Author

Alex

Fashion, Gifts, Special

Gift Ideas for Alternative Fashion Lovers

 

Typically, fashion for the Christmas season is either all about sparkly dresses for the inevitable run of Christmas parties or big wooly jumpers for mince pies with your nan. But spare a thought for those alternative types among us for whom sequins and glitter are about as alien as death metal is to your aunty Sue. If you have a Gothic type or alternative fashion fan among your nearest and dearest, then look no further for some easy gift ideas that are sure to hit the mark this Christmas.

 

For him

 

EMP Signature Collection Iron Maiden Sneakers

Everyone needs a good pair of Converse or sneakers. In fact, the more the merrier. If you know someone who basically lives in their Converse, check out our EMP exclusive sneakers with designs from loads of metal bands and TV series. These Iron Maiden sneakers have a grungy feel thanks to their graffiti-style design and are perfect for fans of the band. They’re basically a must have at gigs or festivals too.

Devil’s Plaything Boxers

 

 

I know, I know. You don’t want to be that person who always gives underwear and socks. But hear me out. There’s a good reason why pants and socks make great gifts – they’re on budget, everyone needs them, and most guys never remember to buy them for themselves. But forget tighty-whities and embarrassing ‘comedy’ prints. Instead at least amplify the cool factor with these skull and rockhand designs from EMP’s Black Premium label. This set offers three different designs made from comfy and fresh cotton. All black too, of course. If you have to give pants, at least give cool pants.

 

Sound Check Denim Jacket

 

 

Denim jackets are a wardrobe staple, and for good reason. This design from RED by EMP won’t just keep you warm but also looks really cool. The black denim jacket also has a detachable sweater hood which is ideal for the colder months and can be removed for warmer days. See, versatile! The slightly faded wash is really on trend, too. A simple black jacket is always a safe bet as a gift as it’s pretty guaranteed to match well with the recipient’s existing wardrobe and style, and can be worn for years to come.

 

Black Sabbath Tour T-shirt

 

 

If in doubt, a T-shirt is a fail-safe option. And this Black Sabbath Tour T-shirt from EMP’s Signature Collection is a great example of T-shirt that’s unique, stylish and perfect for an alternative look. It’s a well-known fact that throwing on a rock or metal band T-shirt gives instant edge to any outfit, even if you don’t actually listen to the band in question (Ramones, anyone?)… Of course this tee is ideal for fans of the classic band, but its vintage look is definitely in style in any case and will really elevate a casual outfit, especially with jeans and heavy-duty black boots.

Silver Thor’s Hammer Ring

 

 

When it comes to jewellery and accessories for men, it can be a bit tricky to know what’s going to be well received. For some inspiration, check out the range by cult brand etNox, who have loads of seriously cool and individual pieces to choose from. In general, think Celtic, Nordic or Gothic. This Silver Thor’s Hammer Ring is a really chunky and weighty ring with runic carvings around the edge and a Norse design. Everyone needs something extra to add interest to their outfit, and a couple of unique pieces of jewellery are a must-have for any alternative fashion lover.

 

Vanish Hood Hooded Sweater

 

 

It’s winter, after all, so it definitely makes sense to gift warm and cosy items rather than clothing that will have to wait until summer. But for those who wouldn’t be seen dead in a knitted jumper, a casual hoodie is a great choice. This Vanish Hood Hooded Sweater isn’t your typical boring hoodie though. Of course it’s black, with ribbed detailing on the cuffs. But it also has a cool little feature that makes it a bit more interesting, in the form of a pull-up collar with a skull print, that can keep your face warm as well as making you look pretty spooky. It also has generously-sized kangaroo pockets as you’d expect from any good hoodie.

 

 

For her

 

Ruah Vered Necklace

 

 

For a lower-budget gift or a little something extra, Gothic-inspired jewellery is the perfect finishing touch to any alternative look. To find the perfect piece, look no further than the Alchemy Gothic collection at EMP, where there are simply dozens of stunning pieces at surprisingly cheap prices. Just one gorgeous example is this Ruah Vered Necklace which features a thorny black rose entwined through a Gothic-style star shape. The matching earrings are also available if you want to make a full set. This necklace is sure to look perfect when combined with pretty much any black top or dress.

