Every Open Eye, CHVRCHES (2015) Review

After I talked so much about this album in my review of Chvrches’s debut, The Bones of What You Believe, I thought it’d be fitting to review it. What we have here is Chvrches totally swerving the sophomore slump and getting right to the good stuff.

Every Open Eye

I view Every Open Eye as an improvement over their debut album. The group expanded upon everything that made their debut so successful. The lyrics here are tighter, the instrumentals and vocal samples more effective, and Lauren’s voice sounds better than before. Every Open Eye sounds very similar to The Bones of What You Believe, but the delivery here is more even and well-rounded than the debut, especially the production.

My main complaint with The Bones of What You Believe is the production. For lack of a better word, it is uneven. I believe the band was experimenting with a few different production styles on the debut, but they never really honed in on one set style. Every Open Eye is the complete opposite. Here we have Chvrches expanding upon one definitive production style. The production on this album is huge, and this album’s greatest strength is the production. Every Open Eye is a very cheerful album; quite the antithesis to The Bones of What You Believe, which is a darker affair. Chvrches sounds triumphant on tracks like Make Them Gold and Bury It, both of which deal with overcoming hardships and bettering yourself.

High Enough to Carry You Over and Empty Threat deal with similar topics as well. Tracks like those help to give the whole album a much happier feel than The Bones of What You Believe. Because of that, the debate of The Bones of What You Believe vs. Every Open Eye is a tough one, and it really does come down to the darker album vs. the cheerier album. It’s all personal preference, but I simply adore how hyperactive this album is. Chvrches is just everywhere on this album. They do the fast-paced blazers like Never Ending Circles and Keep You On My Side, but Chvrches also balances those tracks out with stuff like Down Side of Me and Afterglow. Afterglow, the album’s closer, is simply beautiful. It’s one of Chvrches’s simpler cuts, but it is so effective. The entire song is composed of just two things: Lauren’s voice and a synth track. Those two elements work beautifully together and create some mesmerizing moments.

The pacing of these tracks is insanely good. I still find it hard to believe that this is only the group’s second effort. Chvrches writes song like songwriting is a craft they’ve been honing for years and years. I even think the songwriting is a step up from their debut. All of the tracks here are extremely memorable, and the length of the album is just perfect. The album clocks in at a total of 42 minutes, which is just enough time for Chvrches to come in, make their mark, and leave without overstaying their welcome. But yeah, Chvrches alternates between faster paced stuff and more mellow tracks perfectly. What I’m getting at is that this creates epic contrasts between songs like High Enough to Carry You Over and Leave a Trace, making the album feel like a completely immersive listen.

The performances from every band member is really high caliber stuff too. Lauren Mayberry’s performance is pretty comparable to her work on the debut. She’s definitely improved as a vocalist, but their isn’t that drastic of a change. Although, she has changed up her vocal delivery just a little bit. Like when she needs her voice to be soft and fragile on Afterglow, she is able to expertly communicate her emotions through her timbre. Her highs are also cleaner on this album than they were on the debut. She hits some higher notes in stuff like Empty Threat and Make Them Gold.

Speaking of vocal performances, Martin Doherty’s voice is leaps and bounds better than it was on the debut. There is only one track he has lead vocals on here, and that is High Enough to Carry You Over (which is an awesome song!!). Simply put, he comes off as a better singer here than he did on the debut. Her delivery is tighter and his voice is less shaky. One thing about the debut that really irked me was that his voice was so drastically different than Lauren’s. I don’t think his voice fit the dark sound of the debut, but here, we have a much cheerier Chvrches. His voice is extremely welcome in the context of the album’s sound.

Iain Cook, who plays bass for Chvrches, is featured much more prominently on this album. The two cuts his bass plays a huge part in are Playing Dead and Make Them Gold. In those two tracks, his bass, along with Lauren’s voice, adds a human element to the electronic soundscape. His bass tone is great; it rumbles and booms alongside the blazing synths in the verses to Playing Dead to create a truly unique mix of sounds.

It’s been about three or four months (and about 30+ listens) since I’ve first heard the album, and it still floors me whenever I listen to it. Even when I nitpick about the band’s production or performance here, it’s hard for me to come up with legitimate complaints about this album’s missteps. The entire effort is extremely well rounded, and such an improvement over the band’s debut. Even the songwriting, which was immense on the group’s debut, has managed to improve.

The Verdict

Every Open Eye is a must hear for 2015. Chvrches manages to improve every single element that made their debut as acclaimed as it was. Every Open Eye is by far the greatest electronic pop album I’ve ever heard. Actually scratch that, it’s one of the greatest albums I’ve ever had the chance of listening to. Definitely pick this one up if you’re looking to either expand your taste or dig into some newer pop music.

The Bones of What You Believe, Chvrches (2013) Review

Top 5 Speak Now Songs


This is the first piece I’m doing on Speak Now by Taylor Swift, my first album of the month here on The Hammer! Speak Now can flaunt many things, among them an excellent performance from Taylor (and her backing band) and extremely dense songwriting (all solely done by Swift herself). Speak Now features many fan favorite tracks and of course a lot of huge radio hits. My favorite aspect of Speak Now is the almost ethereal feeling the songwriting has. It was on this album that Swift truly cemented herself as one of the greatest songwriters of the 21st century.

For my first piece based on Speak Now, I’ll be showing you all the top 5 greatest songs from the album:

5. Superman

I actually start off with a bonus track from Speak Now, Superman. There were 6 bonus tracks to Speak Now, with three of them being original songs, and I believe Superman is the best original song from the deluxe edition of the album. Superman has an excellent driving feel to it and features some heartfelt vocals from Taylor. I love the chorus of the song:

“I watch superman fly away
You’ve got a busy day today
Go save the world I’ll be around
I watch superman fly away
Come back I’ll be with you someday
I’ll be right here on the ground
When you come back down”

Her backing band actually sounds pretty heavy on this song. They add a lot of weight to the sound and save it from sounding too light. I’ve also always thought the length of the song is perfect at about 4 and half minutes. The song focuses on Taylor wishing for this Superman character to come swoop her off her feet and fly her around the world. She claims she’s loved this man from the “very first day” and that she’s been “lovestruck and looking out the window” for him. It’s a touching little song and long has been one of my favorite bonus tracks to any of her albums.

