Parkway Drive – Reverence
When Parkway released Reverence in May 2018 we were blown away with the quality and power it brang. They went on to play festivals across Europe including Download Festival, where they unveiled their UK Arena Tour for early 2019. We caught up with Winston McCall before that set to speak about this album. This is my album of the year because musically they have been spot on, the production quality is amazing, but also this is music with true meaning behind it; Winston spoke to us about the loss he experienced which sadly drove the meaning behind a lot of the tracks. We at RAMzine had also recently lost a writer to Cancer, and whilst it was directly relatable to us in that sense, there is something about strong emotion that does create the best music. RIP Pagan – We miss you, this album would have been right up your street! Parkway will be back with their fire and on stage aggression in February.
With the bar set at a career high after the release of Meliora, Ghost would have to meet these expectations and dazzle the living hell out of the world. So many questions left unanswered: what happened to Papa Emiratus III? Who is this Cardinal Copia? Papa Zero? Just what the hell is going on? As time rolled on, we finally got a peek into the world of the Ghost mythos which has expanded this universe astronomically. Then, dancing into our lives, ‘Rats’ was presented to the world. Huge hooks, and a massive chorus, this was s sign of things to come. With more melodies than we can handle, Prequelle has cemented Ghost as not just a band with an eye for the dramatic, but have transcended into a fully fledged phenomenon.
Uriah Heep – Living the Dream
A massive return to form by the Heep men, the album is packed with very high quality rock (and, OK a hint of prog), and definitely ranks with the best of their previous output and maybe, just maybe, on a par with such classics as Look At Yourself and The Magicians Birthday. Solid, bang up to date heavy rock with a foothold in their 70’s heyday. Five Stars as an absolute minimum.
Blind River – Blind River
There are few bands that can gather a following quite like the rockers in Blind River. Their live show has stepped up each and every time and their debut release harnesses that raw power and energy. Without question this is a must have album from a must see band we all need in our lives. From start to end, the roller coaster journey has no gimmicks to rely on, it simply delivers the goods and is the perfect example of what the epitome of rock and roll should be. While working away on material for their sophomore release, it’s impossible to see how they can top this, but I expect them to perform above and beyond any expectations!
Zeke – Hellbender
Zeke are one of those bands that have been around for a long time and have never really got the respect they deserve, they are also a band that you can’t really compare to anyone else who is active at the moment or put into one single pigeon hole. Sure they are punk, sure they are rock and roll, but they blend everything they do perfectly into a beautifully noisey and rowdy package on every release. This being the first album they have released since 2004 this year’s Hellbender is a perfect example of that! Frantic gritty and with a tongue firmly in cheek, they sound as if they haven’t missed a step.
Damon Johnson – Memoirs of an Uprising
Memoirs of an Uprising by Thin Lizzy guitarist Damon Johnson is an inspired and inspiring effort that encompasses everything that makes a proper rock record great. You want pumping riffs and punchy drums? You want infectious hooks and huge choruses too? All of that and more is to be found on this glorious 10-track output. There is a heartfelt quality to compositions such as ‘So Brutal’ and ‘Shivering Shivering’. The hauntingly beautiful ‘The World Keeps Spinning Round’ simply gets me every time and always brings a tear to my eye. Mr. Johnson covers the gentle and introspective as well as the explosive and face-melting stuff. The album has plenty of light and shade to it and it is truly a pleasure to listen to a record that is as varied and dynamic as this one. Things flow together seamlessly and there is depth and substance to the song material. Boasted by a fat, juicy production and stellar musicianship, Damon and his talented cohorts have spawned an album that looks to both the past (i.e. classic 70s rock) and the future. In many ways, Memoirs of an Uprising brings to mind Damon’s previous work with acts such as Black Star Riders and Slave to the System, but only in the sense that he has a unique way of writing riffs and melodies and that there are parallels to the aforementioned outfits here. This is a fresh, vibrant, and addictive record that is easily among the year’s best.
Wilko Johnson – Blow Your Mind
He described this as: ‘The album I never thought I’d get to write…’ and “Blow Your Mind” refers to the period in his life when the singer, guitarist and of “Game of Thrones” actor Wilko Johnson faced five years of tribulation dealing with a terminal diagnosis he was given. On the first single from the album: ‘Marijuana’ he mocks approaching death, despises the misery of the ward and jokes about the palliative care he’s offered. Only a man who has looked death in the face can be so blatantly sarcastic. The rock-splashed, chippy atmosphere of ‘Tell Me One More Thing’ with its elastic notes and evocative, nuck-puckering, blues mouth-organ that’s squeezed so close to the blade-cutter guitar it’s bound to get razor-burn, is a classy track. As is: ‘That’s The Way I Love You’ — a proper rocknrolla that you can easily imagine on the tracklisting of the ‘Down by the Jetty’ album [1975.] With a tight guitar, a boogie-woogie bounce and some rockadoodle, almost cynical, lyrics this swelters. The poetry of ‘Low Down’ reminds us of Ian Dury. With a slow jazz rhythm and nuances of rock and funk … plus plenty enough push & style to to get anyone up-and-dancing in their N.H.S. bed gowns. The deliberative instrumental ‘Lament‘ is a musical cabochon of surprising brilliance and our favorite moment on the album … This is intensely high-yielding, characterful and very reflective.
The Amity Affliction – Misery
The Amity affliction has always put mental health first with their music and with the launch of Misery its pretty much described another look into mental health, depression, suicidal etc. A huge chunk of people always connect with their music and I feel its one of only a handful of bands which can express and speak for you through music what it does and how people can hopefully understand the issue at hand.