 

Bone Leggings

 

 

These Bone Leggings from Fashion Victim are both fun and flattering. A healthy dose of skulls and bones belongs in any Goth-girl or alternative chick’s wardrobe, and I feel that these quirky leggings strike the right balance and will pair really well with a long top and boots. Whether at a gig or just as a statement piece, these leggings are super versatile and useful too.

Don’t Know Where To Go T-shirt

 

 

When alternative meets Disney. Know an alternative girl who’s also into Disney? Why not combine the two with this adorable yet suitably dark Alice t-shirt? Alice has always had her darker side (did anyone else play American McGee’s delightfully twisted Alice in Wonderland game back in the day?), and this t-shirt captures that with this Gothic print and insightful quote: “If you don’t know where you want to go then it doesn’t matter which path you take.” This addition to an outfit pairs much better with black boots and Gothic accessories than with twee headbands and patent pumps.

 

Angel City Cardigan

 

 

For anyone who likes their clothes both dark and stylish, EMP’s very own brand Black Premium should be your go-to for creating cool looks for either gigs and festivals or everyday wear. At this cold time of year, a practical and cosy cardigan certainly make a great gift, and this Angel City Cardigan has the added bonus of looking pretty cool as well as being comfy and warm. The subtle all-over skulls and flowers print and the black lace segment at the top elevate this cardigan from practical to really eye-catching.

 

Destroyed Knitted Sweater

 

 

Know someone who thinks jumpers are boring or just for old people? Prove them wrong with this seriously cool Destroyed Knitted Sweater by alternative brand forplay. The jumper has a flatteringly fitted shape and a completely destroyed look. Of course your grandma is going to be desperately trying to mend it, so probably save it for the next night out or event. A jumper is a must for the winter season, but there’s no reason it can’t have a bit of a rock n’ roll attitude.

 

If you didn’t find anything you like then never fear! We have over 20,000 products in the EMP store, so why not browse through our alternative clothing for women or men, or check out our gift finder to find the perfect present!

Music, ROCKSTYLE

EMP’s Best Albums of 2017 ft Mastodon, Linkin Park, Marilyn Manson and more…

As we buckle up and head into 2018, we’re looking back at some of our favourite new music releases from the past year. 

Mastodon – Emperor of Sand 

Mastodon’s latest release brings back elements of their Crack The Skye era sound, blasting their last two, more radio-friendly efforts out of the water in my opinion. Whilst the songs retain the shorter and more concise structure of the band’s recent work, they simultaneously go back and reintroduce some of the more epic, progressive riffs and lofty themes of bygone days. The super catchy single Show Yourself capitalizes on the band’s groovier side, whilst other tracks such as Steambreather and Andromeda bring heavier and more progressive moments to the table. Throughout the album the band mix clean and growled vocals with heavy, groovy and melodic riffs creating a perfectly distilled version of the sound they’ve been developing and refining for years. They may have lost the more far-out progressive element and the harder side, but they’ve essentially perfected their formula for combining heavy metal, prog, stoner, doom and radio-friendly rock in a way that brings all the disparate elements together into something that sounds so cohesive you just can’t imagine it being any other way.

Linkin Park – One More Light

One More Light raised a lot of controversy among fans as the band unveiled their brand new sound on the first single Heavy. Gone are the gritty nu metal flavours that made Linkin Park such a huge hit in the 2000s. Well, times change and the mix of screams and raps over heavy guitars have given way to softer and more introspective songs that sometimes tread into pop territory. There are far more softer, slower and sadder tracks here – many of which (especially the title track) take on an additional poignant edge in the wake of Chester’s tragic death. In fact they’ve never shied away from changing their style, and it shouldn’t come as a surprise that they’ve explored new territory here yet again. Heavy may be a pop track, but it’s a good one. Good Goodbye recruits grime hero Stormzy for a wonderful track that gives a modern twist to their old formula of mixing rap with singing. It’s hard not to miss the rawness of their first few albums – but if you want to listen to Hybrid Theory again, go dig out your old CD from high school. This is yet another new embodiment of Linkin Park and should be judged on its own merits rather than compared to glory days 15 years ago.

