2016: My Top Ten Albums

1 – Architects – All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us (10/10)
There’s not a huge deal to say about this album that hasn’t already been said. But in summation – the most exciting and hard-working metal band in Britain release the most exciting and interesting metal album of the year. Nobody was surprised that they headlined Brixton Academy off the back of this.

2 – Dilinger Escape Plan – Dissociation (10/10)
I’ve always dismissed Dilinger as being a bit ‘too much’ for my tastes, and I still don’t fully understand the appeal of the hugely critically acclaimed Calculating Infinity. It’s hugely surprising, then, to discover how much I love this – to be their last ever album.. The tech-metal craziness is still there, but on Dissociation everything from hardcore to jazz, to straight up alternative rock and nu-metal is woven together seamlessly, often within the same song. From speaking to various Dilinger Fans, the general consensus is that Dissociation is by far their best album to date, which, given their imminent split, is no mean feat.

3 – Touche Amore – Stage Four (10/10)

Whilst on stage in 2014, Johnny Bolm, vocalist with LA post-hardcore band Touche Amore learned of his mother’s death from cancer. Stage Four tells the story of the aftermath. It’s as difficult a listen as you can imagine, and you WILL cry if you’re listening to this in public.

4 – Pup – The Dream Is Over (10/10)
Over the top, intense, violent, self-loathing and determined, The Dream Is Over is the story of impending adulthood, told kicking and screaming by Canadian punks.

5 – Against Me! – Shape Shift With Me (8/10)
I’ve been a huge Against Me! fan since I read the lyrics to Reinventing Axl Rose on a punk forum, and this increased tenfold since Tom became Laura and released the seminal Transgender Dysphoria Blues in 2014 – in my opinion the most important punk rock album of a generation. Obviously Shape Shift With Me was never going to live up to that accolade but it’s nonetheless a solid album full of tight, three minute singalong anthems delivered with Laura Jane Grace’s trademark roar.

6 – Brian Fallon – Painkillers (8/10)
Ok, so it’s not a new Gaslight Anthem album, but it’s the next best thing. The attitude of Gaslight might be lacking, but the Springsteen singalongs and stories of dives, drives, diners and Steve McQueen are all there in spades.

7 – Bear’s Den – Red Earth and Pouring Rain (8/10)
Bear’s Den perfectly evoke the spirit of the 1980s on this, their second full-length. In the absence of anyone else sounding like this in 2016 they are unfairly lumped in with friends Mumford and Sons – but better comparisons would be Tears For Fears’ Shout, Cutting Crew’s I Just Died In Your Arms, Don Henley’s Boys of Summer and other 80s pop delights. The band wanted Red Earth and Pouring Rain to be a companion to driving late at night, and it’s faithfully served that purpose for me in 2016.

8 – Black Peaks – Statues (8/10)
If you’re still waiting for that new Tool album (Got to be one for 2017 – surely!) and were not sufficiently impressed with Deftones Gore (I was, but it just missed out on the Top 10) this will definitely fill your post-rock/experimental/prog metal/math rock void. It is actually unbelievable to think that this is a band’s debut album.

9 – Skepta – Konnichiwa (8/10)
Impossible to leave this one out given the time I’ve spent in the last couple of years charging around with total bangers That’s Not Me and Shutdown on a loop in my head. Clearly not a rock/metal album, but Konnichiwa has more energy and attitude than all manner plenty of bands who claim to be punk in 2016.

10 – Bury Tomorrow – Earthbound (7/10)
A band who have come on leaps and bounds since their last release Runes (which wasn’t anywhere near my Top 10 albums in 2014) Earthbound is the definitive BT release, full of technical riffery, pace, crushing heaviness and – for anyone lucky enough to witness their Download 2016 performance – circle pit starting anthems.

Interview: Wakrat – their new record & life on the road

Heavy alt-punk band Wakrat have been rocking it out recently on their current tour – they’re next playing in California this month – and with their new record Generation F*cked ,they’re not to be taken lightly.

The new record is perfectly timed (um, hello, President Trump a possible reality?!), and so we decided it was time to sit down with them to discuss what their new sound is all about, how the live shows are going and what’s up next for the band.

Here’s what happened when I met up with the band ahead of their gig in Camden recently:

Norma Jean recall being the last band to play London’s Barfly

“I think the most uncomfortable thing is literally digging up past things – but Norma Jean have always written about real lives”

We’re in Camden, North London, on the phone to Cory Brandon, frontman in Atlanta’s metalcore veterans Norma Jean. The band have a strong connection with this area – being the last band to ever play legendary venue The Barfly.

