Platinum Al’s Top 10 Rock/Metal Albums of 2019

2019 has been an exceptional year for new music.  It started off slowly, but by the end of the year I was struggling to keep up.

As per last year, Ever Metal asked me to produce a Top Ten of my favourite rock and metal albums of the year.  So here we go:

  1. Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard – Yn Ol I Annwn
  2. Speedealer – Blue Days Black Nights
  3. Obey – Swallow The Sun
  4. Acid Reign – The Age of Entitlement
  5. Sunn O))) – Life Metal
  6. Earth – Full Upon Her Burning Lips
  7. Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovel – Very Uncertain Times
  8. Giant Dwarf – Giant Dwarf
  9. Monolord – No Comfort
  10. Crobot – Motherbrain

All fantastic records.  Honorable mentions this time to Kadavar, Firebreather, L7, Wizard Rifle and Duel.

For more rock reviews, interviews and top tens, head over to Ever Metal.

Happy New Year everybody – wishing you a very healthy and prosperous 2020!

And thanks for vising Platinum Al’s Virtual Hot Tub!  Make sure you come back next year, and if you’ve got any requests or suggestions, please get in touch.

Singles Night at the Virtual Hot Tub #7

I had another great night recently, playing a load of old 7″ singles.  What happens is, I acquire these singles from record fairs, charity shops or maybe contributions from friends – and I spend an evening playing through the pile.  The’re stacked in order of how long I’ve had them – oldest near the top – and not organised in any way.

So I get a few drinkies down me and play the records in the order they reveal themselves.  Which can be fun – no skipping, play whatever’s next in the pile.

This system always means that no matter how many cool songs I play, there’s always a few dodgy tracks in there too.  But then let’s just call those less aspirational songs “guilty pleasures”, and enjoy them for what they are.

Last time, I claimed that the rest of the stack of 45 rpm magic wouldn’t reach as high a standard.  I was wrong.  Here’s the playlist, which includes some absolute monsters…

  1. Elvis Presley – “Young and Beautiful” / “True Love” / “Lover Doll” / “Love Me Tender”
  2. AC/DC – “Whole Lotta Rosie” / “Hell Ain’t a Bad Place To Be”
  3. W.A.S.P. – “Mean Man” / “Locomotive Breath”
  4. The Beatles – “Can’t Buy Me Love” / “You Can’t Do That”
  5. Anthrax – “Anti-Social” / “Parasite”
  6. The Hawaiian Islanders – “Hawaiian War Chant” / “Song of the Islands” / “One, Two, Three, Four” / “On the Beach at Waikiki” / “Sweet Leilani” / “Aloha Oe”
  7. Johnny Cash – “It Ain’t Me Babe” / “Understand Your Man” / “Five Feet High and Rising” / “I Walk the Line”
  8. Stiff Little Fingers – “At the Edge” / “Silly Encores, Autumn 1979”
  9. Spagna – “Call Me” / “Girl, It’s Not the End of the World”
  10. Tenpole Tudor – “The Swords of a Thousand Men” / “Love and Food”
  11. The Rolling Stones – “It’s All Over Now” / “Good Times, Bad Times”
  12. Belinda Carlisle – “Vision of You” / “Leave a Light On For Me (Kamikazee Mix)”
  13. Salt-n-Pepa – “Push It (US Remix)” / “I Am Down” / “Tramp”
  14. Fat Boys – “The Twist (Yo, Twist)” / “The Twist (Buffapella)”
  15. Bananarama – “Cruel Summer” / “Summer Dub”
  16. Thin Lizzy – “Cold Sweat” / “Bad Habits”
  17. Heaven 17 – “Temptation” / “We Live So Fast”
  18. Hammer – “Addam’s Groove (LP Mix)” / “Street Soldiers (Saxapella Reprise)”
  19. Philip Lynott – “Yellow Pearl” / “Girls”
  20. Senser – “The Brunt”
  21. Siouxsie & the Banshees – “The Staircase (Mystery)” / “20th Century Boy”

Fantastic stack of singles!  Some absolute classics with a couple of cheesy horror stories.  Any playlist that includes AC/DC and the Beatles can’t be half bad.  I’ll be doing some more of these singles nights soon, stay tuned!

Singles Night at the Virtual Hot Tub #6

Welcome to another Singles Night at the Virtual Hot Tub with your host, Platinum Al!

As previous, I spent the evening listening to a stack of 45 rpm singles that I’d acquired over time from several sources.  Whilst imbibing some fine alcohol.  The following is a list of those singles, A and B sides listened to in order.