4 . Enchanted

At number 4 I have the most atmospheric track on Speak Now, Enchanted. When I spoke above about some of these tracks having an ethereal feel to them, Enchanted is a great example. The intro is soft with lush underlying keyboards to it, then, when Taylor’s vocals climax, the song explodes into this magical, emotionally charged ballad. The entire song has those underlying keyboards which help to make the whole thing very memorable. Enchanted has long been a fan favorite and it’s one of the most popular songs from Speak Now. It’s popularity can be attributed to many things, but mainly Taylor’s haunting vocal performance. Out of all the songs on Speak Now, Taylor sounds most believable on this track. She alternates between these soft whispers in the beginning of the song and these memorizing highs later on in the track. I love everything about Enchanted, it’s a definite standout from Speak Now.

3. Speak Now

Number 3 on this list is none other than the title track, Speak Now. Upon my first few listens of Speak Now, this one was an immediate favorite. Still to this day, it’s my most played song from Speak Now. Speak Now is the catchiest cut from the album, bar none. I also think it’s one of the best story-driven songs Taylor Swift has ever wrote. The song deals with a woman struggling to make the man she loves realize that he is marrying the wrong girl on his wedding day. And don’t worry, the song does have quite the happy ending. Taylor’s performance here is awesome, I love how she delivers lines here like:

“I hear the preacher say, “Speak now or forever hold your peace.”
There’s the silence, there’s my last chance.
I stand up with shaking hands, all eyes on me.
Horrified looks from everyone in the room
But I’m only looking at you.”

Lines like that she delivers at a rapid fire pace that she normally doesn’t attempt. The title track holds some of my favorite lyrics from the entire album and Taylor’s performance on the song is top notch. If I ever meet Taylor Swift, I am definitely going to ask: who was wearing the gown shaped like a pastry, the bride or the bridesmaid?

2. Better Than Revenge

For number 2 I have the most risqué song Taylor has ever written, Better Than Revenge. This song is probably the biggest departure Taylor has made from her sound, especially given the context of the song. Speak Now is largely a country/pop album and doesn’t stray very much at all from that sound. So, hearing Taylor Swift rip into some pop/punk for a track really sticks out, and it’s damn good. Better Than Revenge is aggressive and feisty. Better Than Revenge is an empowering song, and features some of Taylor’s greatest lyrical moments, just take a look at the chorus:

“She’s not a saint
And she’s not what you think
She’s an actress, whoa
She’s better known
For the things that she does
On the mattress, whoa”

I mean, damn. Taylor would never write lyrics like that after Speak Now (at least, not yet anyways). Plus her deliverance of these lines is simply spellbinding. She has so much attitude on this track. The instrumentals on this one totally rip. The guitar solos and power chord runs are a perfect match for Taylor’s newfound cockiness. One other thing I want to touch on is the layering of her vocals. Now, I love the production on this track, it is beautiful. My favorite aspect of it is Taylor’s multi-layered vocals. Throughout the entire song you have Taylor’s regular voice that spits out the main lyrics while underneath it all you all you have her saying things like “Time for a little revenge” or “Think about what you did”. I love this side of Taylor, it’s a shame that no other song in this vein would ever be recorded. Also, the live version of this from Speak Now World Tour live can’t be missed!

1. Long Live

Long Live, for a short while, was my favorite Taylor Swift song of all time. What an emotionally packed stunner this one is. The song stays pretty tame until she starts telling her fans what to do in the event that she dies. The song is both morbid and triumphant. No Taylor Swift fan wants to face the fact that one day Taylor Swift will die, but Swift herself is pretty adamant in the song about talking about it. The line in question that I’m referencing (where she speaks of her death) is this one:

“Can you take a moment
Promise me this:
That you’ll stand by me forever
But if God forbid fate should step in
And force us into a goodbye
If you have children someday
When they point to the pictures
Please tell them my name”

Really rough stuff, but beautifully composed. Taylor Swift’s performance in this song is another knockout, especially the way she delivers the chorus. All in all, Long Live is the greatest song from Speak Now, and one of the most emotionally charged songs Taylor would ever lay down.

“And the cynics were outraged
Screaming, “this is absurd”
‘Cause for a moment a band of thieves in ripped up jeans got to rule the world”


Thank you all for reading, and I promise to upload two more pieces based around Speak Now before my review on the 31st. Also, drop a comment and tell me your favorite songs from Speak Now, I’d love to see them.

As always, I’ll keep you all posted if there’s any changes to my schedule, cheers!

Want more Taylor Swift? Check out my review of her sophomore effort, Fearless!

Album of the Month, May 2016:


The Book of Souls, Iron Maiden (2015) Review

(WARNING: Below are tour spoilers)

I remember the weekend I picked this album up. It was early September and I picked up both this one and Bad Magic, the final album from Motörhead. Truth be told, I was a little more excited to listen to Bad Magic and see how it fared because Iron Maiden albums never disappoint!

I still have eerily vivid flashbacks of seeing If Eternity Should Fail (the opening track) live at the opening night of The Book of Souls Tour in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Seeing the lights dim and hearing the keyboard intro blare over the PA all with Bruce standing over the smoking cauldron was spellbinding. It was as magical as I envisioned it being the first time listening to this album. I’ve put off doing this review for some time because the new album hype took a lot longer to wear off than I would’ve thought. I remember back in June when I first read the news of the new album and I thought to myself, “not one, not two, but three songs over ten minutes? Sign me up!”. I called so many of my friends to tell them about the new album. I was excited to hear this album, and it exceeded my every expectation.

