Top 10 albums of 2014 plus some more beauties.

It’s that time of the year where all the big music magazines, various labels and bands have collated their lists for their respective favourite albums of the year and it’s always interesting to see what has made their individual list and I thought, why not give it a go myself? Especially with 2014 being one of the best and biggest years for rock and metal music, trying to create a personal list that I was thoroughly satisfied with took me weeks and weeks, listening to all my favourite albums of the year and thinking which was better proved to be such a difficult task. Nevertheless, I’ve finally got my list together and here it is!! My countdown from 10-1 talking about each album and then another list with some albums that didn’t make the list but nonetheless are fantastic albums from 2014.

10) Every Time I Die – From Parts Unknown
I have to admit, before hearing the new ETID record, I wasn’t familiar with the band at all. I heard a lot of great things about them, but I’d never really heard much. However, I remember watching the video for Thirst thinking it was one of the funniest music videos to be made, and that track in particular smashes the listener right in the face. Listening to the album made me dig into their vast discography and all their records prove they are easily one of the most consistent bands in the history of rock music. Produced by Kurt Ballou, guitarist for Converge, this album is just pure, unadulterated, heavy punk-n-roll, it’s kickass.

9) Machine Head – Bloodstone & Diamonds
I absolutely adore Machine Head. One of my favourite bands of all time, I have loved everything they’ve done and this album solidifies Machine Head as one of the greatest and most important heavy metal bands of all time. When I first listened to this record, I honestly felt that it was much more expansive and more adventurous than anything they’ve ever done before. Whilst it’s not my favourite Machine Head album, certainly in my top 3 though, songs like Killers and Kings, Night Of The Long Knives, Game Over and my personal favourite Ghost Will Haunt My Bones just show that Machine Head are a truly special and consistent metal band with songs that are just built for the live environment.

8) Suicide Silence – You Can’t Stop Me
When I first ever heard Suicide Silence, I think I was around 14 and I watched the video of Unanswered and I remember being terrified thinking how can something be this heavy, it was ridiculous (in a good way!). This album was obviously the first SS album since the passing of vocalist Mitch Lucker (RIP), and with Eddie Hermida on board, Suicide Silence, to me, have created an album that is just heavy grooves, balls-to-the-wall, pure face-crushing metal.

7) Killer Be Killed – Killer Be Killed
Amazing super-groups nowadays are quite hard to come by. However, Killed Be Killed released an incredible album and for a long time, I really thought this would be higher in my top 10 list. Featuing Troy from Mastodon, Greg from The Dillinger Escape Plan, Dave Elitch ex-Mars Volta and the legendary Max Cavalera, the band have beautifully blended all the elements of their existing bands and produced an absolute beauty of a debut record.

6) Slipknot – .5: The Gray Chapter
I wanted this album to be higher purely for the fact that it’s Slipknot but still, Slipknot have released a landmark record with .5: The Gray Chapter. Please check out my post that I did back in August about what I wanted for the new Slipknot album and see whether all those things came into fruition. For me, they absolutely did and some of the riffs of this album are some of the best riffs, not just from Slipknot, but over the entire course of metal. The Negative One, for example, is absolutely crushing and songs like Custer, Sarcastrophe, AOV etc are all absolutely massive metal anthems. What makes this record stand out from their other albums is the fact that Slipknot are still expanding their sound and still not afraid to do whatever they want. Obviously a lot of people will compare this album to Stone Sour due to amount of clean singing (which to me, is just lazy criticism frankly) and will ignore the fact that Slipknot have produced a record that brings all the best things about Slipknot but introduces a subtle brand new element to their sound at the same time.

5) Royal Blood – Royal Blood
When I saw Royal Blood at Download 2014, I was absolutely blown away. The fact that so much racquet (and damn good racquet, I might add) was being created by just two individuals shows a hell of a lot, but not only that, their tunes sounded absolutely monolithic. For me, the album is justified proof that rock music is well and truly alive in 2014, the debut from Royal Blood feels like a revolutionary album, one which will be influence many upcoming bands to push and demolish the boundaries like what Royal Blood have done. With a Foo Fighters support slot at Wembley and a whole US tour with the rock legends, the biggest and the best is still to come from Royal Blood.

4) KING 810 – Memoirs Of A Murderer
Without a doubt, one of, if not, the most important album to be associated with metal in recent time. Important in the sense that this album takes the elements of your typical hard-hitting, memorable metal album but brings in an entirely different, unique perspective. KING 810 are either loved or unjustifiably hated and this album presents an entirely sinister side and proves that metal isn’t just a one-dimensional genre, and whatever you think about the band’s story and their history and where they grew up in Flint, Michigan, whilst those factors are certainly significant influences on the record, the music itself is without a doubt the golden part of this album, it’s everything a metal band should sound like in terms of sound, songwriting and production also. If you’re going to the Slipknot tour in January, get there early and catch King 810 because I guarantee you, they will melt your face off.