There are some particularly sweet slabs of vinyl in this edition.  As always, however, we’re never too far away from some rank cheese…

  1. INXS – “The Gift” / “The Gift (Extended Mix)”
  2. Sweet – “Action” / “Sweet F.A.”
  3. Rod Stewart – “Reason to Believe” / “Maggie May”
  4. The KLF – “America: What Time is Love?” / “America No More”
  5. ABBA – “Mamma Mia” / “Tropical Loveland”
  6. Elvis Presley – “Trouble” / “Young Dreams” / “Crawfish” / “Dixieland Rock”
  7. Cream – “Strange Brew” / “Tales of Brave Ulysses”
  8. Right Said Fred – “I’m Too Sexy” / “I’m Too Sexy (Instrumental)”
  9. Anthrax – “Indians” / “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” / “Taint”
  10. The Stranglers – “All Day and All of the Night” / “Viva Vlad!”
  11. W.A.S.P. – “I Don’t Need No Doctor” / “Widowmaker”
  12. Beastie Boys – “(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party)” / “Time to Get Ill”
  13. Iron Maiden – “The Clairvoyant” / “The Prisoner”
  14. AC/DC – “Let’s Get It Up” / “Back in Black”
  15. Yes – “Into the Lens” / “Does It Really Happen?”
  16. Marillion – “Incommunicado” / “Going Under”
  17. Kim Wilde – “Cambodia” / Watching for Shapes”
  18. The Beatles – “Day Tripper” / “We Can Work It Out”
  19. The Spencer Davis Group – “Keep On Running” / “Somebody Help Me” / “Every Little Bit Hurts” / “I’m a Man” / “Gimme Some Lovin'”
  20. Booker T and the M.G.s – “Time is Tight” / “Hang ‘Em High”
  21. The Byrds – “Mr Tambourine Man” / “I Knew I’d Want You”
  22. The Skids – “Circus Games” / “Onedecree”
  23. Manuel & The Music of the Mountains – “The Portugese Washer Women” / “Never on Sunday”

Note: the B-side of the Anthrax single is actually their track “Imitation of Life”. 

I’m mighty proud of that selection.  Not that I had anything to do with it, the choice was random – I just took whatever disc was top of the pile and made my way through.

But what a bunch of scorchers!  One of my favourite Beatles tracks; Cream; Booker T; some classic metal and the Beastie Boys.  It doesn’t get better than that.

Or rather, it won’t.  Most of the rest of the pile of 7″ singles isn’t up to that quality…

Platinum Al’s Top 10 Rock/Metal Albums of 2018

2018 was a great year for music.  So much so, that I struggled condensing all those tasty new tunes into a top ten – and I’m still not sure I’ve got it right.  There are several other albums that could have featured in an annual top ten, but for reason or other didn’t make the cut.

Anyway, those cool folks at Ever Metal asked me to put together a list of my ten favourite rock and metal releases for the year.  I did so, Ever Metal posted it, and I thought I’d share with my Virtual Hot tub readers too.

So here we go, in reverse order:

  1. Ghost – “Prequelle”
  2. Gama Bomb – “Speed Between the Lines”
  3. Orange Goblin – “The Wolf Bites Back”
  4. Earthless – “Black Heaven”
  5. 1968 – “Ballads of the Godless”
  6. Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats – “Wasteland”
  7. Monster Magnet – “Mindfucker”
  8. Corrosion of Conformity – “No Cross No Crown”
  9. Fu Manchu – “Clone of the Universe”
  10. Clutch – “Book of Bad Decisions”

Hope you did a Smashy and Nicey voice in your head whilst you counted that down.

Some classic albums there, in my opinion at least.  Honorable mentions are due for Sleep, High on Fire and Satan’s Satyrs (amongst others) who just missed out.  Who knows, next week I might have changed my mind.

Finally, a big thanks to the Ever Metal team for having me on board.  It’s a real honour to be part of the team, and writing for the site has been one of my highlights of last year. Here’s to contributing more in 2019.  Cheers!

Visit the Ever Metal site here and check out some cool music!

Gama Bomb – Speed Between the Lines Album Review

Here’s my recent review of the new Gama Bomb album, which appeared on the Ever Metal website.  Reproduced here with permission; enjoy! 

Gama Bomb – Speed Between the Lines

AFM Records

Release date: 12/10/2018

Running time: 35.07

Review by: Alun Jones

8/10

Hello and welcome to Thrash School.  For today’s lesson, you will need:

  • Skin tight jeans (preferably with ripped knees)
  • Faded Acid Reign t-shirt
  • Studded leather belt and 1x studded leather wrist band
  • White hi-top leather Converse
  • Black leather jacket (denim vest over jacket optional)
  • Baseball cap with “NOT” written under the peak

Because today we will be listening to the new album by Gama Bomb, entitled “Speed Between the Lines”.

