Staff picks


Jethro Tull - Aqualung
19.03.2021 | Progressive Rock

Back in the early 70's, metal was just in its infancy, not yet able to walk on its own feet. For most of that decade, not much other than Black Sabbath were heavy enough to be called metal, but heavy music was still abound, at least by the decade's standard. Jethro Tull would end up snatching a Grammy from Metallica, but Aqualung finds a band that can write some heavy guitars, but their progressive rock is most of all whimsical, comical, vulgar, clever, and witty. The image of Ian Anderson standing on one leg playing flute is just as iconic as the riffs on "Cross-Eyed Mary" or "Aqualung". It's a fantastic album even regardless of its connections to metal, one of the best prog rock albums period, almost best Jethro Tull album, and released exactly 50 years ago today.
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nikarg, ScreamingSteelUS, Dream Taster, Daniell
Kultika - Capricorn Wolves
17.01.2021 | Post-Metal
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The start of a new year always finds some people eager to look for what said year has to bring in terms of releases in hopes of picking some early favs. I still have to properly process some releases, but the one that stuck with me the most (so far) is Kultika's post-metal opus Capricorn Wolves. Horrid artwork aside, the psychedelic and progressive touches of it ensure that the atmosphere building parts of it are compensated with melodies whose flow is everchanging.



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Dream Taster, musclassia
Mountain - Nantucket Sleighride
28.12.2020 | Heavy blues rock

I wasn't planning to do any more staff picks this year, and especially not of early protometal stuff, since I just did one in which I also linked ten other 1970 protometal songs, including Mountain's hit, "Mississippi Queen". But Leslie West, guitarist and vocalist of the band, just died. Instead of going the usual Climbing! route, I propose a different trail, with 1971's Nantucket Sleighride, whose 50th anniversary isn't that far away either. Though none of the songs here have the immediate awesomeness of the riff and cowbell of "Mississippi Queen", the blues licks and jammy tone of this one as it moves through psychedelic, progressive and heavy undertones, coupled with some fine ass drumming as well, it's one of the best showcases of why Leslie was so appreciated as a guitarist, and perhaps it's time we saw that instead of just listening to that one song. Or we could go the live route with 1974's Twin Peaks, that somehow referenced Lynch's show before it even aired.

R.I.P. Leslie West (1945-2020)
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RaduP
ScreamingSteelUS, nikarg
Sir Lord Baltimore - Kingdom Come
21.12.2020 | Hell hounding proto metal

With 1970 being such a landmark year zero for metal, it's easy to forget that there were other pioneers besides the likes of Black Sabbath or Deep Purple. Released roughly 50 years ago this month, Sir Lord Baltimore's Kingdom Come is an album so heavy and energetic that it really feels like the early 70s didn't have the means to properly capture all that on wax just yet. Though they toured with Black Sabbath and were one of the first bands to get coined as "heavy metal" by journalists, a combination of poor album sales, personal differences, and drug abuse led to the band's early demise, though it's also that they were just too ahead of their time. Even though two of the three members having passed away, while the other remained in obscurity, the direct or indirect influence that Kingdom Come, and its more psychedelic follow-up Sir Lord Baltimore, had on heavy guitar music is something that lives on.

Here's some more unpicked year zero stuff: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10
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ScreamingSteelUS, Mr. Doctor, nikarg, Daniell
King Crimson - Lizard
11.12.2020 | Progressive Rock

Lizard is definitely one of the most underappreciated of King Crimson's albums. Being caught between the Greg Lake era and the John Wetton era, it was one of the two transitional lineups which never performed live. However not only was it the first King Crimson record to include Mel Collins, who is still a member today, but it was also the only one to have Gordon Haskell in the lineup doing vocals and bass, and whose passing this year might bring just a bit more attention to Lizard. Though there has yet to emerge a properly cropped version of the cover art, it's fantastic how Lizard shuffles between the grandiose symphonic prog and meddlings with avant-jazz and just a bit of absurd quirkiness.
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RaduP
The Bipolar Disorder Project - Anna
09.11.2020 | Avant-garde / Progressive Metal
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Yesterday I was greeted by the tragic news of Robert Cotoros' passing. I didn't personally know him, but I know a lot of people who did, and it was indeed a really great loss for the music community in my country. Though his talents would find him as a producer more often than a musician, his musical career would find him guesting on the latest E-an-na album, being a longtime member of Hteththemeth, and releasing a collaborative split with Karmic Thread (review here); but all pale in comparison with Anna, the labor of love project concept album that was 6 years in the making. Meticulous and creative beyond belief, the progressive and slightly avant-garde metal of it is something I wish would have lead to an even more matured follow-up. That will never happen now.

