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Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Matt's Top 20 Of 2016

So much like my colleague Paul narrowing down the year into 10 albums was just too difficult, so I to have gone for 20 (because it's my blog and I can) while some are similar there are others that are different to the other contributors to this blog. As you can probably tell I'm a bit in love with prog, but I also love stomping hard rock and power metal. My list is based upon albums that had a an immediate effect on me but also ones that I have played a multitude of times. Some of these records have spent weeks on my stereo, others have been played once or twice but only in full as a testament to the commitment you have to give them. In what was an incredible year for music albums, gigs etc and on that saw this little project go from strength to strength once again, we hope to bring you more content, reviews, interviews, features in 2017. For now though these are the records that made me laugh, cry and most importantly remind myself why I love music. So here you go folks:

20. Feeder - All Bright Electric

Who knew that in 2016, Welsh millennial darlings Feeder would return with possibly the album of their career. Modern, classy and accomplished All Bright Electric is the culmination of sonic experimentation, new found confidence and years of hard slog. A sparkling example of modern rock from a band any Welsh person should be proud of.

19. The New Roses - Dead Man's Voice

I'd never heard of The New Roses before 2016, but now I'm glad of it as these German rockers play the groove filled hard rock that I love taking from The Black Crowes, Aerosmith but with a 80's sleaze due to the rough and ready vocals. It'd suggest starting with this record over their debut as it is a more realised vision of what they are about.

18. Headspace - All You Fear Is Gone

Filled with prog virtuoso's the second Headspace album was never going to be a simple affair, however they stepped up their game from their debut remarkable, things were more nuanced, progressive and in parts heavier, the lyrics too advanced the story of the debut's protagonist into more emotional psychological territory. A prog-metal tour-de-force that I hope will be followed up in less time than the five years this took to make.

17. Ulysses - Law And Order

Just sneaking into my top 20 are Bath retroist rockers who mix pop, psych and hard rock for huge sing along songs. Law & Order is their second record and it takes their sound to a louder, more defined sound. Their influences are worn on the collective sleeves with The Cars, Syd Barrett, Thin Lizzy and even Sailor creeping in this is a potent homage to music of the late 60's and early 70's with kaleidoscopic colours and outlandish lyrics Law And Order has jumped headlong as one my albums of the year.  

16. The Mute Gods - Do Nothing Until You Hear From Me

Not content with being the long term bassist for Steven Wilson (and earlier Kajagoogoo) Nick Beggs formed his own band The Mute Gods and quickly released his debut record featuring top musicians (most of whom had worked with him or Wilson) this was almost an alt-prog album rippling with anger and paranoia but wrapped up in glorious melodies and intense musicality. With the second record coming next year I hope that the upward trend continues.

15. The Temperance Movement - White Bear

We've been following The Temperance Movement since their debut and they continue to impress both in the live arena and on record. Their second record is a more mature affair than debut using more acoustic elements and blues touches to add another string to their already impressive bow, it's less insistent than the debut but if you give it time and patience it unravels into a enriching musical experience.

14. Purson - Desire's Magic Theatre

Continuing a theme of second albums Desire's Magic Theatre is probably one of the oddest, most gloriously technicolor releases of the year, Rosalie Cunningham's band of merry minstrels rammped up the weirdness for this second album. It's kitsch, kooky and most of all it rocks with Hendrix solos and psychedelia that looks to Jefferson Airplane and The Nice. With the band apparently calling it a day a mere week ago, this serves a sublime epitaph for a unique band.

13. Rival Sons - Hollow Bones

The Americans seem to get better with every release and Hollow Bones once again displays this, after being one of the highlights of an otherwise disastrous Download, the Californian four-piece carve a niche all of their own putting them in a totally different league to many of the bands having the modern retro sound. In their respective genre they are untouchable.

12. Haken - Affinty

Haken's fourth album saw them expand their musical palate yet again, pitching themselves in the technological analogue nostalgia of the 1980's releasing the record on LP, CD, MP3 and Cassette. A seriously impressive melodic prog record that mixes accessible songwriting with proggier than thou musicianship strained though the electronic music of the homaged decade.  

11. Devilskin - Be Like The River

New Zealand's Devilskin blew me away with their first album, I immediately fell in love with the heavy riffs and Jennie's amazing vocals. Their second record is bit more understated, the songs burn slower and it's only after repeated listens it reveals it's charms. The addition of more electronics and more solos mixed with bigger ballads gives the record a broader appeal. Mark my words Devilskin are going to achieve the same level of fame here as they have in their native country on the back of this record. Difficult second album? Not on your life!