Stone Sour – Hydrograd

With Slipknot winding down a notch in recent years, Corey Taylor’s been putting more time and energy into Stone Sour, and the result is a classic hard rock record that brings the band’s sound kicking and screaming into 2017. The rather formulaic Song #3 has been limping along on the radio for months, but the heavier (and honestly more Slipknot-esque) Fabuless makes a much better job of showing Corey’s vocals at their best, with a harder edge. Whilst many have commented that the band have traded anger for more positive emotions on this album, the slower moments are fortunately balanced out by just enough grit and adrenaline to stop Hydrograd from sliding into flavourless rock territory. It’s an old cliché that bands tend to get boring when they get older and more ‘settled’ in life, but the Iowa lads have retained just enough aggression to give Hydrograd the rougher side that it needs. Standout track Taipei Person/Allah Tea serves as an excellent example of how the band are capable of bringing metal elements into hard rock, while title track Hydrograd shows that they can produce big and punchy rock anthems too.  It’s only rock and roll but I like it.

Leprous – Malina

The Norwegian progressive metallers fronted by Emperor frontman Ihsahn’s brother in law have gone from strength to strength in recent years and quietly slipped out from the shadows and into the mainstream with their particular brand of experimental and progressive music. Malina surprised fans this year with a more radio-friendly turn that lost some of singer Solberg’s harsher vocals and weirder moments. I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether or not that’s a good thing, but there’s no question that Malina is musically highly competent. The melancholic feel of opening track Bonneville is still my favourite by quite a long way, but the perfectly-structured single From The Flame is a wonderful example of how the band can compact their music into a more accessible format whilst still retaining their unique charm.  This kind of weighty and emotionally fraught music demands to be played on vinyl in a dusty room as raindrops beat on your windowpane. Solberg sings to us about emotions that are outside the normal range for us mere mortals, but I certainly enjoy feeling them along with him. My favourite album of the year.

Cradle of Filth – Cryptorania

Twenty odd years ago when Cradle of Filth got bored of po-faced ‘classic’ black metal and decided to write bizarre conceptual epics that mix symphonic metal with tongue in cheek faux black metal and basically whatever else they found lying around, few would have thought that they’d still be churning out top quality albums in 2017. But they are, and in fact they’re doing it with aplomb. Whilst there may have been a couple of blips in their timeline, and none of the original band members bar Dani are still in the fold, they’ve managed to come roaring back with some of the best songs they’ve ever produced. Like or loathe Dani’s shrieky vocals or the band’s over the top theatricals, they’re certainly not going anywhere. However the songwriting here is surprisingly mature. Far less of the corny voiceovers that were oh-so popular ten years ago and more straightforward metal that doesn’t take any prisoners. Tracks like Heartbreak and Séance and You Will Know The Lion By His Claw bring together all the very best elements of their work to date, polished in a way that they haven’t been before. The new additions to the band seem to have breathed fresh air into the creative process, resulting in exceptionally tight guitar work, really powerful melodies and neatly structured songwriting that’s a far cry from the OTT stuff they used to favour. Even the guitar solos (good ones) are back from the depths of the grave. After almost writing themselves off with a series of weaker albums, this one is genuinely good enough to stand up against the other top albums released last year.