During their headline set at this year’s Camden Rocks festival, the news that they were the swansong act was helpfully imparted to the crowd from the venue’s outgoing management – with the instruction to do whatever they liked; from then on, Cory says, “a riot ensued. People rushed the stage… literally tearing the walls down and the air conditioning, it was insane.”

The band’s gig at The Barfly was part of a 45-date European tour – including three dates at Slam Dunk (“it was amazing, it was like being on tour for three days”) – and went about giving us reminder of their brilliant live show energy, as well as getting us pumped for their forthcoming seventh album, Polar Similar, which is out this month.

The new album feels like an exercise in therapy. The track Everything Louder than Everything Else deals with abusive relationships, while A Thousand Years A Minute addresses self-harm, and Reaction is about the search to reach victims. And certainly, it helped Cory open up new wounds, “I think the most uncomfortable thing is literally digging up past things – but Norma Jean have always written about our real lives.”

But then, you wouldn’t really expect anything else from an album recorded at the same studios as where Nirvana recorded In Utero.

Here’s the key details for Polar Similar:

They recorded the album in the middle of the woods – Pachyderm Studios in Cannon Falls, Minnesota to be exact – and to be as isolated as possible
These are the same studios as Nirvana’s In Utero – and there’s definitely a grungy feel to the album – especially on single 1, 000, 000 Watts
During recording, they watched The Shining hundreds of times. Continuing a tradition started on 2006’s Redeemer, where the band watched American Movie throughout the recording, every day the band walked from the cabin to the backyard studio, turned on Stanley Kubrick’s isolation-themed thriller and watched it on loop
The new album is produced by legendary producer Ross Robinson, who’s back working with the band for the first time since 2008’s The Anti Mother

Polar Similar is out on 9 September.

10 of the most unforgettable Reading and Leeds Festival moments

Back in 2005, I went to my first ever Reading festival. I remember it vividly, I was 18, and Pixies, Foo Fighters and Iron Maiden headlined.

With one exception, (2010, a friends wedding I couldn’t miss) I have returned to Reading or Leeds every year which makes this coming weekend almost my 12th consecutive year of watching landmark performances, getting drunk, getting sunburnt, falling over, crying, laughing, and, erm, running in a circle around a pole.

It’s impossible to whittle these life-affirming moments down to a top 10, but I’ve given it a good go!

1. Foo Fighters, Main Stage, Reading 2005
Everyone remembers their first Reading/Leeds as something special, and this has gone down in memory as one of the best experiences of my adult life. The Foos opened with In Your Honour before launching headfirst into All My Life, Times Like These, My Hero and Best of You, in that order. Just wow.

2. Rage Against The Machine, Main Stage, Leeds 2008
Their first UK shows since 2000. No further statements, your honour.

3. Biffy Clyro, Radio 1/NME Tent, 2007
An exceptional performance just after the release of Puzzle including a rare outing for Folding Stars, a track they only ever play on special occasions. They’d never play a UK festival stage this small again.

4. Nine Inch Nails, Main Stage, Reading 2007
I remember thinking, ‘how on earth can The Smashing Pumpkins follow this?!’ With great difficulty, as it turns out, as Trent Reznor delivers a headliner-worthy performance that would blow anyone off the stage.

5. Manic Street Preachers, Radio 1/NME Tent, Leeds 2008
At this point, the Manics were enjoying something of a resurgence following 2007’s spectacular Send Away The Tigers. The title track, and single Your Love Alone Is Not Enough sat alongside a greatest hits set for everyone not interested in watching The Killers.

6. Architects, The Pit, Reading 2014
Within the first 15 minutes, vocalist Sam Carter declared this as the best gig of the band’s career so far. It’s difficult to argue against this, as the band ignore the majority of their previous output to play almost all of their instant classic Lost Forever // Lost Together.

7. Frank Turner, Main Stage, Reading 2011
Having played almost every other stage at the festival, in 2011 he finally made his way to the big one. Glorious sunshine greeted Frank and his Sleeping Souls on Reading’s main stage as they played standout tracks from his third album England Keep My Bones.

8. At The Drive-In, ‘NME/Radio 1 Tent’ Leeds 2012
Having missed them the first time round, I’d waited a long time for this. As a huge circle pit erupted around us for opener Arcarsenal, it felt like a lot of people were in the same boat.