The Book of Souls is a long listen. At 92 minutes, this is the longest studio album they’ve ever done. While the album is two discs (and people love comparing and contrasting disc one to disc two) it has to be experienced as one cohesive listen. The Book of Souls is an aggressive album. This fact is pretty well cemented here by the rockers like Speed of Light (which kicked so much ass live) and Death or Glory. They’re short, punchy, and not at all progressive. These tracks hearken back to the golden days of Piece of Mind and Powerslave (two of the greatest heavy metal albums of all time) and that’s really a great thing. It’s not like the band is trying too hard to throwback to the golden era of Maiden, instead tracks like those play out like old Maiden meeting new Maiden. While the album has its share of Adrian Smith co-written bone shakers, there’s plenty of progressive Iron Maiden on this album. It actually shows pretty early with track 3 The Great Unknown, an excellent progressive Iron Maiden song. After The Great Unknown, Iron Maiden kinda alternates between these rockers that sound like tried and true, blue blood Maiden and progressive epics. Also, the production definitely helps all of the songs here. It helps to accent the aggressive, punchy side of the album while also added an atmospheric touch to the longer, more progressive tracks. The production I’d say is more of that muddy Kevin ‘Caveman’ Shirley/Steve Harris collaboration we Maiden fans have gotten used to on the past two albums or so. Overall, disc one is pretty aggressive what with tracks like If Eternity Should Fail, Speed of Light, and the title track, The Book of Souls, while disc two is much more experimental.

Disc two has the Bruce Dickinson masterstroke Empire of the Clouds, which clocks in at just over 18 minutes. You don’t need to be an Iron Maiden fan to know that that is their longest song thus far in their career. When I first heard the album, I thought the closer was rather bloated, and was an improper way to finish out the album. Now my attitude towards the song has changed, but remnants of my original opinion remain. I honestly do think the song is rather forced and I am glad they didn’t play it live. That being said, there are some pretty badass parts of the song and there’s a lot of really nice melodies in there too. It’s really no surprise to me that many Iron Maiden fans view this as their best track ever. It’s really something every Iron Maiden fan should hear once in their life.

The progressive tendencies of disc two aren’t all manifested in the finale of Empire of the Clouds. Shadows of the Valley, track 8 and the 2nd song on disc two, is a highly underrated Iron Maiden song, and I think it’s one of their best from the 2000’s.

“Into the valley of death, fear no evil.
We will go forward no matter the cost!
Into the valley of death follow me now,
Bring me your souls and I’ll make it our last.”

Some awesome solos in that one too, like the first one played by Janick Gers. That one may as well be my favorite solo from him:

I still can’t believe how unhinged the solos are on this album, all of them totally rip! I want to focus for a bit on the songwriting first before talking too much of the performances here. The Book of Souls features above average songwriting for reunion era Maiden. I think the songwriting is the strongest on the disc one. There’s an excellent balance created between ragers like If Eternity Should Fail and Speed of Light and the 10+ minute epics The Book of Souls and The Red and the Black. The balance is kinda skewed on disc two mainly because of the 18 minute closer. I find that disc one really has outsanding pacing while disc two drags pretty hard. That being said, disc two does house two of my favorite reunion era Maiden songs, Shadows of the Valley and The Man of Sorrows (I would of killed to have seen The Man of Sorrows live!). Also, Adrian Smith’s solo in The Man of Sorrows is god-like, simply amazing.

The performances from everyone here, especially the Three Amigos, are really top notch. I found Adrian Smith, Dave Murray, and Janick Gers to all be in top form on this album. The Book of Souls rivals Powerslave for Iron Maiden’s greatest guitarwork ever. Seriously, just look at The Man of Sorrows or The Red and the Black and tell me those aren’t the greatest guitar lines any of the three have ever laid down. Bruce’s vocal work here can be most compared to his work on A Matter of Life and Death, his voice comes off as deep and powerful. He really drives the epics on the album too. Now, I would’ve liked to have seen a little more experimentation from Steve Harris and Nicko McBrain; those two play it pretty safe throughout the whole album. While no member of Iron Maiden is really being affected or slowed down by their age (in fact, these guys are without a doubt playing better than any other group of 50 year olds I can think of!), you can tell Nicko has been aging quite a bit. Everyone else on the album proves to have a lot of vigor and youthful energy while Nicko’s effort is a little more laid back. Again, he’s not dragging the band, but he’s not taking risks with his playing like he did on A Matter of Life and Death or Brave New World. Overall, overjoyed with Iron Maiden’s pretty stellar performance on the Book of Souls.

The Verdict

Iron Maiden’s fifth reunion era effort proves to be quite the rocking affair. While Bruce’s cancer diagnosis scared the heavy metal world at first, he sounds better (and clearer) than ever here; his vocal work is insanely strong on The Book of Souls. The Book of Souls also features the most daring Iron Maiden guitarwork to date! The riffs and solos are so tight and just memorizing. While I believe both Brave New World and A Matter of Life and Death have a slight edge over this one, The Book of Souls is Iron Maiden’s most inspired effort to date. Adventurous, driving, and atmospheric, The Book of Souls will not disappoint fans of Iron Maiden and heavy metal alike.

Pure Heroine, Lorde (2013) Review

I don’t know if it’s coincidence or not that I keep choosing debut albums to review honestly. As I mentioned in my previous review, I love a great debut album, but it’s rare to see a debut that is hailed as the greatest thing an artist has done/will do. Lorde is a rare case. “Well, does Lorde happen to disappoint with her debut?” You may ask. I’m gonna have give that a strong “no”.


(Note: above is the cover for the Japanese edition of the album. I wanted to put it here because Lorde is very pretty)

Pure Heroine is one of the most impressive debut albums of all time. I am extremely convinced that a debut of this caliber only happens every so often, especially in modern pop music. New Zealand native Lorde (who’s real name is Ella Marija Lani Yelich-O’Connor), at the ripe age of 16, manages to nail every single element that goes into a successful debut, and then some. The young Ella sounds years older on the album than she actually is, this is definitely a positive seeing as most of the subject matter handled on the album can be considered fairly mature. This is one of those albums that the public hears and immediately asks, “where can this sound be taken?”. That is an hugely difficult question to answer. I think whatever musical road Ella chooses will be the right choice for her voice and for her music; she’s a smart girl and I have nothing but faith that she will choose to progress her sound in a way that is beneficial to her and her fans. As it stands right now there is heavy speculation that points to a Pure Heroine follow-up being released sometime this year.