These merry metallers have an uncanny ability to rewind the cassette of time to a simpler age.  It’s like grunge never happened.  Instead, we get twelve face-lacerating tunes that rush by in uncompromising fashion.  This is thrash metal, kids, buckle up for the ride.

Eighties thrash was often pre-occupied with party bum-out vibes like nuclear destruction.  Apparently, it’s a post-Cold War world though, so these boys don’t wallow in misery for too long.  Not that they don’t have a social conscience: witness the admirable stab at the current political climate in “Alt Reich”.

But they’re just as happy dedicating an ode to Kurt Russell, which is perfectly justified in my opinion.  Kurt is, of course, an icon of twentieth century popular culture.  Not convinced? Go watch The Thing and Big Trouble in Little China and you can thank me later.

Back to the music.  Although diversity isn’t Gama Bomb’s strong point – Master of Puppets this ain’t – the listener is rewarded with a dozen tracks that speed by relentlessly.  The musicianship is amazing, with blitzkrieg lead guitar all over the place.

The occasional change of pace would add some additional colour, but you can’t fault the commitment and enthusiasm of this band.  This album is the full package with cool themes and some of the best song titles I’ve heard in a long time (666teen? Give them an award NOW).  The music is intense and exciting in equal measure, bringing to mind classic Overkill, Anthrax and Nuclear Assault.

So dig out your old Variflex skateboard and ask your big brother’s mate to buy you a two litre bottle of cider from the Co-op.  With Gama Bomb you can party like it’s 1987.  This history lesson is over.

Visit the Ever Metal website here.

Krull – The Black Coast Album Review

Here’s my latest album review from EVER METAL, reproduced here with permission.  Enjoy! 

Krull – The Black Coast

Iron Shield Records

Release date: 27/04/2018

Running Time: 42.32

Review by: Alun Jones

6/10 

KRULL!  Did you ever see the movie?  It’s GREAT!  On the ancient world of Krull, Prince Colwyn brings together a band of scoundrels to help him rescue Princess Lyssa from the clutches of the evil Beast, who threatens to conquer the planet.  It’s a sci-fi fantasy adventure with a Cyclops, cool weapons, vile baddies, Tucker Jenkins and Lysette Anthony.  I mean seriously, you need to see this film.  How metal does it sound?  Even the bad guys are called “Slayers”!

The band Krull occupy a musical space which is openly very inspired by fantasy, battles and all things sword and sorcery.  And right from the off, it’s a whole lot of fun.  The atmospheric intro “In the Woods” grabs the listener and plunges them into the ethereal world that Krull have concocted, and it’s pretty much full on from there.

Pace-wise, “The Black Coast” is like riding shotgun in a barbarian’s chariot, charging an army of Orcs.  Stand out tracks for me included “By Steel” and “The King and the Sword”, but the whole album is energetic traditional metal.  If you’re a fan of Priest, Maiden and the mighty Manowar you’ll find something to enjoy here.  Only midway track “Valhalla” slows things down a little, otherwise it’s a fast and brutal campaign.

So why only 6 out of 10?  Well there are lots of plus points with this album.  The vocals are suitably bonkers, ranging from powerful cries, deep growls to a high pitched, witchy cacophony.  The musicianship is great, and the rhythm section successfully keep the march relentless.  The songs are fast and filled with fantastic tales of battles and bravery.

But the guitar tone was just off for me.  I like something with more crunch; more skull smashing intensity.  After the cool intro, first track “The Witch”, whilst a great song, suffers from a languid guitar sound that slices the records hamstrings before the fight is really on.

Don’t misunderstand me, the playing is great – it’s the production that’s slightly lacking.  The guitars should be much more axe in the face, blood and brains everywhere.

There’s still a lot to recommend Krull’s “The Black Coast” though.  Especially if you dig your metal as a soundtrack to a rampaging berserker, attacking a horde of evil ghouls.

Oh, and get down to your local Blockbuster and rent the Krull video.  You won’t regret it.  It makes Lord of the Rings look like a bad Dungeons and Dragons game in a crack den.

Click here for the EVER METAL website, where you’ll find tons more reviews of albums and gigs by awesome bands!

www.facebook.com/krullheavymetal/

https://krullofficial.bandcamp.com/

www.instagram.com/krull.official/

The Crippens – Gig Review

The Crippens + Emissaries of Syn + Ballpein + Soulless System + Abominate + Spam Javelin

Saturday 19th May 2018

The Tivoli, Buckley

Six bands spanning a range of punk, hardcore, thrash and death metal – all for £7.50?  You count Platinum Al in, guv’nor!  Anticipating a night of good ol’ fashioned face melting tunes I was off to the Tivoli in Buckley for what seemed the first time in absolute yonks.