R.I.P. Robert Cotoros (1994-2020)

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nikarg, ScreamingSteelUS, BitterCOld, Dream Taster
Killing Joke - Killing Joke
05.10.2020 | Industrial Post-Punk

Quite akin to the previous album I staff picked, this is a release by a band before they became metal. It would be another 10 years before the industrial part of Killing Joke's sound became rough enough to warrant the "industrial metal" tag, but even from the beginning their cold and mechanical post-punk oozed of the sounds of industrial music, though more focused on barrages of bass, cold and anxious atmospheres, and feverishly angry vocals. It laid the groundwork for industrial rock 40 years ago today, though its influence was even more far reaching than that, and you could say that it ranks among those albums who inspired everyone who heard them. Even if Killing Joke committed the cardinal sin of having two non-consecutive self-titled albums.
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BitterCOld, nikarg, Daniell, Darkside Momo
Fields Of The Nephilim - Elizium
28.09.2020 | Gothic Rock

Not only did we miss this album's 30th anniversary by a couple of days, but this is also an album from before the band became metal (the opposite of what most bands are doing). Though Fields Of The Nephilim would start becoming more "brutal" with the next albums, it can't be understated how influential their gothic rock phase was to the soon-to-emerge gothic metal scene (which they would eventually join in a feedback loop of influence). Elizium is the apex of Fields Of The Nephilim's gothic rock sound, and honestly of gothic rock in general, at least out of the bits we have here. Dark, ominous, romantic, and magick. And even by goth rock standards, very atmospheric. It isn't hard to get why this was so influential, and why Fields Of The Nephilim have a Metal Storm page (and might've still had one even without their later albums) and The Sisters Of Mercy don't. All while we hope there would be another record sometime in the future.

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Mr. Doctor, nikarg, Daniell, BitterCOld
Ozzy Osbourne - Blizzard Of Ozz
20.09.2020 | Heavy Metal

I wouldn't want to crowd the main page with three anniversary staff picks, but Lee Kerslake's passing just one day shy of this album's 40th anniversary led me to realize how much Ozzy Osbourne struck gold with the lineup of this album. Kickstarting a career that would lead him from metal pioneer to Prince Of Darkness, Blizzard Of Ozz not only has some of the best songs of his career (but some questionable ones too), but also some of the best musicians: Randy Rhoads just a few years before his untimely passing, Don Airey, Bob Daisley, and, though his Uriah Heep career might be the more interesting of the bunch, there's no denying how much Lee Kerslake's drumming elevates this album as well.

That said, what the hell is a "bone movie"?

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nikarg, Daniell
SVNTH - Spring In Blue
10.09.2020 | Post-Black Metal
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Colin Marston is mostly known for producing dissonant tech death, but he is surprisingly great at bringing SVNTH's post-black metal sound to new heights as well. The sound may not be at the height of popularity it once was, but SVNTH reminds us why the serene post-rock/shoegaze sound contrasted so well with the raw and visceral black metal one. And with most of the songs being over the 10-minutes-mark, you know you'll get your worth of contrasting sounds.

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RaduP
Kaatayra - Só Quem Viu O Relâmpago À Sua Direita Sabe
02.09.2020 | Acoustic Black Metal
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Though Brazil's Kaatayra has released four genre defying black metal releases in the past two years, two of them just this year, it is Só quem viu o relâmpago à sua direita sabe that stuck with me most, mostly because it was both the first one I listened to and the one that shook things up the most. Completely defying metal's longest held rule: it must have electric guitars; Só quem viu o relâmpago à sua direita sabe instead sometimes sounds like Botanist lite or like atmospheric black metal with acoustic instruments instead of electric ones, but the Brazilian folk embeddings and their layering makes it sound like more than just its gimmick, showcasing great skill and ambition for a one-man band that successfully made black metal sound natural. Though if you miss the electric guitars, you can hear them in the other album they've released since: Toda história pela frente.

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musclassia, ScreamingSteelUS, Mr. Doctor
Nocturnus - The Key
24.08.2020 | Progressive Death Metal

Another influential album released somewhere in August 1990, this one coming from Florida, the hotbed of early American death metal. Nocturnus may not have been the first band to take death metal in a more progressive direction, fellow Floridans themselves like Death and Atheist were already making their steps, but never had a death metal band incorporated keyboards that heavily into their sound and basically birthed technical/progressive death metal's fascination with space and sci-fi. Though they're not as technical as most of their peers and descendants, the musicianship on here isn't to be taken lightly, especially considering how unusual it is for the drummer to be the vocalist as well.



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ScreamingSteelUS, BitterCOld, Ag Fox, Mr. Doctor, nikarg, Apothecary, Darkside Momo
Blasphemy - Fallen Angel Of Doom
17.08.2020 | War Metal

In a time when black metal was in its infancy and death metal was starting to become more mainstream and polished. A bunch of Canadians wanted it to return to it being as primitive and evil as possible. Ever since Fallen Angel Of Doom... was released roughly three decades ago, every war metal band ever wanted to sound just like this and to look just like this. And in ironic black metal fashion, they were probably the first black metal band to actually have a black member.

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Mr. Doctor, nikarg
Gaupa - Feberdröm
05.08.2020 | Psychedelic Björk rock
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What would it sound like if Björk fronted a psychedelic rock band?

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RaduP
nikarg, Mr. Doctor
Kommodus - Kommodus
28.07.2020 | Atra metallum
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One-man Roman-Empire-themed black metal from Australia. What more do you need me to say?

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RaduP