Pure Heroine, throughout the three years its been on shelves, has proven itself to have immense staying power. Years before I was a Lorde fan, she was a household name. Believe it or not, the music industry doesn’t just hand out heaps of attention to artists who don’t deserve it. Lorde’s debut album is a unique experience. The stripped down soundscapes created throughout the album’s 37 minute run-time (56 with the bonus tracks, I will touch briefly on the album’s length shortly) are the perfect match for Ella’s smoky vocal presence. On tracks like 400 Lux and Still Sane, there’s some interesting contrasts created by her voice and the instrumentals. These back drops of dreamlike instrumentals and beats are both intensified and lessened by Ella’s ethereal vocals. She has certain qualities, like the somewhat coarse texture of her voice and her unique pronunciation of words, that really give Pure Heroine this exotic, unusual flavor. Again, her vocal presence is intense and lends heaps to album’s energy.

Ella’s vocal performance carries the record. Her vocals progress throughout the release, but the base traits stay the same. The base traits of Ella’s voice are such things like her unwillingness to leave the mid-range of her voice. She doesn’t sound monotone (in fact, quite the opposite), though she never attempts any vocal gymnastics she’s not comfortable with. The texture, and accent, of her voice also largely stays the same. Now, she does go from smoky cool on tracks like Tennis Court to having a cocky arrogance on songs here like Glory and Gore; she changes up her attitude and her approach to delivering the lyrics, but never will I mistake the voice behind the songs as being none other than Lorde. I like that aspect. Her voice has room to grow throughout the entire album (which she does utilize that space effectively) but her vocals are so strong and captivating to begin with that she doesn’t feel the need to experiment heavily with styles in her voice. I appreciate the fact that she takes control of her vocals and remains the dominant force on the album.

The run-time of the album and also the pacing is something I want to touch briefly on. The pacing of any album can be a deciding factor on how the whole listening experience plays out. Pure Heroine, to no surprise, is paced beautifully. The album is 37 minutes, and feels like just that, a 37 minute album. Not a minute shorter or longer. It hits the sweet spot of not flying by all too quickly and also never dragging itself down. The pacing wouldn’t flow as well as it does without competent songwriting. Ella, and her producer Joel Little, wrote and composed all of the tracks on the extended edition of the album save for the cover of Swingin Party by The Replacements (which, the extended edition adds 6 songs to the standard edition’s 10). Ella’s talents lie in her rich voice, but also in her songwriting abilities. Each track here flows wonderfully into one another and creates a magically cohesive sound. One of my favorite transitions on the entire album is from confessional White Teeth Teens to the anthem A World Alone. You go from the brilliantly composed lyrics of White Teeth Teens:

“I won’t be smiling but the notes from my admirers
Fill my dashboard just the same, ah-ahah!”

To the melodic demands laid forth in A World Alone, it’s wonderful:

“Raise a glass cause I’m not done saying it!
They all wanna get rough, get away with it.
Let them talk cause we’re dancing in this world alone.”

On the subject of the songwriting, Pure Heroine can flex a dense atmosphere that most artists only dream about having on their debut. This rich atmosphere can partly be attributed to the memorably somber songwriting. Many components of Lorde’s sound come together at all the right times that create the thick atmosphere heard on Pure Heroine. The easiest one to observe is of course Ella’s gloomy voice combined with the bare bones beats of the album. I’ve touched on it quite a bit throughout this review, but having Ella’s defiantly characteristic voice against these deep, bassy sonic landscapes is simply electric. There’s an unadulterated energy that’s emitted from that meeting of the album’s two driving forces. I’d even go as far to say that is what makes this album, hearing Ella’s vocals over those beats creates quite a unique concoction. I don’t want to call the atmosphere heard on Pure Heroine downtrodden, maybe dark would work a little bit better. The atmosphere has a unique sort of antisocial/outcast vibe to it that really helps to deliver a touch more authenticity to some of Lorde’s deeper tracks here (see: A World Alone and Ribs).

I believe there are two main elements that equally construct good songwriting: recognizable lyrics and competent instrumentals. Here and there, there are odd cases where that is not always true, but that idea has held for close to all of the albums I’ve listened to. The lyrics on Pure Heroine are unparalleled for a debut album. My favorite here may as well be the line from White Teeth Teens that I showcased above, but there are plenty of others that are simply genius. Even the bonus tracks from the extended version of the album add quite a few outstanding moments to Pure Heroine’s already eventful lineup of songs. I’ve always loved this line from Bravado (a song originally from her Love Club EP back in 2012) where at first she compares finding her bravado to a quick process, but then she redacts the statement and says it’s something that happens more naturally. She comes to contradict herself again in the song too, it’s an extremely interesting listen:

“It’s a switch flipped,
It’s a pill tipped back, it’s a moon eclipsed the world,
And I can tell you that when the lights come on I’ll be ready for this.

It’s in your bloodstream,
A collision of atoms that happens before your eyes.
It’s a marathon run or a mountain you scale without thinking of size.

The subject matter of Pure Heroine is surprising mature and thought out given a lot of things. Ella must be extremely smart to want to have written about these topics at such a young age (atleast, smarter than I); a lot of the songs here like Tennis Court and Royals deal with class differences and have this underlying theme of aristocracy. In fact, Lorde’s name was inspired by her overwhelming interest in class structure and hierarchy. Other songs here like Team and Still Sane deal with these subjects too, but not to the extent that they’re covered in the opening track, Tennis Court, and Royals. Teeth surprising serve as another reoccurring lyrical topic. The most obvious examples are in White Teeth Teens and No Better. In White Teeth Teens, she equates having pure white teeth to being of nobler birth and of a higher class; while in No Better, she states having all of your front teeth is simply bliss. The one overarching theme in all of Pure Heroine is growing up in a modern, digital world, where things aren’t always as they seem. This is expressed best in Ribs when she states:

“This dream isn’t feeling sweet.
We’re reeling through the midnight streets,
And I’ve never felt more alone,
It feels so scary getting old.”

