Staff picks


Van Halen - Van Halen
07.10.2020 | Songs for the Electric Guitar

For generations, ever since his explosive debut with this legendary album, Eddie Van Halen has been synonymous with the electric guitar. With the runaway success of Van Halen and the wild, high-energy rock/metal combination the band purveyed in so many hit singles, Eddie became one of the most visible and respected shredders of the '70s and '80s; his most lasting contribution to the craft may be the popularization of tapping, especially of the two-handed variety, and he expressed a familiarity with pinch harmonics, sliding, vibrato, and other techniques that had yet to be fully mined by his genre, but beyond that he wrapped the spotlight around himself and pushed the art of guitar-playing into a new plane of excess. From his distinctive tone to his knack for riff-writing to his seemingly effortless facility with his instrument, Eddie was a monumental figure, the gold standard for hard rock and glam metal in his heyday and even now one of the faces of the guitar to the world at large. We shouldn't forget how he pushed the envelope even further with his daring use of synthesizers on "Jump" and his collaboration with Michael Jackson on "Beat It," but it is this album that more than any illustrates why people have always talked about Eddie Van Halen as a revelatory force.

"Eruption" is a notorious benchmark of technical prowess, as iconic as "Smoke On The Water" or "Iron Man" but for a higher skill set, and songs like "Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love" and "Runnin' With The Devil" boast some of the most recognizable riffs of the decade; the name "Van Halen" itself has become an antonomasia to describe a musically skilled showman. Even the design of his trademark "Frankenstrat" has developed into an image and a brand all its own. I may not be the biggest Van Halen fan out there, but it's impossible to deny the status that Eddie enjoyed in the musical world and the sway he held over generations of players; I'm glad I was able to see him once and watch him live up to that reputation.

RIP Eddie.

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musclassia, D.T. Metal, RaduP, nikarg, BitterCOld, Daniell, Dream Taster, Starvynth
Black Sabbath - Paranoid
18.09.2020 | Old People Metal

I'm not going to go to the same effort that I did to mark the half-centenary of Black Sabbath, but I do think that Paranoid is the superior album by far - it was one of my first metal albums (mine and the rest of the world's) and it remains one of my favorites. The guitars, bass, and drums on this album are simply flawless, and the vocals are pretty good, too. I would tentatively say that heavy metal has not yet produced another work as instrumentally well-rounded and complete as "War Pigs." Every groove of this album is the very essence of metal incarnate, and while you are correct in noting that we mostly use the Staff Picks feature just to mark anniversaries nowadays, there are few albums worth celebrating as much as Paranoid. It boggles the mind to consider that this album has been in the world for 50 years and it is still looked upon as a masterpiece.

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Mr. Doctor, Starvynth, RaduP, Apothecary, nikarg, Fat & Sassy!, BitterCOld, Abattoir, Daniell
Judas Priest - Painkiller
03.09.2020 | Metal Meltdown

30 years ago, on September 3, 1990, Judas Priest released the perfect heavy metal album. Not A perfect heavy metal album - THE perfect heavy metal album, a nonstop death machine bristling with power and speed that puts all competition to shame. The title track really says it all: it's iconic from head to toe, opening with Scott Travis's merciless drum volley and closing with Rob's peremptory shriek of "PAIN!!", with some of the greatest shredding ever committed to wax in between. But the album doesn't end there; for 47 minutes, Painkiller holds its listeners captive with stratospheric screeching, face-melting guitar solos, and the sleekest, heaviest, most brutally effective solution of thrash-laced heavy metal that the world has ever heard. The snarling evil of "Night Crawler," the pummeling metallic frenzy of "Metal Meltdown," the epic and intimidating groove of "Hell Patrol" - every track is a guaranteed killer from one of the most legendary bands ever to give meaning to the phrase "heavy metal." I love the myriad styles of metal music and I embrace it in all its deathly, blackened, doomy, thrashy, folksy, grindy, djenty extremity, but when it comes to the grand tradition, the classic sound, the stuff that "heavy metal" in its purest form is made of, there is nothing better than Painkiller.