Marilyn Manson – Heaven Upside Down

After close to three decades of shocking parents and teachers, Marilyn Manson have once again served up ten new slices of irreverent industrial metal on Heaven Upside Down. Seemingly effortlessly mixing metal and danceable electronica on catchy new tracks like Revelation 12, Say 10 and Tattoed In Reverse, Manson don’t stray too far from their well-worn formula, but then again they do do it better than any of the other copycats that they’ve spawned in their wake. Be prepared for songs that are sure to get you out of your chair and get stuck in your head. In his own words, Mr Manson intended the album to ‘f*** sh** up’ rather than change the world, and this is pretty much the effect he has achieved. A guaranteed good time.

Arch Enemy – Will to Power

Arch Enemy’s change of vocalist from the revered Angela Gossow to Canadian singer Alissa White-Gluz was predictably met with premonitions of doom from purists, but the monumental War Eternal shattered all but the hardest of melodic death hearts, and Will To Power packs almost as much of a punch as its predecessor. If the ‘inspirational quote’ lyrics of the first single The World Is Yours left you a little cold, don’t dismiss the rest of the album quite yet. Arch Enemy have been at the top of the melodic death metal scene for two decades for a reason. They’re spectacular heavy metal musicians, tearing out riffs that are as catchy as they are visceral. Alissa shines even more here, with a ferocious intensity to her harsh vocals that elevates the music to the next level. The Race, Murder Machine and The Eagle Flies Alone are as good as anything on classic albums like Doomsday Machine. Maybe the heaviness of their music has been toned down a notch in favour of perfectly crafted melodic guitars, but the energy and power of the songs should not disappoint. Let the masters show you how it’s done.

What have been your favourites? Let us know!

Music

Heavy Music Awards 2017 – Winners, Backstage Photos and More…

We’d be lying if we said there wasn’t the odd hangover in the EMP London office after an incredible night at the first ever Heavy Music Awards at House of Vans, London last night (August 24).

The Heavy Music Awards were set up as a completely independent awards ceremony to honour the best in rock and metal – with fans voting for their favourite contenders for each award. EMP was proud to be the headline sponsor for the event, which featured a number of awards for everything from best breakthrough band – recognising the most talented new faces on the scene – to best album artwork and best international band.

The event kicked off with a high-energy set from up-and-coming punksters Dead!, followed up by Vukovi and Venom Prison.

Venom Prison are my personal tip for a band to look out for, with an unexpectedly fresh take on classic death metal, and an absolutely kick-ass female vocalist who could probably beat even Arch Enemy’s (ex vocalist) Angela Gossow in a screaming competition.

Cloven Hoof were on hand to get everyone in the mood with a healthy dose of spiced rum, and expectations were high for the mix of music and awards to come. The entire EMP London office came down to enjoy the evening at the iconic venue, which sits underneath the railway arches in Waterloo, and plays host to everything from an indoor skate-park to a cinema. Check it out, Vans fans!

Thanks to everyone who came to browse our merch and say hi.

On to the awards themselves. Ghost scooped the Best Album Artwork award for their ‘Popestar’ EP – If the Ghost-hype has somehow passed you by, you seriously need to get out there and see them live, as they put on a stellar live show. Best UK Band was picked up the by the one and only Black Sabbath. Whilst there are some other great homegrown bands out there, Sabbath are the undisputed kings of heavy metal, and credited for the birth of genres from stoner rock to doom. A very well-deserved Best International Band went to the mighty Gojira, who have gone from strength to strength in recent years, including being announced as headliners for next year’s (incredible-sounding) Bloodstock Festival. We can’t wait!

Finally EMP’s Mark and Elena had their five minutes of fame on stage as they got up to announce the winner of the EMP-sponsored Best Album award together with Enter Shikari.

Although I personally was rooting for Gojira, it was awesome to see the trophy handed over to Architects for their quite frankly marvellous 2015 release, All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us. The band dedicated their success to the sadly-missed Tom Searle. The guys are straight off from the HMAs to smash the main stage at Reading and Leeds Festival this weekend, so be sure to check them out if you’re going.

You can see a full list of the nominees and winners -> HERE.

The evening was rounded off by the headliners, newbie punk rockers Creeper, who have rocketed to fame since their inception in 2014 thanks to their vibrant and catchy songs and pretty much endless succession of hits.