As I bounded into the Tiv and was drawn like a magnet straight to the bar, our first band of the evening – Spam Javelin – had started playing.  They play fast, loud and fun hardcore punk, with a dose of well placed humour.  I was very impressed by Spam Javelin’s set and need to check them out again.  Recommended and a good start to the night!

Up next were Abominate, who’s music was essentially a revved up a chainsaw thrown into a pit of acid vipers.  It’s full on death/thrash metal and by ‘eck, it is good.  Intense and with a crafty helping of heavy, crunching sludge to boot – Abominate are a force of nature and very superb indeed.

Local band Soulless System were up next.  Their sound is heavy, grinding and brutal thrash – though their set seems dogged by sound issues tonight.  It perhaps doesn’t help that they don’t use a live drummer.  It’s a shame as the band can obviously play and have some very tasty riffs.  Get these boys a drummer and sort the sound and they’ll light it up.

Then what happened?  Oh yeah, Ballpein played and smashed my face in.  Repeatedly.  Amazing band, full on hardcore punk with a metallic edge: if you want exciting, fast songs and brutal riffage this is the band for you.  Ballpein are also amazingly good on stage, confident and having fun as they grind out their (not very) delicate ballads about serial killers.

Another North Wales crew, Emissaries of Syn, played next – attacking with their blend of crusty grinding noise.  EOS are relentless and played a non stop set of mind warping punk thrash goodness.  Great stuff and again, confidently played on the big Tiv stage.  I’ll keep an eye open for more.

Finally, our revered headliners took to the stage and belted out some classic hardcore punk.  Once they were Doctor and, now they’re just The Crippens, but this reformed bunch of maniacs disguised as musicians are back and slaying all before them.  A great set, I have never before witnessed such a mesmerising gang of misfits in the wild.  Perhaps a tear escaped as I reminisced about long ago 80’s skate rock.  Whatever, I am SO glad I got to see this band live.

And that was it, another great night at the Tivoli.  Well done to the bands who played; thanks to the Tiv for being brave enough to put on something a bit different; and full marks to Knoxy who organised this and helped raise some funds for mental health care in the process.  A legend.

 

You can find all the bands above on Facebook, it’s easy.

The Tivoli website is here. 

Pentre Fest 2018

Pentre Fest

Friday 23rd – Saturday 24th February 2018

McClean’s Pub, Pentre, Deeside

And lo, the marauding hordes converged once more, reconvening from their travels far and wide.  In the Great Hall they would gather, trading tales of daring and adventure, as they caroused with rebellious abandon.  Much ale would be drunk, for tomorrow many a skull would be split asunder.

So began the revelry of Pentre Fest, wherein the brave and mighty warriors celebrated their many victories and remembered comrades long fallen.

The first of the tribes to address the throng were The Forgotten Age, young but mighty in their conviction.  Hailing from the Western Shores of Bangor, their stories were exciting yet accomplished, embellished with some fine melodies.  An exceptional and heartening start to the evening’s merriment.

Next to command the stage were Obey, who were indeed a revelation to behold.  Their immense riffs were sheer brutality, heeding no compromise as they delivered tales of destruction.  Obey were champions of the event to my ears; voraciously did I consume their merchandise (CD and patch!).  May the wind fill their sails and carry them to successful conquests aplenty.

Our next heroes were Torqued, a merciless crew who had engaged in a gruelling voyage from the far kingdom of Devon to regale us with their musical fables.  The clash of metal was devastating, the battle cries rousing.  A superb performance.  Safe voyage home, brothers – for ye shall be missed for now and welcomed warmly again.

The night’s final victors were the relentless, uncompromising Foetal Juice.  Looming over all with a malevolent thunder, the band decimated all in their path.  With grim intent they vanquished the unworthy, leaving only the gratefully redeemed in their wake.

Thus was the first part of Pentre Fest concluded.  Sadly I would embark on a personal quest of my own the next day; therefore being unable to rejoin the ceremony.

Regardless, though our warriors’ hearts were sated, for yet more metal majesty do we crave.  Till the next Pentre Fest, my brothers (and sisters) – stay strong and may your adventures be praised in Valhalla.

The McClean’s Pub Live FB page is here

Gym Playlist #1

Have you been hitting the gym since the start of the year?  Punishing yourself with cardio and weights as you fight to shed those extra pounds that attached themselves limpet-like over the festive season?