All of the bonus tracks here are extremely good listens, but my favorites have to be No Better and Million Dollars Bills (Million Dollar Bills is actually my favorite Lorde song); all of the bonus tracks also happen to have loads of great lyrics too. I’ve already looked at Bravado, but I want to take a look at Love Club (another song originally from the Love Club EP. To my knowledge, No Better and Swingin Party were the only two recorded simply for the extended edition). Love Club features pillow like beats and trance inducing backing vocals. Lorde finds a unique flow throughout the song. Her voice dances and skips above the beats at a rapid pace until it finds the chorus. The timing of her voice in the chorus is more laid back than it was in the first verse, but there’s something a little off about the timing. Her voice syncopates extremely well with the beats in the song. It also features some of my favorite Lorde lyrics:

“There’s something about hanging out with the wicked kids.
Take the pill make it too real,
The other day I forgot my old address.
I’m sitting pretty on the throne
There’s nothing more I want
Except to be alone.”

I wish I could go through the entire album and show you all my favorite lyrics from each track, but I’d end up spending way too much time on each song, making this review way longer than it needs to be. Hands down, Pure Heroine has the best lyrics I’ve ever seen for a debut album. I can say this, if you liked the lyrics above, then check out Glory and Gore, Team, 400 Lux, and her breakthrough single, Royals (which is a phenomenal song). If and when Lorde releases the follow-up to Pure Heroine (it is inevitable), she is going to be faced with the monumental task of living up to this album’s glory. Ella gives off this vibe the entire album that she’s been writing and recording songs like this for decades, even though she was only 16 when this album was produced. Not only is she gifted with a unique voice, but she also comes off as just smart enough to pull off tracks here like Still Sane and A World Alone excellently; by that, I mean she sounds very believable throughout tracks like those. I feel like I can relate to Ella as well through Pure Heroine. I believe this was a very personal project for her to put together. It sounds like all the subject matter she deals with throughout the album’s 16 tracks were deeply personal subjects for her, and it definitely shows in her performance.

The Verdict

Hands down, one of the greatest debut albums of all time. This is the kind of album veterans and vanguards of the genre release 15 years into their career, not to kickstart it. I don’t think modern pop music will be graced with such a carefully crafted debut such as this for a long time. Everything here from Ella’s stunning, unique vocal presence, to the deeply intimate lyrics and expertly crafted beats, every element present on the album comes together to make an excellently atmospheric experience. Pure Heroine is one of the greatest debut albums music has practically ever seen. A must own for any fan of pop music.

Stone Deaf Forever! Top 10 Motörhead Openers

The art of opening an album is a skill that takes quite a few years for any artist to perfect. Luckily, Motörhead had 40 years and 20+ albums to work with. On this list, I’ll be ranking the top ten greatest opening tracks from Motörhead albums.

10. Ace of Spades (from Ace of Spades, 1980)

I kick off this list with the gold standard for Motörhead openers: Ace of Spades. The opening track from their seminal 1980 album of the same name is iconic, filthy, and blistering fast. There is no other way to crack open Motörhead’s proto-speed metal slab of heavy metal history than with a bass line like that! Every member of Motörhead at this time (Lemmy, Eddie, and Philthy Animal) shine brilliantly on this track. Not to mention Lemmy throws out some of his most recognizable pseudo-philosophical ramblings of all time on this song. It is impossible to be a Motörhead fan and not have lines like this memorized:

“Pushing up the ante, I know you got to see me!
Read ’em and weep, the dead man’s hand again,
I see it in your eyes, take one look and die!”

9. Dead Men Tell No Tales (from Bomber, 1979)

While I enjoy Bomber a little bit less than Overkill, its opener is pretty much on par with the other 1979 classic. The production on Bomber is often viewed as kinda hit or miss, but it’s just perfect on Dead Men Tell No Tales. There’s plenty of bite to Lemmy’s voice and his bass tone is simply rocking. Fast Eddie Clark has some of the greatest solos of his career on this opener too and Philthy Animal gives this one a swinging mid-paced chug that really makes this one beat out any other mid-paced opener Motörhead would attempt in the future.

8. Sucker (from Kiss of Death, 2006)

Truth be told, I’ve always been more of a fan of Kiss of Death than Inferno. Kiss of Death is a much more well-rounded release than Inferno was. It all shows in the opener, Sucker. I love the production on this song, it’s so punchy! You know those Motörhead tracks that seriously border on being speed metal rippers? Sucker is one of the worst offenders. This song really gives you a taste of what’s to come later on in Kiss of Death, and that is top-notch Motörhead!

7. Iron Fist (from Iron Fist, 1982)

I am a Motörhead fan that will hear no blasphemy against Iron Fist! In fact, this album is in many ways superior to Aces of Spades. Iron Fist flaunted a sound that was much more deeply rooted in the NWOBHM and the album also happens to play into a few tropes and conventions that were created by the movement; and because of that, I think the album receives a little more flack than it should. Iron Fist is a damn good Motörhead album! The opener, Iron Fist, is pretty much just as iconic as Ace of Spades, every metalhead knows it:

“Flying hooves don’t make a sound,
Flying hooves don’t touch the ground!”

6. On Your Feet or On Your Knees (from Bastards, 1993)

There are many Motörhead fans, such as myself, that’ll tell you that Motörhead’s 1993 album, Bastards, embodies everything the band has ever stood for: hellraising, partying, and having a damn good time. Really, that’s not a false statement. On Your Feet or On Your Knees’s take no prisoners, beer drinking attitude speaks largely of the album’s sound. The sound on Bastards is huge, invasive, and simply doesn’t give a shit. Motörhead really hit the nail on the head with the production here as well. It’s gritty and abrasive, a perfect fit for the album, I love it.

5. Back At the Funny Farm (from Another Perfect Day, 1983)

Listen, top notch!

Ahh, Another Perfect Day! What a killer album, and a true underdog of Motörhead’s 80’s catalog of albums. The opener Back At the Funny Farm has some excellent lyrics to it and has one of the greatest opening moments of any Motörhead track. This is also the first Motörhead song ever to feature Brian Robertson of Thin Lizzy fame. It’s impossible to talk about any song from Another Perfect Day and not mention the production. The production here is an acquired taste, but by that I mean it’s not as full as Motörhead’s past two albums were. If you can get past that you’ll find that Back At the Funny Farm is an excellent Motörhead song with some of the best lyrics ever written by these guys.

“I really like this jacket but the sleeves are much too long!”