For those for whom rocking out for a solid four hours wasn’t enough, there was of course the afterparty. It’s been an amazing night, so thanks to everyone who turned up.
Watch out for next year’s event, and be sure to vote for your favourite band to get the recognition they deserve!

Music

Mastodon – “Emperor of Sand” Reviewed

Mastodon’s long-awaited seventh studio album is now available on CD and vinyl. But what did we think of “Emperor of Sand”?

mastodon-emperor-of-sand-cover

Despite the hype that surrounded Mastodon around the time of the release of their second album, the epic concept piece Leviathan (available today from EMP on CD), it took me quite a while to jump on the bandwagon. The band’s sound in the early days still tended towards a heavy and discordant edge, which lacks the catchiness and melody that they discovered later on. However, everything changed when Crack the Skye (CD | CD & DVD | limited edition coloured vinyl) finally came along. I now consider Crack the Skye to be one of the finest metal albums ever produced, with a merciless sophistication to the songs from start to finish, without one single moment that fails to overawe the listener.

Fellow fans of the Crack the Skye era are in for a real treat with Mastodon’s latest release; Emperor of Sand might just be the Atlanta troupe’s finest creation since.

Whilst their previous two albums, The Hunter (CD | vinyl) and Once More ‘Round the Sun (CD | vinyl) played on the catchy and groovy side to the band that goes down extremely well at festivals, Emperor of Sand has delved back into the past and resurrected some of the more interesting parts of Crack the Skye and even Leviathan for our listening pleasure. I’d already venture to say that this is going to be one of the top albums of 2017 – it absolutely rocks from start to finish, bringing a spectacular maturity and polish to their style, which seamlessly combines grooves with heavy segments and gloriously catchy chorus structures.

The album opens as it means to continue with the first single “Sultan’s Curse”, which immediately sounds like something from Crack the Skye, with meticulously-crafted riffs which blend seamlessly into the doomy chorus. As usual, the variety of vocal styles here (each of the band members contributes their own unique vocals to the mix), turn this into something special, creating a mystical atmosphere, which is set to reappear at intervals throughout the LP. The upcoming second single “Show Yourself” doesn’t mess about either, with pretty much no foreplay before hitting you in the face with melodic vocals and groovy riffs. The clean(ish) melodic vocals feature heavily across the album, which may not sit so well with fans of the heavier early style, although generally speaking the album isn’t quite as radio-friendly rock-ish as parts of Once More ‘Round the Sun. Genuine, Leviathan-esque discordance reappears with a vengeance on “Andromeda”, reinforcing the band’s heavy credentials for those who tend towards seeing infectious catchiness as a failing, rather than a triumph. Nonetheless, the songs have gotten shorter and more self-contained. You’re not going to see any 12-minute conceptual epics here. Each song is its own perfectly-formed musical unit, which you can either see as evidence of selling out, or simply strap in and enjoy the ride. I recommend you do the latter.

Mastodon have returned to semi-conceptual territory here, with the album’s protagonist cast out into the desert, paving the way for a lot of sand-related metaphors for the passage of time. It’s also been noted by many that a series of personal tragedies in the band members’ lives form a backdrop to the album, lending weight and depth to the exploration of the theme of life and death. The inclusion of slower, darker and sludgier tracks like “Steambreather” to some extent counterbalances the faster and even poppier tracks like the much-maligned “Show Yourself”, which seems to have hit a sore spot with some traditionalists. However, heavier moments do lurk on tracks like “Roots Remain” and “Scorpion Breath” – albeit often so cleverly woven in with energetic rock and funky riffs that if you pause too long to admire the high-octane choruses you might miss them. It’s a sound that Mastodon have been crafting for years, which was perhaps over-refined on Once More ‘Round the Sun, but has found a real balance on Emperor of Sand. The band may have lost the more far-out progressive element and the harder side, but they’ve essentially perfected their formula for combining heavy metal, prog, stoner, doom and radio-friendly rock in a way that brings all the disparate elements together into something that sounds so cohesive you just can’t imagine it being any other way. I personally don’t think there are many bands out there right now who quite so noticeably at the top of their game. Give this one a spin, you won’t regret it.