3) Marmozets – The Weird and Wonderful Marmozets
Where do I even start with this record?! I remember seeing Marmozets open up for Young Guns in Cardiff back in 2012 and just wasn’t sure what to make of them. In the best way possible, their sound was a collection of so many influences from the likes of Refused, The Dillinger Escape Plan, At The Drive-In etc, mashed together, thrown into a cauldron as they presented a sound that I had never heard of before. Fast forward 2 years and I’m seeing them absolutely destroy the Pepsi Max stage at Download 2014 with what I can only describe as a chaotic live experience, just unbelievable. As a result, I was awaiting the debut Marmozets record with a lot of excitement and with songs like Born Young and Free, Why Do You Hate Me?, Move, Shake, Hide etc. Marmozets have set their path for a monumental career in a big way. With the band being signed to Roadrunner also, if there’s any justice in the world, Marmozets will be huge and deservedly so.

2) Architects – Lost Forever // Lost Together
This was so close to being my number one, but nonetheless, Architects are at number 2 and the fact that this isn’t even my favourite Architects record speaks volumes. I have loved everything Architects have ever done, even ‘The Here and Now’ which I think is significantly overlooked and after getting into them when they released ‘Hollow Crown’ in 2009, Architects have remained one of my all-time favourite bands and I would even go as far to say that they are my favourite British band of any form of rock/metal, they are absolutely incredible. With Lost Forever // Lost Together, Architects have created not just an amazing record, but a special one. I feel as if this record will have just as much influence as Hollow Crown, which for me, was a revolution in terms of modern metal especially in the UK. The songwriting and their sound just gets better and better and even more huge with every record and Sam Carter’s voice is just as powerful and stronger than ever before, listen to the chorus to C.A.N.C.E.R, for example, and just see for yourself!

1) Beartooth – Disgusting
So here it is. 2014 has been one of those years that has produced some of the finest albums in the history of rock music. But none of them have come close to this one, Disgusting from Beartooth. What compromises as an Album of the Year for me? Well, a lot of things: the songs are amazing, well-written songs, catchy choruses, amazing production etc. Whilst Disgusting is all of those things and more, this album has something unique that the rest of my list doesn’t. Every time I listen to this record, it reminds me of growing up, it reminds me of the present, it reminds me of what’s going to happen in the near future. Disgusting is one of those albums where I will listen back in 5, 10, 20 years and I remember absolutely everything that I have associated with that record. The melodies, the harmonies and the sheer breadth of sound-scope of this album are the most memorable things for me. The way I feel about Beartooth is kind of the same way I think about when I discovered letlive. and when I heard Fake History thinking that no record is going to top this and give me an incredible feeling every time I listen to it, well, Beartooth have done just that. Songs like The Lines, I Have A Problem, Body Bag, Beaten In Lips, Dead, One More and my personal favourite In Between sound ferocious, glorious and fresh, this is an album which deserves to be worshiped and deserves to be influential.

And finally, here’s some more albums that didn’t quite make the list but are still amazing!!
Behemoth – The Satanist
Upon A Burning Body – The World Is My Enemy Now
Mastodon – Once More ‘Round The Sun
Miss May I – Rise Of The Lion
Feed The Rhino – The Sorrow and The Sound
Neck Deep – Wishful Thinking
Foo Fighters – Sonic Highways
Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators – World On Fire
Mallory Knox – Asymmetry
Bury Tomorrow – Runes

Lower Than Atlantis – Lower Than Atlantis
Steel Panther – All You Can Eat
Black Veil Brides – Black Veil Brides
You Me At Six – Cavalier Youth

Advertisements

What’s the vibe? Making the most of it!

Well, obviously, I haven’t blogged in a long time!! Last time was around mid-October, wasn’t it? Anyway, I have wanted to blog for ages but I decided to give it a few weeks and wait towards the end of the semester in order to overlook everything and reflect on all that’s happened recently, it’s been one crazy ride. So yeah, had my 21st birthday a couple of days after my last blog and my two lovely Irish friends prepared a little surprise party and it was fantastic, it was definitely the thing I needed given how much I was missing everyone back home and to have people do something awesome like that sparked all sorts of happiness and motivation (plus, Milka cakes and a trip to the local rock/metal club went down a treat too)

IMG_1458Pretty awesome, right? Big love to my friends for doing this, it definitely made my 21st birthday one to remember!! The whole thing made me realise how awesome it is to be having your birthday, especially the 21st, in a completely different country. Not many people can say that and it was awesome to be reminded of that fact!!