4. Born to Lose (from The Wörld is Yours, 2010)

Putting this rocker on the list wasn’t subject to much debate really. Born to Lose has long been one of my favorite Motörhead songs of all time! There’s just something about how this song grooves that is so infectious. Mikkey Dee is the real star of this opener, he seems eager to prove why the likes of Lemmy and even King Diamond consider him one of the greatest drummer of all time. Also, Phil Campbell lays down some of the greatest Motörhead riffs I’ve ever heard here!

3. Deaf Forever (from Orgasmatron, 1986)

Yes, I talk about Orgasmatron maybe a little too much on this blog. Can’t blame me really, it’s one of the greatest heavy metal albums from the 1980’s. Deaf Forever really caught my ear from the start. It accomplishes everything a successful opener should: it engages the listener and it gives the listener an excellent sample of the album they’re about to hear. The atmosphere on this track is dense. It really gives off a great mix of war, pain, and suffering, you know, three subjects Motörhead loves touching on.

2. Rock ‘N’ Roll (from Rock ‘N’ Roll, 1987)

This here is the one Motörhead album I’ll defend to my death. What a great album Rock ‘N’ Roll is! It’s strange because after the blistering speed metal attack of Orgasmatron, Motörhead opted to not continue with the sound on that album. Instead, Rock ‘N’ Roll is more of a back to basics affair, but it’s a quite good affair! The title track showcases their new, simplified style and all its glory perfectly. It should also be noted that this was the album that spearheaded a lot of legal troubles the band had in the upcoming years with their record label.

1. Overkill (from Overkill, 1979)

It should come as no surprise that this track is #1 on this list. Overkill is the greatest heavy metal song of all time, and you can quote me on that! Everything about this song is legendary: the bassline, the endless solos, the lyrics… Motörhead laid down some serious sonic overkill on this track. I think the lyrics here definitely embody everything heavy metal should stand for:

“On your feet you feel the beat, it goes straight to your spine,
Shake your head you must be dead if it don’t make you fly!
Don’t sweat it, we’ll get it back to you!
Don’t sweat it, we’ll get it back to you!”

Album of the Month: May 2016

Hello again! This is the other feature I’m rolling out today, Album of the Month! The album I choose for the month is one that I find extremely good, and it’s one I want all fans of music (and my blog) to check out! Without further ado…


Speak Now, Taylor Swift (2010)

Often considered Taylor Swift’s magnum opus, Speak Now was her 3rd album and the follow-up to the excellent Fearless. Throughout the month I’ll be doing various pieces based on the album all ending with a review on the very last day of the month! Enjoy, and play loud!

Buy it here!

Cold Steel, You Scum!! My Heavy Metal Playlist For May 2016

Hey guys! This is one of two new features I’m starting today on May 1st. I wanted to give you all a look at the heavy metal playlist I’ll be playing throughout the month of May! I encourage you all to check it out if any of the bands on here interest you:

Cold Steel, You Scum!! May ’16

  1. Toxik – Think This (from Think This, 1989)
  2. Cirith Ungol – Blood & Iron (from One Foot in Hell, 1986)
  3. Bolt Thrower – Eternal War (from Realm of Chaos (Slaves to Darkness), 1989)
  4. Fates Warning – Kyrie Eleison (from The Spectre Within, 1985)
  5. Grave Digger – Rebellion/The Clans Are Marching (from Tunes of War, 1996)
  6. Helloween – (Walls of Jericho) Ride the Sky (from Walls of Jericho, 1985)
  7. Manilla Road – Tomb of the Serpent King/Butchers of the Sea (from Voyager, 2008)
  8. Motörhead – Overkill (from Overkill, 1979)
  9. RAGE – Shame On You (from Trapped!, 1992)
  10. Running Wild – Raw Ride (from Under Jolly Roger, 1987)
  11. Saxon – Witchfinder General (from Lionheart, 2004)
  12. Sodom – In War and Pieces (from In War and Pieces, 2010)
  13. Tankard – Beyond the Pubyard (from Beast of Bourbon, 2004)
  14. Entombed – Chaos Breed (from Clandestine, 1991)
  15. Bathory – Under the Runes (from Twilight of the Gods, 1991)
  16. Napalm Death – Taste the Poison (from Enemy of the Music Business, 2000)

Gates to Purgatory, Running Wild (1984) Review

Before Germany’s beloved pirate metallers blessed the world with their seminal Under Jolly Roger album, they were in the business of delivering straightforward, all guns blazin’ speed metal:

Gates to Purgatory

Gates to Purgatory from 1984 is Running Wild’s very first album. I love taking a look at debuts because you often find an artist or band in a very natural, informal state on their first release. Debuts hold a certain magic or atmosphere that is never truly recreated on that artist’s future albums (just take a look at the debuts from Iron Maiden, Bathory, Metal Church, or Entombed). That being said, many artists do happen to improve their sound later on throughout their career, like Running Wild for example. These guys got massively popular off their pirate metal sound, and became one of the most recognizable German power metal bands of all time. Taking a look at their two releases before Under Jolly Roger is extremely interesting because Gates to Purgatory and the follow-up in 1985, Branded and Exiled, are such drastically different releases. Running Wild progressed their sound massively from Branded and Exiled to Under Jolly Roger.

Gates to Purgatory kicks off with the excellent Victim of States Power. The opener really embodies what the whole album is about; the song deals with a few key reoccurring subjects: standing up to the oppression, forging one’s own path, and of course, Satan. Here’s the chorus:

“How long do you want to be the victim of states’ power and force?
Stand up, and struggle for freedom
And be Lucifer’s friend!”

Having Victim of States Power as the opener was an excellent choice by the band because those themes introduced in the lyrics will crop up again many times throughout the album, namely in Black Demon, Soldiers of Hell, and Prisoners of Our Time. Supposedly, Gerald “Preacher” Warnecke (the guitar player who appears beside Rock ‘n’ Rolf on this album) was studying Theology at the time this album was being recorded. He and Rolf were the primary songwriters here, so that accounts for some of the unique lyrical topics of Satanism, anarchy, and European libertarianism. On the topic of the lyrics, many of the tracks on here really have a real German charm to them. Many mid-80’s German speed metal groups (Avenger, Helloween, Grave Digger, and of course, Running Wild) didn’t have the strongest grasp on the English language, which really adds something special to tracks on here like Soldiers of Hell:

“A gang appears beside you,
They’re the men you have to scare.
You see their axes shining
And their long black hair!

