Continuing my reviews of some of the releases of 2015 I had the opportunity to listen to. Keep in mind these are quick, short reviews based on just one listen. I won’t grade the albums because these are just first impressions and that would be unfair. And you’ll notice there’s hardly a highlight about a song, because as just first impressions, these are also difficult to point out.
Refused – Freedom – Maybe one of the most unlikely comebacks of all time. That’s how we can describe this new record from Swedish Hardcore/Metal innovators Refused. Everybody thought that they had closed the book for good after the now classic and innovative The Shape of Punk to Come released in 1998. However, they managed to record in secrecy and out of the blue came Freedom. And it was great to see that their criticism is as sharp as ever and they are still managing to evolve. Hardcore with horns and tambourines? Check. Acid comments on corporation greed and European elites? Check. Yes, Refused are back and we are all the happier for it.
Toto – XIV – You can’t argue about Joseph Williams as a singer. However, I’m always a little skeptical when I think about a Bobby Kimball-less Toto. Especially since their last album with Kimball, 2006’s Falling in Between was wonderful, maybe one of their best. But Toto nowadays is practically the brainchild of guitarist Steve Lukather and you can always count on him when it comes to songwriting. Stellar musicianship, great melodies and a touching tribute to Jeff Porcaro in Unknown Soldier.
Satan’s Wrath – Die Evil – Venom for the 21st Century? I actually never heard someone saying that about these Greeks black metallers but you can’t dispute the fact that their songs are evil and pure Black Metal. Now, let’s get one thing clear: this is pure Old School Black Metal, the like of which the aforementioned Venom, Bathory, Sarcofago, and old Marduk would be glad to hear. No orchestras, no string arrangements, no polished melodies: only raw Black Metal spewing out blasphemies all around. And Satan’s Wrath has an advantage over all those: as anyone can record with good quality these days, their records are pristinely recorded. And they are getting more evil with each release, just the way we like it.
Thunder – Wonder Days – There are those who will complain about yet another band saying they are going to stop and not stopping. To all those I say: so fuckin’ what? As long as they are still creating good songs, I have no problem with it. And thankfully this is the case here. Thunder even played a Farewell tour, but after guitarist Ben Matthews was diagnosed with cancer they probably realized life is too short and decided to come back. And what a return! Of course I need to get this record some more spins but as a first impression it sounds to me as their best release since their brilliant debut Back Street Symphony way back in 1990. The record is so good that even with one spin I can pinpoint some highlights like the wonderful title-track, “The Rain”, “When the Music Played” and “I Love the Weekend”. The whole record has a strong reminiscence feeling, but if you’re nostalgic like me, you won’t think this is bad at all.
See you next week with some more 2015 releases!
Survivor – When Seconds Count
Rolling Stones – Steel Wheels
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – Damn the Torpedoes
Breaking Bad – Season I
In The Garden Of Beasts – Erik Larson
To Hell and Back: an Autobiography – Meat Loaf with David Dalton
Be sure to check out my book “Straight And Lethal” winner of the NABE Pinnacle Awards 2014 Fall edition.
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