Alice In Chains – Rainier Fog
In many ways, Alice In Chains’ Rainier Fog is much like its namesake, Seattle’s Mount Rainier: it has a large and looming presence, a sharp grit, and inherent majesty. The grunge pioneers sixth studio album leaves listeners with a dark, cold shot of remembrance of what makes the genre so special. The infallible nexus of resonance, biting melodicism, and nihilism totes a timeless appeal that fully captivates the ear. A large aspect of what makes Rainier Fog so captivating is its ability to couple nuance with intensity, making the album’s power artful rather than overbearing. Whether it be the rhythmic throttle of ‘Red Giant’, razor-sharp guitar melodies on the titular track, the iridescence of ‘Fly’, or the pounding voltage of ‘Never Fade’, Rainier Fog boasts ample faculty and the technical competence to match. Rainier Fog emphatically amplifies the blaze of the torch that the grunge era lit. It yields an authority so all-encompassing that it yields an authority to make listeners long for a time they were once – or wish they had been – there to experience. However, it does so with an innovative twist, making Rainier Fog among 2018’s most compelling releases.
Architects – Holy Hell
This was always going to be a difficult album, for both band and fans. A period after the untimely and devastating passing of the bands guitarist and chief song writer, Tom Searle aged 28 in 2016, bought forward discussions as to whether this album would come to be. The release of the single ‘Doomsday’ in September 2017 served as a powerful, and emotional reminder of what the band could offer, and the overwhelming support it received went a long way to showing that, if the band were to release a new album, the fans would be there. Fast forward a year later and Holy Hell is released. There is a catharsis to be found in Holy Hell. A much needed expression of grief, joy and emotion that underpins the album, through which both band and fans can find a much needed release. Each of the 11 tracks has been delivered with such raw, destructive and almost unrestrained emotion it often feels, at times, as though the band are close to breaking themselves apart to deliver each note and syllable, in order to exorcise the previous two years. The bands eighth album, displays exactly why this release was needed. It allows the band, and the fans, an opportunity to say goodbye to Tom’s era at the helm in the most fitting way possible, and to look ahead with optimism and excitement to the next stage. It is always difficult to pick stand out tracks from any Architects album, and Holy Hell is no different. ‘Doomsday’, was always going to be one. It’s anthemic and goosebump inducing, and encapsulates perfectly why this album is my release of the year. Hereafter and Royal Beggars also deserve special mention, but in order to fully appreciate what this album offers, it needs to be heard in full, at the loudest possible volume.
The Struts – Young & Dangerous
Every song is well written and very catchy. The lyrics and the melodies are as innovative and extravagant as the band that is behind them. All in all, an absolute delight for every rockers’ ears!
Turnstile – Time & Space
After picking up on these guys back in 2013 with their brilliantly received underground hit EP Step 2 Rhythm, I always had an inkling that Turnstile would be the most exciting and prominent contemporary hardcore band of our time, not just because of their now signature crossover sounding style, but also judging by the ferocity of their live shows. Fast forward to 2018 – I was fortunate enough to see them three times in the space of a few months, to really connect with their music in a live environment, and quickly establishing them as the most exciting band of the year bar none. But it isn’t just about the show, their brand new record Time & Space’is equal parts adrenaline shock to the blood stream, hyper intense hardcore punk, 90’s alternative rock worship, and life-affirming. Time & Space is not a perfect record by any means, however that is what makes is so damn exciting on every single level. A short, sharp shock to the senses that will garner endless replay value, soulful substance, and a truly rewarding listening experience. Turnstile – the band that just keeps on giving. The band you need to believe in!
Riverside – Wasteland
Another master work from a band betting better with every new album. Written in the wake of personal tragedies, the band nonetheless channeled their emotions into words and music and recorded a superlative album dedicated to the memory of their fallen comrade Piotr, and one he would be proud of.
Palm Reader – Braille
Palm Reader’s Braille marked a huge step up in their ability to write complex, sinuous hardcore draped in ear worm melodies and heartfelt lyricism. Braille is a dense album, with an abundance of ideas being poured into each song, and it shows their ability as songwriters that nothing gets lost within this chaotic mix. The guitars know exactly when to hold back and when to roar forwards, experimenting in luscious textures on a song like ‘Clockwork’ and embracing dissonance on ‘Swarm’. The rhythm section shines on a song like ‘The Turn’, with its propulsive bass line and furious drumming. Josh’s vocals are the centerpiece of the record, whilst using intelligent lyrics and a stunning ability to bring a hook out of seemingly nowhere to sit above the musical canvas, delivering a visceral performance. The soft, meditative moments of ‘Breach’ and ‘Dorothy’ add an atmospheric quality to the album; a progression from the experiments into post-rock territories begun on previous album Beside The Ones We Love. These tracks serve to make the heavier sections hit even harder, especially on final cut ‘A Lover, A Shadow’, where the spacious bridge guitars lead into a crushing final section. There are moments all over Braille which elevate Palm Reader above the rest of their contemporaries, moments which other bands simply can’t do. Small background parts like the guitar dead notes in ‘Swarm’ are some of the most compelling on the album, simple yet so inventive. As a band who have consistently improved, release upon release, Braille stands out as Palm Reader’s defining statement up to this point, and indicates a very bright future.
Devildriver – Outlaws Til The End Vol 1
Maybe Prequelle by Ghost was my favourite but I think this is the album I least expected to like so much. Metal covers of outlaw country tracks? Funny concept but it really works. One of my highlights of the year was talking to Dez at Bloodstock and it seems like this is a warm up for something big. The fact Wednesday 13, Randy Blythe and the Cash family involved is just the icing on the cake.