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RaduP, nikarg, Troy Killjoy, Dream Taster, Abattoir
Entombed - Left Hand Path
04.06.2020 | The Swede Embrace Of Death

30 years ago today, Entombed taught the world what Boss HM-2 and DS-1 pedals could do to a cheap rig and, by extension, what Sweden could do for death metal. Left Hand Path was not the first death metal album recorded by a Swedish band, nor was it the first recorded by Tomas Skogsberg at the legendary Sunlight Studio, but it was arguably the first Swedish death metal album: with evil-infused hardcore punk riffs, D-beat drums, mid-range harsh vocals, and guitars so distorted they sound like two slabs of concrete being scraped together, Entombed set a trend and heralded the irruption of one of heavy metal's most iconic and influential scenes. Even though they themselves would not stay on the left-hand path for much longer, crossing over into death'n'roll, between this album and Clandestine Entombed are rightfully remembered as death metal legends. Here's to three head-kicking decades of buzzsaw guitars, strangled growls, and dark, crushing Swedeath.

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Troy Killjoy, RaduP, Daniell, nikarg, BitterCOld, Abattoir, Mr. Doctor, Darkside Momo
Flotsam And Jetsam - Doomsday For The Deceiver
20.01.2020 | Ugly Artwork-core
Bandcamp music player

We all knew Marcel as a doom guy, and that's certainly the first association I have with him, but on this very site you will find a 10.0 review of this here classic thrash album (or at least the 20th anniversary reissue) from none other than Marcel himself. Personally, I've never been the biggest fan of Flotz, but Doomsday For The Deceiver is without a doubt one of the best thrash albums to come out of the 1980s, thanks to its sky-piercing vocals and riffs as monstrous as the cover art. We know which band Jason Newsted really belonged in... but that's another discussion.

The point here is that Flotsam And Jetsam were no hangers-on, but were paving the way for future thrash (and other styles) in ways the Big Four couldn't have imagined, and I paid much closer attention to this album thanks to the affection shown it by Marcel.
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Daniell, nikarg, Darkside Momo, Ag Fox, Mr. Doctor
Elvenking - Reader Of The Runes - Divination
28.09.2019 | Folkened Power/Empowered Folk/Elf Magic

I reviewed Secrets Of The Magick Grimoire in 2017 and, though I spoke very highly of it at the time, it has since grown even greater in my esteem, not only yielding many staples of my mental power/folk metal canon but also climbing the ranks to become one of my favorite albums of all time. Reader Of The Runes - Divination is already beginning the same ascent, thanks to its unmistakable aura of high fantasy and woodland elven magic. The many, many layers of metal and traditional instrumentation and sweet-sounding vocals build a beautiful atmosphere, and the songs themselves are enchanting. Elvenking is our champion of dense, folk-heavy power metal.
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VooDoo KungFu - Celestial Burial
21.09.2019 | New Wave of Bruce Lee Sounds

It has been over a year since my last staff pick, so I decided to throw out a real corker to get my momentum going again. Li Nan is a maniac whose voice will leave you scarred for days after listening to this album. He's backed by a mash-up of nu/alt metal and Chinese elements that swings from brutal breakdowns to meditative atmosphere. VooDoo KungFu is a bizarre project - it's groovy, scary, freakish, and extreme, and all the while it's sui generis.
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Manilla Road - Crystal Logic
28.07.2018 | Epic Metal

Mousy vocals, reedy tones, modest production... but bombastic riffs, lofty concepts, fantastical mystique, and complete mastery over the art of flaming metal systems. Touching on power, prog, speed, and traditional heavy metal, Manilla Road produced a string of the finest albums ever released in any of those genres, and Crystal Logic crowned them all with its ensorcelling grooves. In losing Manilla Road, the heavy metal genre has lost one of its most literate and classically epic artists.

