It took three years for Teenage Halloween to follow up their ‘Eternal Roast’ mini album. Three years seems a long time to wait for just twenty three minutes’ worth of music, but we’re very much talking quality over quantity here. This self-titled disc from the New Jersey punky power poppers brings ten absolute bangers – songs so loaded with hooks and riffs that its power is immediately obvious. Musical originality isn’t high on the agenda, but its mix of 90s influences will positively resonate with any listeners who spent that decade loving Everclear, Lagwagon and SR-71. The music stands up well enough alone, but once you start to absorb the lyrics – largely concerned with mental health struggles, gay unity and standing with others in solidarity – it becomes one of the year’s most important DIY discs.
Of the many great bands that formed the 80s prog rock revival, Marillion, IQ and Twelfth Night are arguably the most loved. Twelfth Night might not have had quite the same levels of commercial success as some of their peers, but throughout their career, they were unafraid to progress. From the early years playing huge instrumental jams, through the classic prog sounds of 1982’s ‘Fact & Fiction’ album, to the pop oriented Virgin Records years, their catalogue always brought something of interest.
Gentlemen Rogues have been slowly carving themselves a place within the US indie rock scene since 2013. Via a series of EPs, their very retro, 90s-centric sound has won them a fan base, as well as attracting complimentary comparisons to The Replacements and other college rock greats. They’re a band who’ve improved with every release. A must hear, 2018’s ‘Fatal Music’ combined massive riffs, a great production and lots of musical nods to the noisier end of Third Eye Blind and The Bottle Rockets, giving listeners a half dozen massive tunes loaded with nostalgic vibes, yet still sounding wholly relevant.
Black Sabbath’s first two albums celebrated their 50th anniversaries this year. Half a century of anything at all is an important milestone, but for these albums – genre defining classics, both – their fifty years seemed more important than most. Barely a week goes by when, as metal fans, we don’t hear something from a new doom or stoner band that owes almost everything to the foundations built by the band back in 1970.
When it comes to prog metal, Dream Theater always seem to take the bulk of the praise. It could say something about how unadventurous a core of prog/metal fans appear to be, especially since – perhaps with the exception of 2009’s ‘Black Clouds & Silver Linings’ – James Labrie and co. haven’t recorded a truly decent album since 1994’s ‘Awake’. There are other, much better practitioners of proggy metal fare out there. Symphony X are in possession of a far better vocalist than Labrie will ever be and the UK’s own Threshold are genuine masters when it comes to an actual tune.
One of prog metal’s most well-rounded acts, Germany’s Vanden Plas have it all. Their core sound revolves around fairly traditional Dream Theater/Fate’s Warning-ish fare, but as a band, they have never been afraid of experimenting with a Euro power metal stance and certainly haven’t been shy of an AOR inflected hook from time to time. Within their extensive back catalogue, you’ll find riffs and complexities aplenty; even a concept album or two. More importantly, you’ll discover a band with keen ear for a good melody. Somehow, though, the European band doesn’t get talked about anywhere near as much as you’d think.