So, my 21st birthday was absolutely brilliant. The next thing? The trip to Córdoba and Granada with the Erasmus guys. I was really, really looking to this trip, not only was it a weekend staying in Granada (and spending Halloween there) but it was also an amazing opportunity to meet some people on the Erasmus who I’d never met before. Obviously being able to visit and walk around the Alhambra was something I never thought I would have the opportunity to do and being able to do it on my Year Abroad was an incredible experience and one that I’ll definitely remember! Also finding out that they’ve filmed some scenes for the new series of Game of Thrones in Córdoba gave an awesome sense of inspiration, especially if you know me and my love for Game of Thrones!!IMG_1529Córdoba was vibrant!! Managed to get a lot of wicked pictures also, it was great to have fantastic weather the whole time as well!!

So we only had a day in Córdoba and we stayed in Granada for a couple of nights and having my first encounter with a hostel was definitely an awesome experience. Being in Granada really showed how much of a community there is amongst the Erasmus group, everyone’s friendly and full of banter and energy, it was a great feeling to have that international vibe throughout the weekend as well. If you’ve read my last couple of blogs you’d see that I love the whole international vibe here and the weekend in Granada was further proof for that! Having a Halloween party in a club which faced the Alhambra was another surreal and incredible experience and I decided to go as a wolf last minute (but that, I mean messing and fuzzing my hair up and trying to be a little bit scary)

IMG_1561Not a great picture, granted, but it was absolutely amazing in person.

IMG_1595FIRST EXPERIENCE WITH CHURROS. BEAUTIFUL.

So, that was my weekend in Granada pretty much, it’s really difficult to put across how amazing the weekend and how amazing the whole experience was on here but if you ever get the chance to visit there, or any part of Southern Spain for that matter, GO!!

To wrap up then, I’m going to be back in the UK in the next couple of weeks and I am more than excited and ready to see everyone again, I am unbelievably stoked!! I’ve figured doing blogs every so often as opposed to weekly/fortnightly ones will be much better because not only will I have much more to write about but also, and more importantly, I don’t want to spend my whole time thinking about what I’m going to blog about!! The whole point of being here is to make the most of the unique opportunity and most importantly, to stay motivated!

Thanks for checking back!!

IMG_1607

Seis semanas, hecho!! Positivity, Toledo and a sudden motivation for language learning

Having been in Ciudad Real for six weeks now, and having only written 2 posts, I reckon it’s time for another one, right? I remember what was going through my mind when I was in my second year at Cardiff with regards to the Year Abroad and I never really got a large feeling for excitement nor sadness beforehand, I suppose it was all a feeling of apprehension, thinking is this the best thing to do? Is it really going to be worth it? Can I really get through it all? But, having been here for a while now, I can safely say, that it is completely pointless dwelling on any of these things! There is no real need to spend time questioning doing a Year Abroad. The positives of the whole thing certainly outweigh the negatives and it’s necessary be thankful of the fact that you’re actually within a different country immersed in a different culture where the vast majority of people aren’t speaking your main language, I mean, how cool is that?! The best thing about September and October was just embracing myself in all the positive things that come with this opportunity, just remembering that it is not forever and that my family, dogs and my girlfriend will all be there waiting for when I return and that thought just keeps me going and I guarantee the same will happen for anyone.  These past six weeks have absolutely whizzed by and to think that six more weeks will take me to the end of November, it’s fair to say, each day here cannot be wasted. Positivity is the way forward, the opportunities are endless, perfect the language, embrace the culture and in a way, create a new identity for yourself – that’s what being in a foreign country long-term kind of requires. I’ve certainly noticed that being in a completely Spanish environment has allowed me to almost think in a different way altogether, it’s almost like taking on a new personality in effect because we’re creating new perspectives, new experiences, new relationships – seeing the sights of a different country, tasting the vast range of food on offer, watching Casino Royale in Spanish (obviously there’s a unique case, granted) and just realising that each part of the world is totally different in all of its amazing ways.