9. Rise Against, Lock Up Tent, Leeds 2008
I got quite involved in the mosh pit on this one and managed to lose my wallet during an epic The Good Left Undone. Luckily, the kind people at Leeds fest found it and send it me in the post!

10. Queens of the Stone Age, Main Stage, Reading 2005
For reasons I’ve never fully understood, particularly as I’ve never been a huge fan of this band, this set was RIDICULOUS amounts of fun.


Video: Joey Jordison and Frédéric Leclercq talk Sinsaenum

Heavy metal supergroup Sinsaenum aren’t to be taken lightly.

The American heavyweights comprise DragonForce bassist Frédéric Leclercq and former Slipknot drummer Joey Jordison, alongside Attila Csihar, Heimoth and Sean Zatorsky.

Here’s what happened when I came face to face with the heavy metal titans in London:

Frank Turner Live : My Top Ten

I have seen Frank Turner perform live more times than any other artist. This is, of course, in part, due to his relentless touring schedule, but equally because he’s a bloody amazing live act, and I rarely want to miss a gig!

With tickets going on sale to Frank’s November UK tour today, here are my top 10 favourite Frank Turner performances to date. (These are biased towards Leeds, since this is where I lived for my first few years of FT fandom!)

1. Leeds Brudenell Social Club, 31 March 2008

The day his second album, Love Ire and Song, came out, and the first time many would hear Long Live The Queen; a tribute to Frank’s late friend Lex. There weren’t many dry eyes in the Brudenell that night. For me, subsequent Brudenell shows were always in the shadow of this night.

2. SSE Arena, Wembley, 13 April 2012

Frank becomes an arena artist, albeit one most people have never heard of. I could not believe it when this was announced, and still don’t know how he managed it. Fans from all over the UK took the pilgrimage and paid an absolute bargain of £25 for WEMBLEY! I lived in North London at this point anyway but wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

3. The 02, 12 Feb 2014

After what now seems like the warm-up at Wembley, Frank and The Sleeping Souls come into their own and, in his own words, “learn to do arena shows”, taking all the lessons from the Wembley show and making things even bigger.

4. Outside, then inside Leeds University, 15 May 2008

Ahead of his set supporting The Holloways, a fire alarm forces the whole of the Union outside on a hot summer’s day. Frank took his guitar with him, of course. Next thing, he’s performing acoustically to literally hundreds of students who haven’t the faintest idea who he is.

5. Leeds Santiago’s, 5 March 2011

After rejecting ludicrous claims of ‘selling out’, Frank plays a series of tiny shows with the option of charity donations. After racing to the Leeds down, I request Worst Things Happen At Sea, donate £20 and end up on stage. Post-gig, we tell Frank how we’d come up from London after we couldn’t get in to a Camden show the previous weekend, and he seems genuinely touched.

6. Leeds Festival main stage, 23 August 2013 

As soon as Bring Me The Horizon leave the stage, the heavens open and everyone hides, apart from a committed core of Frank Turner fans who get positively drenched. None of this mattered at the time, obviously. I interviewed Frank before the set and he tells me he’s about to announce an arena tour. I knew it was coming, but still couldn’t believe it.

7. Floodfest @ SXSW, Austin, TX March 18 2015

I watch the singer-songwriter win over hundreds of US fans in the scorching Texas heat. This set also marks the first time I hear Get Better – a standout track from the new album.

8. Reading Festival, 28 August 2011

This was Frank’s first main stage appearance, making him the only artist to have played every stage at Reading and Leeds Festival, an accolade unlikely to ever happen to many again. This is followed by a secret appearance in the ‘punk’ tent, ending with a rousing cover of Queen’s Somebody To Love.

9. Granary Square, 17 Dec 2013

Frank teams up with Billy Bragg in aid of Shelter, performing mainly covers and his own material on a quaint December afternoon. Subsequently, I become a Billy Bragg fan!

10. Olympic Opening Ceremony, 27 July 2012

Okay, not the best performance, clearly – nobody knows who he is! But for the sheer wow factor, this HAS to be in there.

Seven Ways To Scream Your Name: The Ultimate Funeral For A Friend playlist

There are just two dates left of Funeral For A Friend‘s farewell tour, where the Welsh rockers will perform their seminal albums Casually Dressed and Deep In Conversation and Hours in full.

Remaining a solid, reliable band over the last 10 years has meant FFAF have been unable to benefit from the reunion tours of so many of their early ’00s contemporaries. Instead they’ve stuck it out, continuing to tour relentlessly with seven albums under their belts.