Emperor of Sand is available to purchase now from EMP on CD and vinyl. Also available is a 61×91.5cm poster and a t-shirt of the album’s striking cover artwork – see our Mastodon merchandise and albums page for the full range!

Salva

Music

Reviewed: Gojira @ London Kentish Town Forum, 12/3/2017

Last Sunday, French death metallers Gojira kicked off their Magma Tour UK at the Kentish Town Forum in London. What did we think?

#Repost @peterageofficial ・・・ SOLD OUT The Forum in London, England! #gojira #tourlife

A post shared by Gojira Official (@gojiraofficial) on


It’s always kind of a shame when a gig is on a school night, as you end up rationing your drinks and keeping half an eye on the clock so you can catch the last Northern line train home. But it certainly didn’t stop the crowd getting into the moshpit spirit on Sunday night when Gojira took over the Kentish Town Forum.

The show was opened by New York mathcore thugs Car Bomb with an immediate blast of aggression that made it clear it was not going to be one of those quiet Sunday nights. Their discordant and extremely heavy style with a progressive edge is reminiscent of the godfathers of extreme djent (is that a genre? It should be!), Meshuggah. In fact, whilst I was musing on how much they obviously wanted to be Meshuggah, I noticed their guitarist wearing one of the Swedish band’s t-shirts. Case closed.

The punchy start was followed up in style by Code Orange – a Pittsburgh-based hardcore/metalcore troupe who came with a mission to destroy the venue. I hadn’t heard them before, but I can say for sure they picked up a legion of new fans throughout their tightly-coiled performance. A vein of serious groove ran through their set, despite the very hard edges to their sound. Whilst punk is ostensibly at the root of their sound, and shows in the rawness of the vocals, there’s something more sinister lying underneath the in-your-face punch of their aggressively bass-fuelled music. The aural assault was backed up by astounding energy on-stage, as their charismatic bassist high-kicked his way through proceedings. If other bands are metal, these guys were adamantium. One to watch.

It’s around my 4th time seeing Bayonne metallers Gojira, but it seems that in the time I’ve been following them they’ve exploded from being one of those great niche bands that opens the smaller stage at Sonisphere, to being genuine heavy-hitters in their own right – and rarely has a band deserved that as much as these guys. Fresh from releasing their latest LP, Magma, they’ve subtly evolved their sound in a direction that’s lost a tiny amount of the aggression, but gained a razor-sharp edge that’s bumped them up into the big-league of technical metallers. Whilst ‘L’Enfant Sauvage’ was good, ‘Magma’ was truly great – a career-defining album that runs like a perfectly-oiled piece of machinery. Which is lucky really, as the band drew heavily on their new baby in their set, playing almost all of the 8 full-length tracks. ‘Only Pain’ kicked things off, but for me it was the arrival of the monumental ‘The Heaviest Matter of the Universe’ that really signaled the start of the evening. This aural juggernaut, one of my all-time favourites, is a guaranteed pit-starter, and the ensuing circle pit did not disappoint. Unless you were hoping to get out of there without having your feet stamped on and some guy’s elbow in your eye. In fact, there’s often a pit just a few rows back from the front, but here it expanded like an oil spill, engulfing the reticent along with the hardcore stompers. Which is quite a good explanation for how Gojira’s music works live – their maelstrom of rhythms pulls you in and turns the audience from a group of people into one unified organism.