Anyway! What have I been up to? Well, apart from fixated my eyes onto a Spanish verb book and reading novelas, I recently went to Toledo, a small, picturesque UNESCO World Heritage site in between Madrid and Ciudad Real. I can honestly tell you, I remember getting off the coach when we were nearing the top of a hill and looking down at the beautiful city and it was absolutely unreal, just taking everything in, realising what amazing things that are normally outside everyday experience can bring you. With its famous landmarks and its breath-taking scenery, Toledo is a must-go destination in Spain. Apparently, there are plans to visit Cordoba and Granada in Andalucía in the very near future and it’s absolutely amazing and exciting to have the opportunity to visit even more of this fantastic and inspiring country. Before coming to Spain, I would never have imagined that there would be this strange sense of euphoria when I discover new things here. Whether it was indulging in the food or just walking through the deserted roads of Ciudad Real, everything thus far has sparked an interest in me, whether it be big or small. Speaking of food (I did mention that I really love it, yeah?), I finally for the first time ever, got a taste of Paella in Toledo!! Considered the ‘Sunday roast of Spain’ (seriously, that is the perfect description), my desire to try more and more Spanish dishes was fuelled even more with this classic and ultimate piece of mastery.

Not only is Toledo famous for its fantastic vibe, but coming to Toledo give us a large insight into the actual history of the place and its relation to Spanish history as a whole. The cultural heritage that exists in Toledo is very prominent throughout the city and with a lot of people from all different world famous religions having lived here over history, it is no wonder why Toledo is such an important city not just in Spain, but in the whole of Europe. From the buildings to the streets to even the shops, there’s a great sense that the citizens of Toledo are extremely proud of the historical value and the heritage of the city and quite rightly so! Such an incredible city and with it being very close to Ciudad Real, I will visit Toledo many more times in the future for sure.

As I mentioned earlier, I described Spain as being a very ‘inspiring’ country. I’m quite strange in the way I describe things but the reason I say Spain is inspiring is because everything about it just provides so much motivation. I’ve been given the motivation to constantly try out and experience new things, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be involved with the language. A main source of motivation has been the few language barriers, and language barriers in their own right can been seen as catalysts in making people not want to learn the language but for me, language barriers are a huge source of motivation because they make you want to learn it so much that you get to the point where you just want break right through that barrier. For those of you who’ve watched Gavin and Stacey before, who remembers that scene where Bryn and Smithy are working out in Bryn’s home gym and Bryn says to Smithy; “There’s a wall, you can’t jump over it, you can’t run around it and you can’t go under it, so what are you going to do? You’re going to run straight through it!” – that’s the approach I’m taking with learning Spanish and overcoming the language barrier, it’s only through perseverance, determination to succeed and of course, motivation that will get you on top of the language. I’ve also said to myself that I’m going to learn Italian and Polish after (hopefully) perfecting Spanish and the only way to get there and succeed is finding a passion and a motivation, which for the most part, is something I have.

So, that’s been happening thus far. Successfully found my feet here and loving pretty much every minute of it, been jamming away new amazing songs from Foo Fighters and Machine Head and wrapping my ears around the absolutely incredible new Slipknot album (which I’m going to write a blog about very, very soon, watch out for that!). So, so far so good! Everything has been falling into place really well. Missing family, my dogs and the Mrs a lot, but it’s all worth the experience. Now, time for another coffee and get some early birthday celebrations done ready for my 21st on Monday, happy times!

Crazy, yet amazing – poco a poco

Has it really been nearly 3 weeks since the first post? Why yes, it has. September for anyone is always a pretty crazy month, especially for me. September always means the start of a new academic year and therefore also means that you have an unbelievable mountain of stuff to get done. But in my case, having spent my first couple of weeks here in Ciudad Real, I can honestly say that I’m gradually climbing up this giant mountain and almost well on my way to getting on the long path for the Year Abroad. To sum everything up briefly (haha, ‘briefly’, gotta be joking, right?), the first few weeks have been absolutely crazy.. getting a flat, meeting people from all over the world, questioning myself, all the usual stuff I suppose, managing to take absolutely everything in and actually realising that I’m here in the middle of Spain and will be for the next 8 months or so was always something that I thought I could never comprehend. Alas, this is what I’ve been up to!!

So, as I’m studying here, first thing I better do is go and register at the uni, right? Well, if only that was simple. Imagine a long-haired touristy-looking lad with a giant bag on his back and penguin flip-flops (couple of quid in TK Maxx, so..), walking into the International Office where I appeared unannounced and hoped that they could help me out with getting registered (I looked everything up their site and it all seemed logical and straightforward). Even sat here now, 2 weeks later from doing so I still feel like I didn’t really achieve much but nonetheless, they seemed pretty keen to help me out and given the fact that they spoke English, this was a great help given that my Spanish at the moment is a bit shaky. Anyway, with all that done, I’m all set and ready to get on studying, I think..