RIP Mark the Shark.
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BloodTears, Daniell, Dream Taster, Mr. Doctor
Blind Guardian - Nightfall In Middle-Earth
29.05.2018 | Music, in the truest sense of the word

I'm about a month late for the exact anniversary, but Nightfall In Middle-Earth is 20 years old now, and for the last 10, it has been my favorite album of all time. Andre Olbrich's guitar solos, Hansi Kürsch's vocals, the songwriting, the production, the choirs, the drama, the emotion, the cover art, even the cavalcade of excessive interludes - just about every characteristic of this album is, for me, the gold standard by which that characteristic is measured in all other works of music. I can still clearly remember hearing "Nightfall" for the first time and thinking within the first ten seconds, "This is the perfect band for me." Ten years later, I feel the same sentiments I did that first time. Happy birthday, Nightfall. Happy anniversary, Bards of Metal.

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BloodTears, BitterCOld, Demonic Tutor, Daniell, Darkside Momo
Dew-Scented - Inwards
19.05.2018 | Brutalityyyyyyyyy

After 26 years and ten albums whose titles all start with the letter "i," Dew-Scented have decided to make the world a nicer, calmer, gentler, and overall suckier place by taking themselves out of it. This was one of the bands that first acclimatized me to harsh vocals and more extreme forms of metal, and what a band to start with; to this day, Inwards is one of my go-to albums whenever I need something that is loud, fast, brutal, angry, unsubtle, and wicked sick in equal measure. I hate to see them go, but we've still got in "Bitter Conflict" one of the finest metal songs ever written.
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Battle Beast - Bringer Of Pain
06.06.2017 | Disco Power That Really, Really Should Be From Sweden

Anton Kabanen left the band, the last album failed to move me at all, and I thought I had grown tired of Battle Beast. When I learned that they were playing seven of these ten songs on tour, I knew that something had to be up. Turns out they had every reason to be that confident in Bringer Of Pain, which is in my eyes the most consistent and natural-sounding album Battle Beast has ever released.
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Babymetal - Metal Resistance
23.04.2016 | Desu-core

Look, I can't explain this album, and neither can you. It has djent, it has DragonForce, and it has nonstandard time signatures. At this point, I'm not ruling out a collaboration with Cattle Decapitation and Wardruna on a Bathory cover for the inevitable Babymetal III - The Kawaii-ening. You might question the nature of reality and what it really means to be a fan of music ('cause I sure did), but it's good. Just... just listen. Shut up and listen.

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wrathchild, Apothecary
Saurom - Sueños
08.12.2015 | Happy Hobbit Dance Party Metal

Garden-fresh, clean as a whistle, immoderately melodic, and soaked to the very strings with the uncomplicated happiness of a halfling who's just found himself in the possession of a wagon full of mince pies. This album is the perfect mash-up of power and folk metal - bright, dramatic, loud, pure, energetic, life-affirming, and boasting especially incredible performances on the parts of the vocalist and folk instrumentalist. Every song is a celebration in itself, and there are a lot of songs.
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Fat & Sassy!
Cattle Decapitation - The Anthropocene Extinction
15.10.2015 | Very Frightening
Bandcamp music player

Nobody regurgitates slimy, unsettling grindy-death like Cattle Decapitation. The Anthropocene Extinction is on the one hand technical, cold, and rigid, and on the other a great, big, bloody mess of disgusting offal and pulsating remains. Top it all off with one of extreme metal's most remarkable vocal juggernauts, and the gory might of Cattle Decap cannot be contained. Whatever they've been doing these last few years has paid off immeasurably.
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Deadsoulman, wormdrink414, psykometal
Forefather - Curse Of The Cwelled
11.06.2015 | Sóncræft Angelcynnes
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Grab your sweord and scyld, because those pesky Danes are back demanding their Danegeld. How will you ever be Engla Cyning if you keep throwing all your geld at those wave-walking interlopers instead of building burhs? Arm thyself, ye thegn of Wessex, and let Forefather lead you to æsctír.
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R'Vannith