The L’Enfant Sauvage and Magma hits-parade was popular, but for me it’s all about the classic behemoths from ‘From Mars to Sirius’ and the genre-defining ‘Way of All Flesh’. No Gojira show is complete without a hefty dose of space and whales, delivered with aplomb in the form of the musical leviathan, ‘Flying Whales’. Whilst other bands cling to the same old tired themes: love, death, drugs; Gojira have never shied away from writing a few songs about ocean-dwelling mammals. One of the many reasons I love them. ‘Backbone’ is always another guaranteed hit, with a riff that just calls for you to start throwing yourself into the nearest person. It’s these inherently moshable grooves that have allowed the band to carve their place as a festival legend, and the atmosphere carries over even in a smaller and stuffier indoor venue.

No evening would be complete, though, without a good ol’ drum solo. Sometimes bands throw these in as a bit of a filler, but in Gojira’s case, drummer Mario is approximately half of the band – his ear for unique syncopated rhythms is one of the undoubted cornerstones of their sound, and sometimes the ‘je ne sais quoi’ that elevates their best songs from great heavy metal to something almost stratospheric. No surprise then, that the crowd went wild to his playful 5 minutes of fame. It was also a clever way to segue into the tectonic ‘Toxic Garbage Island’, which opens with drums that speak for themselves. By the end, a whirlpool of sweaty humans was screaming together about the injustice of plastic bags in the sea. My kind of moment.

But all good things must come to an end. Although they’d saved some of the best for last, with a serious hard-hitter to close, in the form of ‘Vacuity’. They seem to play this live much less often than the other big tracks from ‘The Way of All Flesh’, although it’s a raw powerhouse of a song. Vacuity bottles the intensity of the human instinct to survive, and had me punching the air and screaming every word. Inspiring stuff.

Gojira fan? Check out EMP’s range of Gojira merchandise, CDs and vinyl today!

Salva

Music

What Were Our Favourite Metal Albums of 2016?

We had some epic rock and metal releases to cheer us up during a gloomy 2016. Here are the albums we’ve been loving here at EMP UK…gojiramagma

Gojira  Magma (order from EMP on CD or vinyl)

The environmentally-conscious Frenchmen have been providing us with metal that’s heavier than a neutron star for around 20 years, and their latest release Magma was no exception. Some say it’s less heavy than their previous releases, but without a doubt it’s up there with their greats (From Mars to Sirius and The Way of All Flesh, if you were going to ask). The first single, “Stranded”, had us hooked from the first seconds where that riff kicks in, and we literally cannot wait to mosh to this one when they come back to London in March. Whilst there are some more mellow and more experimental moments on here, the metal gems are rock solid, especially “Silvera”, which blends their heavier moments with a frankly genius main riff, and the title track, which lures you in with the classic, grinding guitar sound that the band have perfected over the years.

We kind of miss the whales, but musically speaking Joe, Mario and co. have really outdone themselves on this one.

inflamesbattles

In Flames  Battles (CD | Limited Edition CD featuring 2 Bonus Tracks | Vinyl | Limited Edition Picture Vinyl | EMP-Exclusive CD & 2-LP Boxset with Photo Card, Poster, Slip Mat, Certificate of Authenticity and More)

Who doesn’t love a good bit of melodic death metal? Are you with us? If so, you are not going to want to miss Battles. Our favourite screaming Swedes are back in style with this all-round rocking release. Sing along or mosh? It’s hard to decide, with instant classics like “Drained” combining top-class singable choruses with impassioned screams and soaring melodies alternated with punchy metal riffs. In fairness, nothing has really changed here. If you liked Siren Charms, you will not be disappointed by Battles. Considering that these guys haven’t really changed their sound one bit since the 90s, you might be forgiven for wondering if it’s worth picking up the new CD, but we say ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ If you’re new to In Flames, and 60 minutes of high-energy metal with great clean and growled vocals sounds like your cup of tea, then you should definitely give this one a try. If you’ve been listening since Jester Race days like us, then you’re not going to be able to argue with one of the most technically flawless slabs of metal the band have ever released.

amonamarthjomsviking

Amon Amarth  Jomsviking (CD | Vinyl | EMP-Exclusive Viking Ship CD Boxset with Bonus Live DVD)