The food though is not shaky. From enjoying tapas and ice creams in the Plaza Mayor to mastering the Spanish culinary craft myself already, I absolutely love the food here. Thus far, I’ve managed to distinguish that Spanish people love their garlic in food. It seems to be the most golden and central ingredient for any Spanish dish. So far, I’ve been trying to master the famous ‘Sopa de Ajo’ which is literally just ‘Garlic Soup’. A very popular dish from Castilla-La Mancha (and from Castile y Leon) which enfuses the garlicky kick with almost a very fragrant, spicy concoction with all the paprika, serrano ham, the eggs and the white wine. A very indulgent dish that needs absolute precision and good timing, beautiful. Next, the ‘Bacalao A Pil Pil’ which is ‘Cod with Garlic and Chili Sauce’, the dish sounds amazing in itself, but again requires precision and a lot of attention to detail. First time cooking this wasn’t a success by any means, but once you notice the continuity of ingredients in Spanish dishes, confidence in the kitchen will sky-rocket! If you haven’t notice yet, I love cooking and I love trying new things and experimenting with different cuisines, I will try to get some decent pictures of things I’ve made in the next few weeks and put them up here and talk about them. Spanish cuisine has always been something I’ve massively overlooked, given that the UK is mainly focused on British, French, Italian and Indian styles of food, that said however, Spanish food will, hopefully, make an impact in the UK, and deservedly so. Lastly, and certainly not least, the classic Spanish omelette or the ‘Tortilla’ – which is so simple yet my favourite Spanish dish with very simple and indulgent ingredients. All you need is eggs, onions, chorizo and.. crisps?! Yes, that’s right, crisps. Crisps are such a better and easier alternative than normal potatoes. I mean, why go through the trouble of washing them, peeling them, slicing them, blanching them and then frying them when it’s already been done with crisps! Also, when you actually taste the omelette, you don’t even feel the crunch of the crisps, they’ve become so soft and flimsy that they just feel like normal potatoes. Fantastic! I might actually write my own take on the Spanish omelette on here but if you want a great Spanish recipe book then I thoroughly recommend Omar Allibhoy’s ‘Tapas Revolution’, which shows 120 classic Spanish recipes ranging from Aperitivos like home-made lemonade and sangria, to meat dishes, fish dishes, desserts, all across the board – really good stuff.

Aside from the food aspect, one of the best things about the Year Abroad for me is the wonderful international feeling you get when you meet people from across the world. Currently, I live with awesome dudes from Spain and Germany, went to a football match with mates from Ireland and Norway, I spoke to someone from Turkey about Turkish football and his current Masters thesis and across the first few weeks, I’ve met people from Spain, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Norway, Ireland, Mexico, Chile, Turkey, Lithuania.. the list just goes on and on. The fact that someone like me from England is immersed in this amazing international framework is probably the best thing about this whole experience for me; talking to people about their experiences, their hometowns and their upbringings, it’s just something that I’ve always loved the thought of and it really rekindled my passion for interacting with people who have so many cultural differences to me, it just feels amazing. The fact that the Spanish language is the thing that brings us together from so many countries provides so much motivation and makes you want to lose yourself in so many different cultures and walks of life.

So far, so good then! Hardly any tears, been giving a few English lessons here and there, and just about finding my feet in this fantastic place. Adios!

Free to fly farther than the sun.. The Year Abroad has begun!

IMG_1223Well fancy that.. Almost a year ago today I was sat in a giant lecture theatre in the Psychology department of Cardiff University for the first of many Year Abroad related talks. The whole Year Abroad process from then on gradually got more and more daunting, the thought of actually livingin Spainand getting accustomed to the Spanish way of life was just one I had completely locked away in the back of my mind, until now! I’m now sat in a hotel room in Ciudad Real in Castilla-La Mancha, my destination for the next 9 months. To be perfectly honest with you, even just writing that is crazy in itself but there’s no turning back. It’s all becoming real and contrary to what I’d originally thought, it’s absolutely amazing. Amazing in the sense that I’m full of adrenaline and full of anticipation to do as much as I can; first and foremost, come to grips with the Spanish way of life, culture and the cuisine (shout out to my mum for the awesome tapas recipe book she gave me beforehand), secondly, visit as much of this country as I can and thirdly (and to be honest, most importantly) get a really good, solid level of Spanish. I’d be lying if I said that my Spanish is near perfect, but I can really sense that being here will dramatically improve it (stating the obvious right there). Spain has one of those vibes where you just desperately want to immerse yourself in the culture and get really stuck into the language. Thus far, all is really positive. If you’ve read my Madrid blog below (and if you haven’t, I welcome you to do so), one may have got the impression that I didn’t really enjoy it as much I wanted and you’d be correct. During that trip, the sudden realisation of being away for some time really hit home. I thought about how much I’d miss my family and friends, my 2 amazing dogs, my drum kit and my guitars (brought some drum sticks with me so I can air-drum!), and the thought of being away from all of that was just one I really wasn’t up for and I actually said there and then to my mum that I didn’t think I had the mental strength to be dealing with it all. But having spent the rest of the summer dwelling on the prospect, I finally decided that if I turned my back, I would be giving away a fantastic opportunity – one that I probably wouldn’t be able to get again. As a result, being rather positive must be a good thing, right? Even though I really don’t want to be away from the comforts of home, it’s not going to be forever and therefore, I’ve got to make the most of it. Getting over my shyness (and trust me, I’m a really shy person) is something that I reckon, in this environment, will be easy to overcome. My courses at the university don’t commence until mid-September, so for the meantime, I will be sorting some accommodation, speaking alright Spanish and hopefully meeting people from across the globe and partying! Apologies for being slightly cheesy and self-centred, but this Year Abroad is most certainly a new chapter and a brand new learning experience. It feels right and I feel more than ready (I think). Being here in Spain and writing this post has really allowed me to reflect on where I’ve come from my teenage years and what the future will hold. Sure, the experience will have its ups and downs but it’s all part of the journey and it’s a journey that I really want to endure. I’m going to really miss being in the UK, but spending 9 months in Spain is something that’s too good to be missed. ¡Vamos!

