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The Top 10 Heavy Releases of 2018

This has become one of those dipshit blogs that don't update often and look like a graveyard circa 2004. I didn't even bother doing one of these lists last year.

In the past when I wrote about albums, I'd rattle off their superior qualities in comparison to others. The typical adjective Olympics, "I went to more uni than you did" toss. This year, I am going to keep it simple: which records did I listen to the most? I'm not even going to look up to figure it out, either. I think I can remember which records stayed on my turntable or CD player the most. I'm not a fucking robot.

So, here we go:


10. Kataklysm - Meditations

With the Northern Hyperblast put out to pasture, Canadian eh Kataklysm had to replace speed with strength. They kind of kicked ass with it.

9. Born Lion - Celebrate the Lie

Australia's answer to Danko Jones - minus the meme worship. If Danko and BL tour the country, I'll be right there next to 'em. See also: Bare Bones.

8. Underoath - Erase Me

I know a lot of people shit on this record for some reason, but you have to divorce it from the entire Underoath you knew and loved. It's their Black Celebration in reverse. No heroin addictions required. It's the opposite of Flood to Depeche Mode in 1990: "If you wanna play electronics, then play your fucking electronics."

7. Slugdge - Esoteric Malacology

This one had to be pried from my cold, dead car CD player. One of the most inventive death metal records in yonks, that didn't have that "we're too good for death metal" air about it. All the best bits from the last 20 years crammed into one disc.

6. Architects - Holy Hell

I don't like this LP as much as Your Gods Have Abandoned Us. Gods had fire in its belly, this kind of doesn't. Even so, it's still in my CD player since ripping it out of my post box in October.

5. Judas Priest - Firepower

This was such a treat for long-suffering metal fans. It was like hearing Painkiller and Screaming For Vengeance for the first time again, reminding us why we love this genre in the first place. Thank Satan for Richie Faulkner.

4. Teenage Wrist - Chrome Neon Jesus

Sometimes bands that take bits of all your favourites, that being Katatonia, Oceansize, and modern pop-punk, mashes 'em together and serves it like you ordered it special. This is a must have disc for prog fans, shoegaze lovers, and anyone who likes losing themselves in thought.

3. Omnium Gatherum - The Burning Cold

I know; melodic death metal is the red-headed stepchild in the metal world at the moment. When's the last melodeath record anyone really gave a fuck about? The Ride Majestic? I love this record because it captures the spirit of what melodeath is all about; taking risks and being out there. Gods Go First is such a well crafted song, despite it being so fucking weird.

2. Ghost - Prequelle

It's KISS Destroyer for the 2010s. Have you heard the non-single tracks on Destroyer? Not exactly top to bottom clones of Detroit Rock City, that's for sure. It's something more grandiose than that. It's not metal, it's not pop, and it's not a cookie-cutter half-and-half blend of either. It sits in that creepy haunted house on the border of bubblegum throwaway and absolute classic. Maybe Aussies love it so much because we can't get over ABBA.

1. Hellions - Rue

The resale value for my vinyl copy is nearing zero. Such a wonderful record, in the truest sense of the word. What these gentlemen conjure is really nothing short of magic.

I had a couple of disappointments too: Pagan's Black Wash only managed a couple spins on my turntable. There was an uncomfortable feeling that I'd heard it all before, and done better (by Kvelertak.) Can't fault them live, though. Behemoth have also succumbed to Star Trek movie syndrome. That being, every second release they make sucks. I Loved You At Your Darkest wasn't awful, but it certainly was too ambitious for the big boy britches it stomped around in.

Other pick-ups you should look for is At The Gates To Drink From the Night Itself, the true successor to Slaughter of the Soul; High On Fire's Electric Messiah, which is Sleep haunted by Lemmy; Khemmis newie Desolation; and DZ Deathrays' Bloody Lovely. It doesn't have a Gina Works at Hearts, nor does it have that Vaseline-over-lens feeling of dried out hangover music any more. DZ Deathrays are growing up, bless 'em.


Farewell, Shai

Shai (in brown), at my 21st Birthday Party, 2007.Shai, you know what? I don’t know if you’re up there in heaven. You might be up in the orbiting VALIS. Chances are you’re stone dead. Even then, I'm not sure. Honest to God, I don’t. When your service concluded on Sunday, I half expected you to creep out from behind a headstone, shout “Ha! Fooled you!” and go into fits of laughter, as only you could. You never half laughed. It was all or nothing with you.

When I told friends and family about you, they didn’t believe you were even real. I mean, what kind Jew is smart enough to convince a neo-Nazi to date him? “I confirmed all her suspicions,” he said once. “We ran out of money and I said, ‘It’s OK, I’ll just give the bank teller my Jew Number and he’ll give me all the cash I want.” I think being so absurd was your specialty. Like Phil Dick said, "the only appropriate response to reality is to go insane." You took that to heart, I think.

You were the only bloke who made me feel like a complete fucking moron sometimes. I wish I told you this more often, but when I start a list of great thinkers; Hitchens, Dawkins, Feynman – I’d whisper “Marom” somewhere towards the top. You had a towering intellect, a boundless imagination. Who else wrote a complete theory on reality in their spare time? No one that I know. No one that anyone knows.

Even then, you never ever talked down to anyone. When I was struggling in maths (which you called “math”) you took time out of your day to help me, going to the State Library with me. I didn’t know this then, but I do know now – you were struggling with Crohn’s disease. My God, if I only knew.