I’ve been slaughtering the gym since the start of the year, but then I always do.  Not that it seems to do any good.

Whilst I’m there, pummelling away at the flab in a vain attempt to get in shape, I need some tunes to motivate me.  The music in the gym is usually dancey disco stuff, which is fine if you’re dancing, but when I’m working out I need something a bit more aggressive.

Albums by various bands get a regular spin, but I also made this iPod playlist to help me focus like a Viking ransacking a monastery.  Sometimes I’m so amped I feel like I could run through the wall, rather than just plodding on the treadmill.

You could do worse than to listen to this cacophony yourself.

  1. Rocket From The Crypt – “Pushed”
  2. Audioslave – “Cochise”
  3. Big Chief – “Lion’s Mouth”
  4. Metallica – “Die Die My Darling”
  5. Foo Fighters – “The Pretender”
  6. Rage Against the Machine – “Guerrilla Radio”
  7. Anthrax – “Only”
  8. Corrosion of Conformity – “Heaven’s Not Overflowing”
  9. Pantera – “Fucking Hostile”
  10. The Cult – “Rise”
  11. Probot – “Shake Your Blood”
  12. Suicidal Tendencies – “War Inside My Head”
  13. Beastie Boys – “Sabotage”

There you go: 47 minutes of energetic, in your face music to psyche you up and get you in the mood to destroy. GO!!!

Classic Albums #3

It’s been a long time since I wrote a Classic Albums post.  Nearly four years, sadly.  But now it’s time to get back to the heart of what this blog was supposed to be all about in the first place.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to my Classic Albums.

3. Metallica – Master of Puppets

Metallica’s third album, released in 1986, has long been regarded as the probably the best recording the band ever made.  Not only that, but one of the greatest metal albums of all time.  “Master of Puppets” is a monolithic album with an immense scope; hugely varied and still surprisingly experimental.

At the time I first heard this record, around 1987, I was listening to bands like Van Halen, Queen and Def Leppard.  A friend lent me a cassette of “Master of Puppets”; I was keen to try it out as there was such a buzz about this band.

Every time I hear the opening guitars of “Battery”, I’m transported back to that first listen.  And I remember how extreme it sounded to me at the time – I’d never heard anything this brutal before.

Following that was the title track, which was the most complex heavy composition I’d experienced.  A melodic instrumental section lulled me into a false sense of security before the relentless riff attack recommenced.

It was third track, “The Thing That Should Not Be”, that opened my eyes though.  A massive, monstrous riff that hooked me straight away.  That song was heavy and eerie all at once; it became a favourite that I still love and slowly, yet with growing confidence, I began to explore this album.

“Welcome Home (Sanitarium)” begins with a mellower introduction and as such it’s one of the easier songs to appreciate on first listen.  Repeated plays over the years has dulled the impact of this track, for me personally – though it surprises me how good it actually is when revisited. 

Side Two of the album Kicks off with “Disposable Heroes”, is an anti war song that is intense and powerful.  One of my favourite tracks.  Then there’s “Leper Messiah”, a monster riff that incorporates faster sections as it proceeds.

The absolute highlight of the album is “Orion”, a fantastic prog-metal instrumental spanning over eight minutes.  This epic track proves beyond all others just why Metallica were – and still are – light years ahead of other thrash bands.

Finally, the last track – “Damage, Inc.” – is a violent berzerker of a song that might just take your face off.

With “Master of Puppets”, Metallica challenged themselves and their fans, as they expanded their sound and manifesto further than ever before.  If you want fast thrash, you’ve got it here.  Want heavy, down-tuned Sabbath riffs?  You’ve got that too.  There are even melodic sections that are actually enjoyable – and still uncompromising.

Metallica were utterly fearless in writing and recording this album, unafraid to try new ideas and never rest on past glories.  It’s not as heavy to my ears as it was on first listen thirty years ago, but every new spin of this record still has the power to thrill.

“Master of Puppets” is a timeless metal masterpiece.  It’s one of the essential records in my collection; it’s status a massively influential rock album – metal or otherwise – is assured for all time.

Metallica – Master of Puppets (1986)

  1. Battery
  2. Master of Puppets
  3. The Thing That Should Not Be
  4. Welcome Home (Sanitarium)
  5. Disposable Heroes
  6. Leper Messiah
  7. Orion
  8. Damage, Inc.

Best tracks: The Thing That Should Not Be, Orion, Battery, Master of Puppets, Disposable Heroes.

Other cool points: seriously great cover – you also need the t-shirt.