*One minute there were no clouds in the sky with the sun beaming down and all of a sudden, there is thunder and lightening, how is that even possible in Spain?!*

IMG_1246

10 Things I Want To Hear From The New Slipknot Album

Since 2008, the release of the last Slipknot record ‘All Hope Is Gone’, the band’s popularity has continued to soar. A globally respected and loved band, to say that Slipknot are probably the most important modern metal band in the world is a well-deserved, respected title. Having been through the highest of highs to the lowest of lows throughout their career, most significantly the passing of #2, original member and bassist Paul Gray in May 2010 and the departure of drummer Joey Jordison in December of last year, the forthcoming Slipknot record, “.5: The Gray Chapter” will be one of the most interesting, emotional and heaviest metal albums of the 21st century. On August 1st, the metal community got a brutal insight into the next chapter for the Iowa-based band, with the absolute raging anthem ‘The Negative One’, which catalysed mad reactions throughout the world making the hungry Slipknot family wanting more and more. Next, we got the first proper single from The Gray Chapter (a really touching tribute to Paul), ‘The Devil In I’ which had a different vibe to The Negative One but nevertheless still had the monstrous brutality. With constant teasing from frontman and all-round legend, Corey Taylor, the wait for one of the most important records in recent time is almost over. With the album set for release on October 20th (my birthday, in fact!) via Roadrunner Records, here’s 10 things I really want to see from the new album!!

1) Slipknot being Slipknot. Screaming, drop-tuned guitars, sheer brutality.
That’s what we all love about Slipknot. They’re distinctive, they’re unique, they’re special. Just take the self-titled debut record, the first five tracks (sic, Eyeless, Wait and Bleed, Surfacing, Spit It Out) are all absolute sledgehammers to the brain. I remember first hearing Slipknot and almost being a little bit frightened but in a good sense. I remember thinking that they were a band with a totally new substance and had a real, gnarly edge which was shown in the music. That exactly is what I love about Slipknot, just them having that uniqueness and that ferocity that creates a mighty frightening structure.

2) A bone-chilling intro followed by a monstrous opening track.
All 4 Slipknot records are almost like soundtracks for films, they take you on different journeys dashing through various avenues of chaotic madness. But, they all start with a mysterious intro which create suspense in the listener’s quest of the album and after a substantial build-up, the band kick into the monstrous opening track which can only be described as a perfect beginning to any record.

3) Songs that will feel monolithic in a live environment.
If anyone was at Sonisphere 2011, no doubt you’d not only notice that Slipknot are one of the greatest live bands of all time but the music sounds absolutely huge in a live environment. For example, one of the most bone-chilling moments of a Slipknot set has to be the audience participation of ‘Duality’. When Corey softly speaks; “I push my fingers into my..” and when the huge crowds take the next line all to themselves, the “eyes.. It’s the only thing that slowly stops the ache..” is guaranteed to be one of the greatest live moments you will ever witness. If we get some songs like Duality on The Gray Chapter, no doubt will Slipknot continue to be an important, reliable live act within the world of rock and metal.

4) A song like Snuff. 
A lot of people will probably disagree but the fact that Slipknot can create a song like Snuff and still make it sound just as heavy as the majority of the self-titled album is absolutely mind-blowing. The songs themselves sound quite different but yet they still provide such a dark and meaningful edge that is instantly noticeable and prominent in Slipknot.

