a full black eye I saw when the show was over. My neck and the rest of the body hurt like if I was smashed by a steamroller, but hey, that’s FUCKIN’ SLAYER! No ballads, no acoustic shit, just pure fuckin’ Heavy Metal. Was it raining in Toronto when the show was over? Yes, but who cares? Inside the venue it was RAINING BLOOD, and I can’t wait to see my Thrash Metal heroes live again.

Slayer Setlist Kool Haus, Toronto, ON, Canada, North American Tour 2013

Band members

Tom Araya – lead vocals, bass guitar
Kerry King – guitars
Gary Holt – guitars
Paul Bostaph – drums