Soldiers of Hell!”

Lyrics like those above really made me fall in love with Running Wild’s debut. But, those lyrics wouldn’t mean much if they didn’t have as unique a voice as Rock ‘n’ Rolf’s behind them. Axeman and lead vocalist Rolf Kasparek’s ruffled grunts are a near perfect fit for the rough ‘n’ ready sound on this album. His vocal range isn’t huge, but it works. He reminds me of a few vocalists from the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, namely Biff Byford from Saxon and Chris Bradley from Savage. My only complaint against Rolf is that his vocals aren’t a fantastic fit for epics like Prisoners of Our Time. That being said, I came to have the exact same complaint about the closing epic on Branded and Exiled, Chains and Leather. His vocals would improve on their later releases, which is what really matters.

The production on the album is pretty typical for both the region and the time. While the album has a distinct feel to it with the lyrics and what not, the production is fairly bland. I would’ve opted for something a little rougher. I feel the band tries to go for a bigger sound when they really don’t need to. The production aside, the lyrics and the performances from Running Wild make the whole album worth the price of admission. Running Wild’s debut is pretty good and I want to say if you’re interested in that sweet spot of the German heavy/power/speed movement (that is, the era of the movement that was hot off the heels of the NWOBHM and had many bands eager to prove their worth) that occurred around 1984-1987, you’d definitely want to pick up Running Wild’s debut.

The Verdict

A charming debut from one of the world’s most famous power metal bands. In 1984, Running Wild didn’t really have a well established sound and the band sounds sounds kind of unbalanced here. While this release clocks in at just over half an hour, if you’ve never been a fan of European power metal or speed metal, there are other debuts out there that may be more worth your time, such as Walls of Jericho or Battalions of Fear. Overall, a good album from Running Wild that proves to have a lot of charm and grit to its abrasive sound.

Top 30 80’s Thrash Metal Albums (Pt. III, 10-1)

Pt. I (30-21)

Pt. II (20-11)

10. Court in the Act, Satan (1983)

The be all, end all of the NWOBHM. Cult, underground, raw, this album has all that and more going for it. And yes, this is the second album from my Top 10 NWOBHM Albums to have appeared here. In 1983, no bands were crafting their guitar work like Satan was here: the solos are swirling and riffs are out for blood. The songwriting and pacing is top notch on Court in the Act, not a single weak track here. Also the bass tone on this album would go on to inspire so many thrash metal bands in the years to come. Pick this one up if you’re interested in discovering the birth of thrash/speed metal.

9. Dreamweaver (Reflections of Our Yesterdays), Sabbat (1989)

One of the first truly progressive releases on this list. The only way I can describe this album is vicious. Andy Sneap’s quick riffs combined with the schizophrenic howls of Martin Walkyier make this one of the most intense progressive/thrash metal listens of the late 1980’s. It’s also one of the greatest concept albums I’ve ever heard, this album is actually based off of Brian Bates’ “The Way of Wyrd”. As I said, an extremely engaging listen for any fan of thrash metal.

“But the lessons I’ve learned
I will never forget,
When your teacher is life then
Success is survival and
Failure means death.”

8. Extreme Aggression, Kreator (1989)

Hands down one of the best German thrash metal albums from 1989. One of my first loves as well. This album and another one coming up shortly really spearheaded my progression into extreme metal at the beginning of 2013. I owe this album a lot, it showed me some really fantastic bands and some superb albums. Oh yeah, and the music on here is the most intense the Teutonic Thrash Metal Movement would get for years. Some brutal German thrash metal straight from 1989, can’t be passed over.

7. In the Sign of the Evil, Sodom (1984)

I thought long and hard about whether to include this release on the list or not. Sodom’s debut EP may as well be the most important thing to have come from that first wave of black metal in the mid-80’s. While calling this black metal now may not be “correct” (pshh), Sodom’s debut EP still rages and burns as hard as it did in 1984. This monster has undeniable staying power in the realm of thrash metal, what a wicked EP.

From Blasphemer:

“I turn the cross upside down
And read Satanic Bible with fucking crown
My life begins at midnight twelve
Masturbate to kill myself”

6. Bathory, Bathory (1984)

I continue this list with another classic from the first wave of black metal: Bathory’s self-titled from 1984. While Bathory would come to truly define black metal on their next two releases, they serve up some ripping speed/thrash metal on their debut. I honestly can’t get enough of this album, so many Bathory classics on this one: Hades, In Conspiracy With Satan, Raise the Dead, and Necromansy (and no, I did not misspell that). If you like your mid-80’s thrash metal raw, unadulterated, and pretty damn satanic, look no further than Bathory’s stunning debut.

5. Nothingface, Voivod (1989)

At #5, I have another progressive/thrash metal masterstroke from 1989: Voivod’s Nothingface. While all the elements of thrash metal are in full force on this album, this release happens to borrow a lot from progressive rock. This is shown more on tracks like Astronomy  Domine, their cover of the Pink Floyd classic, and Into My Hypercube. This album is weird, but in a good way. Nothingface is a dense album, with a lot to take from it.

4. Agent Orange, Sodom (1989)

When I discussed Extreme Aggression, I said there was another album that spearheaded my foray into the annals of extreme metal. Well this is it, Agent Orange by Sodom. Yes, both this one and Extreme Aggression turned me on to so many great things in the realm of heavy metal. The music here is really something special. Agent Orange’s war-soaked riffs and bass lines coupled with the tortured yells of Tom Angelripper are both topped off with some of the most pummeling blast beats you’ll ever hear from Germany. All those elements come together to make this one of Sodom’s finest hours.

3. Pleasure to Kill, Kreator (1986)

The single greatest German thrash metal album of all time! I’m not sure what can be said about this album that hasn’t been said before; Pleasure to Kill is a bona fide classic. 1986 was a breakthrough year for many thrash metal bands, and Kreator had the most hard hitting album of them all. This album would go on to influence a lot of extreme metal acts. Definitely the most intense listen from the Teutonic Thrash Metal Movement.