Following their decision to split, FFAF set out on a mammoth farewell tour this year which culminates with two sold-out shows at London’s Kentish Town Forum on Friday 20 and Saturday 21 May.

Here are seven songs I can’t wait to scream for the last time…

1. This Year’s Most Open Heartbreak

The song that started it all, from their magnificent debut EP Four Ways To Scream Your Name. I can still scarcely believe they left this off Casually Dressed and Deep in Conversation.

2. Juneau

Named by ‘clean’ vocalist Matt Davies after the capital city of Alaska because it’s ‘a cold, harsh, unforgiving country’, Juneau is written in response to him being cheated on. This is undoubtedly THE Funeral anthem, featuring the immortal line ‘And I’m nothing more, than a line in your book’.

3. Red Is The New Black

Funeral’s warning of using dirty tricks to become famous. If the biggest mosh pit of the night doesn’t erupt when the crowd screams the epic ‘It’s all about trust’ line, I don’t know what will.

4. Escape Artists Never Die

Drawing parallels with escape artists and escaping from a toxic relationship, Matt sings of a relationship he wants to be in but knows he shouldn’t. We’ve all been there, especially in the early ’00s…

5. Streetcar

The lead single from their second album Hours, their highest charting UK hit at #15. Amazingly, devoted FFAF friends managed to work out the dial tones at the beginning of the song were Matt Davies’ phone number, leading to him having to change his number!

6. Into Oblivion

First single from maritime-themed third album Tales Don’t Tell Themselves, telling the story of making it home after a series of hardships.

7. History

History tells the story of the miners strikes in 1980 and the effect on their communities in Wales. I can’t imagine there will be many dry eyes when this is played for the final time.

Five deep cuts Machine Head will play on An Evening with… tour

(Originally written for the Ticketmaster Blog)

Here at Ticketmaster, we’re gearing up for the An Evening with Machine Head dates which kick off later this week.

There are no support acts, and they’ll be playing for over two hours.

Whilst we’re always excited to hear the likes of Davidian and Imperium tearing up venues, on these particular dates we’re most pumped about some of the deeper cuts from their eight-album back-catalogue, and moshing hard to some songs they haven’t played for a long time, and some they’ve barely played at all, ever.

*Possible setlist spoiler alert. There are some of those songs they’ve been playing on this tour overseas.*

1. From This Day

If, like me, you don’t subscribe to the idea that Machine Head’s ‘nu-metal’ period was necessarily that bad, and that their third album The Burning Red is massively underrated, you’ll be as stoked as me to hear that they’ll be playing From This Day on these dates, especially as they haven’t for the best part of 15 years. Get ready for the ‘F**k the rest of you’ line, it might catch you off guard.

2. Bulldozer
Whilst even the most hardcore Machine Head fan would struggle to argue that the fourth album Supercharger is not a hit and miss affair, it’s impossible to deny the sheer force of album opener Bulldozer. Enormous circle pits await.

3. Ten Ton Hammer
It doesn’t quite match Imperium’s level of ferocity but it will give you a the same amount confidence to take on your adversaries and win at life. (And shout Machine F’n Head at deafening volume) From The More Things Change…

4. Old

Standout track from 1994 debut Burn My Eyes (aside from Davidian obviously that’s been floating in and out of their sets ever since. We’re supremely excited to know it’ll be on this run of dates.

5. Descend The Shades of Night

Epic album closer from return to form release (and my personal favourite) Through The Ashes of Empires. It’s testament to how many amazing songs Machine Head have in their arsenal, that they’ve barely touched it since 2007.

An Evening with Machine Head… kicks off tomorrow:

March 2016

2 – Norwich Open
3 – Nottingham Rock City
5 – Belfast Limelight
6 – Dublin Olympia
8 – Manchester Academy
10 – Cardiff Great Hall
11 – London Hammersmith Apollo
12 – Glasgow O2 Academy

Check availability and book remaining Machine Head tickets now at Ticketmaster.co.uk.

10 of the most METAL things to happen in 2015

From the boom of Bring Me The Horizon to some of the greatest co-headline tours in recent years, metal blogger Dan Hudson looks back on the most outrageously rock things that 2015 had to offer.

1. That’s The Spirit

Like them or not, because of Bring Me The Horizon’s fifth album That’s The Spirit, we’re closer than we’ve ever been to having a legitimate metal headliner that can contend with the likes of Iron Maiden and Metallica. If you don’t believe me…

2. Rock albums all over the charts

…including Enter Shikari’s The Mindsweep at No. 6, Five Finger Death Punch also at No. 6 with Got Your Six and Lamb of God’s VII: Sturm und Drang reaching No. 7; showing how metalheads continue to buck the trend of music fans not paying for music.