10. Damian Wilson - Built For Fighting

The Threshold & Headspace frontman released his fourth solo record and it's probably the least 'rock' album I've reviewed, it has rock elements but there's far more acoustic, folk and pop touches to the songs on this record. It's a 'mainstream' album that desreves a lot of recognition, Wilson's voice is incredible as usual and when paired with the catchy-as-hell songs it meant that personally I played this album numerous times

9. Raveneye - NOVA

We are always a blog to support UK bands where we can and we've been supporting Raveneye since our first live viewings. (Personally I've been impressed by Oli Brown since he came to the scene as young man) Anyway NOVA is the long awaited debut album and it's truly stunning, taking a modern edge to the sounds of Zeppelin and Cream the three piece are heavy as hell and also have the riffs and hooks to win anyone round.

8. Avantasia - Ghostlights

Ghostlights is the first part of a new Avantasia project from Tobias Sammett, this one owes more to the AOR and hard rock than any of the previous efforts but sees Sammett writing some of his best material yet. Featuring all manner of guest artists it's a more than promising starts to this new set of albums and this one especially features a song more Meat Loaf than the entirety of this years Meat Loaf album (missing from this list)

7. Devin Townsend Project - Transcendence

Unless it's the god awful Ziltoid stuff Hevy Devy can do no wrong in my eyes, so with that in mind I went into his latest album with a rose tinted vision. Happily the spectacle weren't needed as Transcendence is quite probably the finest album Devin has made, it has all the pre-requisite heaviness, melody and mad genius that Devin has always made his own. A practically perfect Devin record from here he can do anything.

6. Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard - Y Proffwyd Dwyll

Wrexham masters of heavy MWWB came of age with this record it saw them being featured in the major published magazines and saw them exposed to a wider audience. Thankfully the music backs their press up with a frighteningly heavy, slightly experimental and haunting record that is disconcerting and ear splittingly powerful. With live shows already lined up for next year I personally can't wait to see these songs live.

5. Frost* - Falling Satellites

British on-again-off-again proggers returned with their first record since 2012 and it was one that blew many others out of the pool, an interesting engaging fusion of neo-prog and more classic themes with a distinctly pop sensibility from Gem Godfrey's merry crew. This is the sound of four men at the apex of their talents and it's simply glorious.

4. Crippled Black Phoenix - Bronze

Bronze sees Crippled Black Phoenix continue to redefine their own nature while remaining as uncompromising as ever. Its a record full of personal demons and political activism that features new members and a reinvigorated purpose, probably the most complete record of their career Bronze revels in it's misery but always aims towards the faint silver lining. I've been extolling the virtues of CBP for years and it's time they got the recognition they deserved.

3. Gojira - Magma

Gojira with clean vocals, clean guitars and less fret sliding? Yes it's happened folks Gojira have added a depth to their sound that has been lacking even though no one has realised, Magma was more subtle, deft and song driven than it's predecessors it saw the band take that step onto the next level, crowned by a thrilling performance at Bloodstock Gojira are now in the premiership of the metal game.

2. Marillion - F.E.A.R

After so many years a band like Marillion could have been forgiven for phoning in any future albums however this isn't what they do. F.E.A.R is quite possibly the bands best album with Steve Hogath behind the mic, incredibly political (more so than CBP) it's a terrifying and upsetting reflection of our current world shining the light on the less than perfect society we live in today. An acronym for Fuck Everyone And Run the title alone tells you everything you need to know, as far as the album goes it's a slow burner but after repeated listens is shines like the gold on it's cover.

1. The Struts - Everybody Wants

So number one, it took something truly special to beat Marillion in my eyes but Everybody Wants is an album that I loved as soon as heard it and even after a fortnight of repetitive plays it still had the same effect on me. I smile from ear to ear as the record starts and this continues until the last chord, the bastard love child of Queen, The Stones and Bowie The Struts are unashamedly British and this record is a celebration of fun, sex and rock n roll. With so much devastating news in the music world and beyond this year sometimes all you need is a bit of fun and The Struts are just that Everybody Wants is pure escapism, saccharine and sexy it's an album that makes you forget the real world for 30 odd minutes and just bask in the warm glow of rock music.  

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