2. The Years of Decay, Overkill (1989)

For a long time (roughly two years) this was my favorite heavy metal album of all time. Overkill tweaked every element of their sound to perfection on this release. The production, the performances, the lyrics, the songwriting, simply everything is perfect on here. This album was axeman’s Bobby Gustafson’s last hour in Overkill, and let me tell you, he goes out with a bang. His riffs are ruthless. Bobby Blitz’s trademark howls and D. D. Verni’s rabid bass work are in full force, further cementing Overkill’s legendary sound. And Sid Falck? He plays better than ever on this release. He has certain progressive tendencies throughout the album’s run-time that prove to be vital to the album’s success. His drumwork here stands in stark contrast to pretty much every other Overkill release he ever played on. The Years of Decay by Overkill is a timeless heavy metal classic.

1. Violent Restitution, Razor (1988)

Razor’s fifth album, Violent Restitution, plays out like a 44 minute heart attack. I’ve always loved Razor because of how well they balance their sound. The are so over the top, but they have that keen sense of self-awareness that completely sells me on their sound. Every single riff on Violent Restitution is simply pulverizing. Mr. Dave Carlo wrote some of the greatest heavy metal riffs of all time on this album, and they’re just not-stop. The guitarwork is relentless. Sheepdog’s vocals here are excellent, he has a perfect voice for this kind of music. Overall, the greatest thrash metal album of all time.

Top 30 80’s Thrash Metal Albums (Pt. II, 20-11)

Pt. I (30-21)

Pt. III (10-1)

20. Under the Influence, Overkill (1988)

Ahh, I start off pt. II of this list with another banger from 1988, Under the Influence from the mighty Overkill. While Overkill’s first five are all classics in their own right, there’s something special about the NWOBHM-soaked swagger of Under the Influence. This is also the first album they did with Sid Falck, who proves to be an excellent drummer on this release.

19. Game Over, Nuclear Assault (1986)

A very important album for 1986. Game Over should be in any diehard thrash metal fan’s collection, they weren’t many bands playing at the speed Nuclear Assault were in 1986! At times, this release comes off as somewhat cheesy but that only adds to the charm this album has. It should also be noted that Dan Lilker, the bassist for Nuclear Assault, split from Anthrax to form this group. Killer East Coast thrash metal, can’t be missed:

“My name is evil!
Soon you shall see,
You will obey me,
Or watch yourself bleed!”

18. Victims of Science, Gammacide (1989)

What a killer album. This is another one of those late 80’s albums that really blurred where thrash metal starts and death metal ends. Wicked riffing, lovely bass tone, and a truly unique vocalist. As a fellow MaidenFans forum member pointed out, Gammacide had some excellent lyrics for a thrash metal band. Pick up the version of this that has their 1991 demo + two newly recorded songs for bonus tracks if you can. Awesome cover, even better music. A great late 80’s thrash metal gem.

17. The Dark, Metal Church (1986)

HERE is Metal Church’s more refined thrash metal release! Devastating from start to finish, some of my favorites from Metal Church are on here: Ton of Bricks, Start the Fire, The Dark, and the immense Western Alliance. As I mentioned before, this is where David Wayne would really start to fully develop his style. His style on this album perfectly fits Metal Church’s dense mixture of thrash metal and USPM.

16. Heavy Metal Maniac, Exciter (1983)

One of the, if not the most, influential thrash metal releases of 1983! Exciter had all the elements of thrash metal right on this album: the speed, the aggression, and the vocalist who doesn’t give a shit. Heavily influenced by the NWOBHM, Exciter delivers some ripping heavy metal straight from Canada. This release is very straightforward, and leaves nothing to be desired. I still can’t believe how fast this album is 1983!

15. Doomsday For the Deceiver, Flotsam and Jetsam (1986)

One of the greatest releases from 1986, hands down. Flotsam and Jetsam are an awesome band, they don’t play things straightforward though. There’s something about this album that is progressive and even some elements of power metal crop up throughout the album’s run time. The vocal work from Eric A. K. is the real star of the release, his pipes are insane! This release is also the first album Jason Newsted recorded bass for, he also wrote the lyrics for the album as well.

14. Evil Invaders, Razor (1985)

“You know I’m bad, I’ve done it all before.
Stay clear of me, I’m rotten to the core.
Fool, you know me!
Don’t like my style?
Wait and see, they say its been awhile.”

Razor’s sophomore effort Evil Invaders is just as rabid as their debut Executioner’s Song was and more. The production, the riffs, the vocals… everything here is simply Canadian thrash metal magic. What takes this one over the top is really the vocals of Sheepdog here, his mad snarl combined with the vicious riffs of Dave Carlo make this a thrash metal affair that can’t be missed by any fans of the genre.

13. Executioner’s Song, Razor (1985)

Maybe it was just something about the year 1985 that made bands like Razor release monsters like this! It still boggles my mind that the guys over at Razor were able to put out this album, then within a matter of months release another timeless thrash metal album; it’s simply beyond me. Razor really got the production right here too, raw and gritty. So many classic tracks on this one: Escape the Fire, Take This Torch, Fast and Loud, City of Damnation… all killer songs here, no fluff.

12. The Morning After, Tankard (1988)

I don’t want to sound too conceited, but The Morning After (and all its drunken glory) plays out like the crowning achievement of the Teutonic Thrash Metal Movement. Here, Tankard throws out all the political commentary and seriousness their German contemporaries were messing around with and simply put out a kickass heavy metal album about alcohol. It is as straightforward and awesome as I’m making it out to be. Not to mention these guys have some serious thrash metal chops and their music is fairly intense for the subject matter.

11. Taking Over, Overkill (1987)

Ok, Deny the Cross is one of the greatest opening tracks of all time. Simply perfect, the atmosphere, the lyrics… just wow. The rest of the album proves to be pretty damn good too! Overkill really improved upon a lot of things from the debut. The songwriting is a lot tighter and I think Bobby Blitz sounds a lot better here. Also, no drummer Overkill would ever have after this album surpassed Rat Skates’s devastating kit-work. Taking Over is a well oiled thrash metal machine that pumps out bangers at hundreds of miles per hour, an essential for any heavy metal fan.