5) Big choruses.
Isn’t this obvious?! Eyeless, The Blister Exists, Duality, Before I Forget, I could go on and on, the list of huge Slipknot choruses is absolutely endless. Slipknot have this ability with their songs of creating just the most memorable choruses that, even on first listen, permeate the brain of the listener.

6) A new look, new masks etc.
People may think the masks are a gimmick and weirdly enough, I feel that the look that Slipknot bring with a specific album almost completely alters the perspective of the listener. If you’ve seen the video for The Negative One, there’s certainly a dark and ‘eery’ feel, whether this will be shown more so as we delve into the album, we don’t know. Either way, the new look will play a significant role in the new drive and sound of The Gray Chapter.

7) A killer new drummer.
As a drummer myself, hearing about the departure of Joey was one of shock and to be honest, sadness. Not only did Joey Jordison bring a heavy, hard-hitting drum sound to Slipknot, but the visionary of Joey was key in the never-ending development of Slipknot. What Joey brought to the Slipknot process was incredibly unique and aside from Corey and Clown, I think it’s fair to say that Joey brought something to Slipknot that sadly we won’t have anymore. Whilst it might be fair to say that the new drummer won’t bring the same, distinct style that was so prominent in Joey, hopefully the new drummer will absolutely rip the drums throughout the album so much that the departure of Joey won’t be as bad as we initially thought. By the sound of the two tracks thus far, the drums sound HUGE!

8) A mix of all their albums. “Iowa meets Vol. 3”
All the Slipknot albums have shown their diverse range of influences with hints of nu-metal and some electronics thrown in, I’d absolutely love it if The Gray Chapter showed everything that Slipknot have done in the past but this time ’round, actually brought it all together to create a brand new monster. Corey Taylor has said that the album will combine the melodies of Vol 3: The Subliminal Verses with the brutality of Iowa which to me, sounds like the perfect combination!

9) RIFFS.
I like riffs. You probably like riffs too. In fact, I LOVE riffs. Hearing that grinding, bludgeoning opening riff in The Negative One, Slipknot clearly indicate that there will be plenty of crushing, crunching riffs in the new record. Jim Root and Mick Thomson do not disappoint.

10) A touching tribute to Paul.
Sometimes, it seems that with metal bands, it’s the singer that’s the central figure, or the drummer or the guitarist. With a lot of bands, we can overlook the bass player. But in the case of Slipknot, Paul Gray was, in a sense, the essence of Slipknot. The co-founder of the band and a main songwriter, what he brought, not just to Slipknot, but to metal will forever remain in the memory of metal and rock fans alike. I think the fact that Slipknot have titled the new album “.5: The Gray Chapter” is so amazing and very touching. The fact that this album will showcase the legacy that Paul Gray left could be the most exciting part of the album for me. This album will be a tribute for Paul and will encapsulate everything that was so brilliant and important about his contributions to Slipknot and to music as a whole.

So that’s it!
Get stoked.
Slipknot, .5:The Gray Chapter
20th October, Roadrunner Records
Headline Download 2015, yeah?
SLIPKNOT ARE BACK!

Madrid: A Magical City or A Blurred Perception?


Madrid; the city of Spanish prosperity, a global landmark for European football and a prestigious hub for international commerce, the Spanish capital brings a culmination of everything that’s beautiful about a capital city but at the same time, brings an entire new outlook on cultural experiences and personal feelings alike. However, like every capital city, or any large city for that matter, there is always something that you can never quite click with. Whenever we are surrounded by the beauty of architecture or whether we’re immersed within the particular cuisine for example, we always seem to try and ‘grasp’ a city, we always try to make sense of our surroundings and really come to terms with everything that’s involved. But, can we always do this? Is this is the correct approach to a capital city? It’s always been something I’ve found myself doing whenever I’m embarking on a particular venture in a large city. This was certainly the case with my recent trip to Madrid. As a Spanish student (and having never been to Madrid), my mind set was one of excitement yet having been there for a week I never at one point got that ‘hold’ on the city. Letting your feelings of being over-whelmed and feeling daunted really create a large block in the search for finding what’s so beautiful about Madrid. So for me, working out whether Madrid is a truly, unique, special, elegant city or whether it will just play with your expectations becomes a strange task that only the beholder can really embrace. Strangely enough, my head space was more infatuated with the latter – all the expectations I had of Madrid were entirely blown out of the water. Whilst in my opinion, Madrid isn’t as wonderful as London, Warsaw or Paris etc., Madrid brings something to the table that no other city in the world can really bring. Here, I’ll talk about 10 things that were distinctive about Madrid and things that I probably wouldn’t experience anywhere else, some of which will be entirely obvious but nonetheless, they are integral;