3. That’s Not Metal Podcast

Two blokes talk about metal for two hours every week with an obscene amount of knowledge and passion. In no time at all they’ve built up a loyal following and regularly feature highly in the iTunes music podcast chart. Get involved now at thatsnotmetal.net and @NotMetalPod.

4. THAT Drum solo

If you were lucky enough to go to one of Mötley Crüe’s last ever UK shows, there’s really no need for you to see another drum solo ever again.

5. Barack Obama confirms he is not the singer from Korn

In one of the more bizarre stories of the year, a war veteran meets Korn frontman Jonathan Davis but thinks he is hallucinating. When he then subsequently meets Obama, The President stated: “I want to assure you, you are not hallucinating. You are actually in the White House. Those cameras are on. I am not the lead singer from Korn.” Davis says ‘he couldn’t believe it.’

6. Korn perform their debut album in full

In other Korn news, 2015 was the year that Jonathan Davis resurrected some past demons in London and Manchester, as the California titans performed their debut album in its entirety, including an emotional Daddy.

7. Limp Bizkit play in a tent

After several years of playing festival stages, Fred Durst’s nu metal heroes played in a tent. He wore pyjamas. We moshed. A lot.

8. John Coffey singer seamlessly catches beer at festival.

Possibly the coolest thing ever happened this year at Pinkpop in Holland.

9. Slam Dunk’s continued rise

To give you an idea of just how big Slam Dunk now is, in Leeds the festival totally dominated the city, and the after-party took place in the Leeds Arena. An actual 13,500 capacity arena. We already can’t wait for 2016!

10. Monstrous co-headline tours

2015 was the year of huge co-headline rock tours. Slipknot, Korn and King 810, Mötley Crüe and Alice Cooper, Def Leppard and Whitesnake, AND the Pop Punk’s Not Dead tour ensured no headliner left home this year without a monstrous support act.

The Theory of Enter Shikari: Six reasons the St Albans rockers rule


In 2006, I went to see an unsigned band open the 3rd stage at Download, quite possibly because it was unbearably hot outside and the half-empty tent provided some much-needed shade. As it turns out, their set was mind-blowing, and the next 12 months were a complete whirlwind for Enter Shikari and by the following year, they were back at Donington Park as main support to Korn on the second stage.

I worried at the time that such a meteoric rise could only be matched by a meteoric downfall when the NME and Kerrang! moved on to the next band to hype. Certainly, if anyone had suggested back then that nearly 10 years later the St Albans four-piece would be headlining the 10,000 capacity Alexandra Palace, and would release comfortably my favourite rock album of 2015 in The Mindsweep, I’d never have believed you.

How on earth did they manage it? Here are my six potential theories…

1. The Enter Shikari Album Theory

This is still to be confirmed as an actual scientific theory, but basically every Shikari album to date is better than their previous one.

…or expressed as an equation.


2. They are incredible live

Whether they’re doing mega intimate shows, closing Warped Tour UK, or headlining the second stage at Download, no two Shikari gigs are the same. The only constant is the energy between both crowd and band (and when they’re not touring as the main band, the four members of Enter Shikari continue to play live dance sets under the alias, Shikari Sound System).

3. They always bring amazing support acts with them

There’s never any danger of Enter Shikari being upstaged, (see Point 2) so they don’t have any issue taking amazing bands out on the road with them, including letlive., Hundred Reasons, Young Guns, The King Blues, Cancer Bats and Stray From The Path. Next February they’ll have The Wonder Years and The King Blues out with them.

4. They mean what they say

…and it’s not just ‘F**k the system’ either. 2015’s The Mindsweep contains their opinions on everything from the privatisation of the NHS and global warming, to the banking crisis and Greek philosophy. In fact, earlier this month frontman Rou Reynolds wrote an articulate, thought-provoking blog on the UK’s airstrikes in Syria via Rock Sound.

5. When they started, people thought they were a joke

Back in 2007, unfairly lumped in with the awful ‘New Rave’ trend of the time, nobody would have thought their rock/rave hybrid was more than a passing phase. All of those bands are now long gone, whereas Enter Shikari have never been bigger or better.

6. They’ve maintained their DIY ethic

The band run a label Ambush Reality which put out their early releases, and have also signed the noisy, Nottingham four-piece, Heck.

Enter Shikari tour the UK with The Wonder Years and The King Blues between 18 – 27 February 2016