When I’d heard you’d moved to Brisbane – Russell Island, or “Dole Island” – it was another one of your social experiments. Thinking about stuff never quite cut it for you. You had to experience, observe, explore. The more complicated, the better. I thought it my duty to cut across the highway, two or so hours to get there, just to have an hour-long conversation. I would have done it again in a heartbeat.

Now you’re gone. Even though in your own quantum entangled reality, you might not be. You could be both, neither, all at the same time. You’ve outsmarted me, even in death. You son of a bitch. I could not have felt more honoured to be your friend Shai. Rest easy.

In Memoriam - Shai Yassi Marom (October 11, 1986 - December 9, 2017)



Live Review: Devin Townsend Project (Hysteria)

My review of Devin Townsend Project at 170 Russell on 23rd May:

Photo: Elizabeth Kent

Witnessing the brutality Manchester had me seething. I was mad. Mad enough to kill. As editor of this fine publication (which one is that again?), music is kind of a big deal around here. Terror lancing through the heart of music is a counterpoint; a movement set to war.

Those 22 souls cut from their lives that night will never be forgotten. Our tears can’t wash their memories away. I really felt guilty stepping into 170 Russell to enjoy myself at a rock ‘n’ roll show.

The crowd at this first (yet second?) show on Canuck maestro Devin Townsend’s tour was moderate. Punters stood about, sensing there was something off, just about being here.



Punctured Armour

Over this year, I’ve read three books that have changed my life. All three combined shifted my thinking and feeling on an existential level, on par with No More Mr. Nice Guy and the work I’ve done with the Melbourne Chapter over six odd years. They are:

  • Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brene Brown
  • What Men Still Don't Know About Women, Relationships, and Love by Dr. Herb Goldberg
  • Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find - and Keep – Love by Dr. Amir Levine & Rachel Heller

Prior to reading any of these books, writing this post would be unthinkable to me. Since, it’s been a trying exercise to open up and understand the nature of how I act and interact with others. Revealing oneself isn’t weakness, it’s Wholeheartedness. Focusing on what women tell me and not what they need is following Content, not Process. Keeping significant others at arm’s length isn’t a deep need for independence, more an attachment style known as Fearful Avoidance. To the outside world, these are meaningless buzzwords. To my friends and family, I imagine it just boils me down to a quiet, unknowable asshole.

Same goes for those featured on puerile reality shows such as Married at First Sight or Seven-Year Switch. I’m sure there are countless others that exploit neuroses as entertainment. Clashing attachment types creak under the weight of their own internal burdens until collapse. Opening up about themselves causes sweating, a clenching of fists, the desire to run away.  I imagine half the population wonders why speaking about such simple inner truths seems like torture to these people. For someone like me, who grew up reading, building with Legos and playing computer games on his own for most of his childhood, it seems perfect and rational.

I often think that changing oneself is a Heisenberg principle – you know where you’re going or you know where you are, never both at the same time. I’m making new friends and new connections, and it scares me to think in the new ways. Maybe they give a shit? Maybe closeness won’t send the sky hurdling toward my head? Maybe everything I learned is a god damned lie? I hope it will all be for the better.

Of course, I use music to put it all in perspective. Two songs in particular sums up my experience living “as me.”




The Top 10 of Metal (and Mosh!) 2016

I just can't help myself. I'm like a fat kid eying off the last slice of pizza or a Kardashian with an internet-enabled camera. I just have to do it. I've been writing these lists for about ten years now, so why stop? Because THEY don't want me to? In the words of the great prophet DJ Khaled, THEY don't want me to, therefore I must. (I don't think he said that last part. Did I just play myself?)

2016 sucked ass in so many ways. Music was the one way it didn't. Here's my Top 10 in order of what I thought was the best - remember when people did that? Yeah anyway:

SPECIAL MENTION: Gunship - Gunship

The fact Gunship is "retrowave" precludes it from a place on a mosh/metal/punk list. But it really is my favourite this year. It's not a mere 80s nostalgia trip, it's something trancendental. It's new, it's old, it's like it was always with you. (Killjoy Deluxe Owen tells me this came out in 2015. THANKS BRO)

SEE ALSO: The black celebrated 80s sounds of The Black Queen's Fever Daydream.

1. White Lung - Paradise

I might need a new copy of this on vinyl cos I've played it so much this year. Punk, pop, perfection.

Read my interview with vocalist Mish Barber-Way here

2. Dark Tranquillity - Atoma

I think our melodeath masters deserve to soundtrack 2016. It's like an ice-wind cutting through your ribcage. It'll draw you in and never let go.

3. Katatonia - The Fall of Hearts

The second of my favourite bands released their best in many a year, reinvigorated by a new lineup. No fucking emo, just fire and balls.

4. Hellions - Opera Oblivia

It really is their Number of the Beast - a proud testament to being yourself and doing it right.

Read my cover story with Hellions, here

5. Architects - All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us

"Really Tom, you are into fuckin Architects now?" When a band produces something with as much heart as this, you bet your ass in the middle of a prison riot that I dig 'em.

6. Vektor - Terminal Redux

Space metal. Enough said.

7. Evergrey - The Storm Within

Sweden's dreamboat not only floats, but cruises over emotional seas in this front-to-back belter.

8. Rotting Christ - Rituals

Beware of bloodthirsty Greeks bearing riffs.

9. Witherscape - The Northern Sanctuary

'Member prog metal? 'Member when it was cheesy but awesome at the same time? OH, I 'Member!

10. Sabaton - The Last Stand

History metal that's more historic, battle-ready, and epic than ever. Duh.


The Honourable Mentions

Gold Award: Deftones - Gore

Silver Award: Driven Fear - Free Thinker

Bronze Award: In Mourning - Afterglow