1) Feeling hot, hot, hot? Like, really hot? You’re probably in Madrid then. Okay, the weather in Madrid in the middle of July is going to be sweltering, right? Actually, it’s even beyond that. Imagine what you think Madrid will be like weather wise and double it, it is unreal. I remember being in our hotel and checking out the BBC World News channel (trying not to immerse myself too much with Spanish) and seeing that Madrid in particular was hotter than a lot of the USA and most countries in Africa and in the Middle East, and quite possibly, when I was there at least, Madrid was one of the hottest places in the world. I have never experienced heat like that before, walking on the streets of Madrid felt like walking into a giant furnace with the surrounding walls being the burning tarmac.

2) Forget tapas, even some of the most basic foods feel distinctively Spanish. Food is great. But in Madrid, whether it’s a sandwich, a pizza or even just a takeaway burger (don’t forget to say ‘para llevar’) it brings a whole, new sensation to the tongue and palate. That said, don’t expect every street in Madrid (or any part of Spain for that matter) to have beautiful, exquisite, savoury collections of tapas complemented with the ice-cold, fruitilicious jugs of sangria! It’s not all ‘haute cuisine’.

3) The people. There’s a lot of misconceptions about Spanish people, for instance, they’re rude, they all have dodgy haircuts and they don’t know how to queue etc. Whilst the last point is true (c’mon, British people love a good queue), Spanish people are lovely and will always love it when someone non-Spanish makes the effort to speak the language! For example, when we arrived and got into the taxi from the airport to the hotel, I became very apologetic for my well-iffy Spanish but the driver knew that I wasn’t from Spain and wasn’t the verbally aggressive stereotype that a lot of people categorise Spanish taxi drivers. Furthermore, buying train tickets to my Year Abroad destination from Madrid felt like a really scary concept. Waiting in the queue for about 20 minutes I kept thinking to myself; “Ahh, maybe I shouldn’t buy them, maybe another time” but the constant umm-ing and the ahh-ing was pointless as somehow I comfortably managed to get return tickets and managed to ask what times were available etc. and the lady was generally very helpful. So, whatever perception you have of Spanish people – get rid of that now and see them for yourself!

4) Chaos. Beepity beep beep. BEEEEEEEEP. Taxi drivers, people going to work, buses, motorbikes on the big roads, it was insane. Crossing the road felt like an accomplishment. Madrid is most certainly a city that never ever sleeps.

5) The architecture. I’m not really one for fancy buildings but the buildings in Madrid are second to none. Everywhere you look, there’s beautiful old-fashioned structures scattered everywhere throughout the city. Baroque architecture at its finest.

6) “Por favor”, “gracias”, “lo siento”. The amount of times I said these words/phrases, hot damn!

7) Mañana mate, mañana. I think spending a week in Madrid really indicated that there isn’t really a huge sense of urgency. Even going to my host university and walking around the campus felt a bit like a ghost town (I know it’s the middle of Summer and all that, but you’d expect to see someone there, right?). Its laid-back nature isn’t necessarily a bad thing but compared to the UK, you certainly miss how organised British people are.

8) I like trains. The train system in Spain is actually pretty awesome. Weirdly enough, I felt that the UK would strongly benefit from having a fast-speed train system like what they have in Spain, the AVE system I believe it’s called. I’m going to be living in a small town about 100 miles from Madrid for the Year Abroad and being able to get there within an hour on the train is pretty amazing. Let me give you a comparison, the journey will take you 3 hours by coach, so yeah. Having enjoyed the ‘delights’ of the Polish train system and the lack of concise modernisation for the British one, the Spanish trains really put into perspective how lucky the Spanish are for having a rad commuting system. If you’re going to Spain anytime in the near future (and you want to travel around the country) take the high speed train for sure!

9) Do a coach tour, seriously! Annoyingly, I can’t remember the name of the company who provide the tours but anyway I did this on the first day, or should I say these. Yeah, that’s right, there’s two separate tours of Madrid that take you on two different routes allowing you to capture every monumental sight of the Spanish capital. Being able to see the Gran Vía, the Royal Palace, Santiago Bernabéu as well as seeing all the picturesque landmarks, it’s a true spectacle.

10) PLAN. Keep your mind occupied. The most important one! This was the problem I had. I went to Madrid without really having a plan in my mind and thus I become much more depressed by the fact that I knew I had committed to be within this kind of environment for about 9 months. However, once you give yourself something to actually do and achieve, you just can easily forget what you’re worrying about and just get on with stuff! You just got to suck it up and get on with it because if you’re getting down about it, you’ll fail to realise what’s really going on around you.