Let’s face it. Every time there’s a new Amon Amarth release, you kind of know what’s coming. 60 minutes of Viking battles, gutteral growls and a mixture of brutality and joyful Norse spirit that only the Swedish thunder gods can reproduce time and again with aplomb. It’s immediately clear that festival season will see us all raising our horns (and beers) to the chants of epics like “Raise Your Horns” along with a legion of muddy and sweat-soaked fans. The melodic elements are intact, and show up time and again, especially on our fave from the album – “Wanderer”. In case you’re wondering what a Jomsviking is, they were actually Norse mercenaries, and the album follows the tale of a young man who swears revenge after his love is married to another man. Not everyone loves a concept album, but Amon Amarth struck a good balance here between providing Viking fireside stories and the semi-melodic, semi-brutal death metal that we know and love.

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Opeth  Sorceress (CD | Limited Edition 2-CD Digipak | Vinyl)

Every time Opeth bring out a new album, it has us all on tenterhooks waiting to see whether it’s going to predominantly feature blistering death metal, folksy acoustic rock or complex jazzy blues. This time, it turned out to be a mixture of them all. As the last few albums have hinted, the Swedish prog death maestros have been drifting away from the truly heavy material they produced on classic albums like Ghost Reveries and playing a hell of a lot more proggy, jazzy experimental stuff that has split opinion. Well, that stuff certainly hasn’t disappeared on Sorceress. In fact, the title track seems to be the distillation of years of work on each of these styles, and perfectly demonstrates Åkerfeldt and crew’s ability to make genres that really shouldn’t work seem like they were born to be together. Coming in at ‘only’ 6 minutes, Sorceress is as close to perfect as anyone could wish. Even fans of the sublime prog rock produced by compatriots like Beardfish are going to be blown away by the mix of bluesy guitars, proggy solos and soothing folk elements. The only people who are going to be disappointed are those who expect to have their faces ripped off by the type of death metal that Opeth have produced in the past, but those types have had more than their fair share of warning. In fact, this is classic Opeth but with a real leap forward in terms of experimentation and seamless blending of styles. Don’t miss it.

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Metallica  Hardwired…to Self-Destruct (CD | 3-CD Digipak Deluxe Edition | Vinyl | Limited Edition 3-LP Boxset with Bonus CD)

You didn’t think we’d have any sort of ‘best of’ list without including Metallica, did you? Come on! Anyone who thought that Metallica were past their best had to eat a pretty big slice of humble pie when they heard Hardwired…to Self-Destruct. Whilst it doesn’t quite match up to their …And Justice For All glory days, it makes a pretty good attempt. The title track makes it clear what’s to come: a relentless slab of classic riffing, with catchy melody after catchy melody hitting where it hurts. Our highlight has to be “Moth Into Flame”, which could easily have nestled in among the hook-driven classics on the black album, with guitar work that reminds us all why Metallica are the KINGS of modern thrash. True, there is no track that stands out quite as well as, say, “Master of Puppets” but the progress made since the opinion-dividing St. Anger is clear. Welcome back, Metallica!

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Sabaton  The Last Stand (CD | 2-CD Digipak with Bonus Live DVD | Vinyl | EMP-Exclusive Limited Edition Red Vinyl )

2016 delivered a heavy blow to power metal fans with the semi-breakup of genre legends Rhapsody of Fire (ok, that’s another post in itself), but it’s not been short of epic music for fans of the musical answer to Dungeons & DragonsThe Last Stand, as the name might hint at, has drawn inspiration from a number of historical ‘last stand’ battles – such as the final battle between the samurai and the Japanese army in “Shiroyama”. If you don’t find yourself shouting along with rousing refrains such as ‘overrun but never outdone’, or ‘surrounded and outnumbered’ then please send back your power metal fan badge right now. Otherwise, stand alongside the last 500 samurai, raise your fists and sing along. Power metal gold right here.

Loved these releases, or totally disagree? What were your top picks for 2016? Let us know! Here’s to 2017 rocking even harder.

Salva