BravePicks 2020 - The Scribes Speak! Mark Gromen

January 4, 2021, 3 weeks ago

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BravePicks 2020 - The Scribes Speak! Mark Gromen

BravePicks 2020 - The Scribes Speak!
Mark Gromen

Top 20 of 2020
1) NECROPHOBIC - Dawn Of The Damned (Century Media)
2) GLACIER - The Passing Of Time (No Remorse)
3) CIRITH UNGOL - Forever Black (Metal Blade)
4) DEAD LORD - Surrender (Century Media)
5) PARADISE LOST - Obsidian (Nuclear Blast)
6) HELLSPIKE - Lords Of War (Metal On Metal)
7) ALCATRAZZ - Born Innocent (Silver Lining)
8) GREEN CARNATION - Leaves Of Yesterday (Season Of Mist)
9) HÄLLAS - Conundrum (Napalm)
10) RAVEN - Metal City (SPV/Steamhammer)
11) BLAZING RUST - Line Of Danger (Pure Underground)
12) WOLF - Feeding The Machine (Century Media)
13) FALCONER From A Dying Ember (Metal Blade)
14) STÄLKER - Black Majick Terror (Napalm)
15) HORISONT - Sudden Death (Century Media)
16) HITTMAN - Destroy All Humans (No Remorse)
17) LEAD BREAKER - Lead Breaker (Stormspell)
18) NIGHT - High Tides - Distant Skies (The Sign Records)
19) CRYSTAL SKULL - Ancient Tales (Underground Symphony)
20) MIDAS - The Demo Tapes (Dying Victims)

Top 5 Brave Embarrassments
VICTORIUS - Space Ninjas From Hell (Napalm) 
Well at least they spared us a 2019 release! Second time in three years, this lead keyboard amalgam of Germans offers a preposterous collection of video game/sci-fi meets kung-fu B-movie anthems. Equal parts danceable Amaranthe, speedy Dragon Force and over-the-top silliness. All lame!

LIONHEART - The Reality Of Miracles (Metalville) 
Really a miracle I was able to listen all the way through. Lion? Heart? Absent any roar, these aged scene veterans might still (barely) possess a pulse, but certainly have lost their balls. Apart from "Five Tribes" a tepid collection of emaciated, whiny AOR. Impotent Eunuch is a more fitting moniker!

U.D.O. - We Are One (AFM)
Without fail, Udo Dirkschneider releases (at least) one album a year. Whether it's Hollywood, the auto industry or music, can't all be winners, year-after-year. Case in point this collaboration with classical orchestra. Sure, old Accept mate Peter Baltes was involved with one track (then disappeared, just as quickly), but a bunch of watered-down, new symphonic compositions proved as bloated as described.

CAPTAIN BLACK BEARD -Sonic Forces (Melodic Rock Records) 
Goofy amalgam of over-the-top power metal, Turbo-era instrumentation and Night Flight Orchestra's ABBA meets disco. At its worst, taps into the over-produced hair metal ballads of the early '90s, well past the movement's peak, with latecomers that never amounted to anything.

BLACK SWAN - Shake The World (Frontiers) 
More like shake to see if still responsive/alive. Given the McAuley, Pilson, Beach pedigree, a disappointment. The further the record progresses from the energetic opener, the greater the descent into old man's AOR mediocrity, apart from Beach periodically pull on the strings and stomp on the Cry Baby pedal.

Thoughts On 2020
Looking back on my '19 comments is so depressing: a litany of concerts witnessed (especially exciting fresh faces and package tours), great releases and travel destinations. Seems so distant now. Although it was cool to see Swedish upstarts like Screamer and Night, if only via a livestream, still suffering serious withdraw. I need a live music "fix!" Since 1978 have seen several concerts, every year. In the mid-’80s, while working for an entertainment weekly, in Cleveland, Ohio (still had to hand-deliver my proposed copy/draft, to the editor, who marked up the paper, right in front of me) often attended three arena/club shows a WEEK, then hit the local scene, Friday and/or Saturday nights. Since working for BraveWords, usually see about 30 shows a year, not counting multi-day festivals (Summer Breeze, Heavy MTL, 70K cruise, etc.) where I'll see at least that many acts, in a single weekend.

Did I say how much I miss the live music experience?

I realize I'm not alone. December saw Bjorn Strid, from Soilwork, as well as Schmier, from Destruction, voice their concerns about the ongoing financial impact of the pandemic on mid-level bands, like theirs. Sure, fans may see these guys on giant festival stages and believe they're "super stars," but outside those instances, often just tour the club circuit. Bands like that do NOT "raking in the cash," living year-to-year, thus the constant need to tour (which hasn't been available for most of 2020 and looks a dicey prospect for the first half of '21). Members of smaller bands usually have a minimum wage job to fall back on/return to, once the tour is over. Unfortunately, those that have taken the plunge to be a full-time musician (often married, if not with kids) and not reached the upper echelon (few have), face uncertainty (at best), if not dire economic prospects, especially as "fans" refuse to pay for music, video (DVDs/livestreams), etc., the few viable sources of income during the global shutdown. Metal is a blue collar occupation: if you ain't working, you don't get paid! Even then, after managers/agents, touring expenses, crew, these musical craftsmen can only wish to earn as much as an independent plumber, electrician or the local handyman, all of whose services are still viable during the pandemic. Save our music, save our bands, if you are at all able, support your favorite band (and maybe one other, smaller act) and I DON'T mean chipping into the coffers of long established, stadium headliner!

What/Who Needs To Stop in 2021
Covid-19: In addition to the potentially lethal virus wrecking economies, globally, on a much more personal note, the pandemic has decimated the live music industry (to a point I'm not sure it will ever fully recover). OK, some of the big, deep-pockets European festivals will carry on, but can the smaller capacity/more boutique events survive another potential summer of inactivity? There's a lot riding on these various vaccines! To say nothing of the North American club/concert scene. As of this writing, appears it will be late spring/early summer before any viable "cure" for the general public (exempting school age kids, on whom the potential vaccines have yet to be tested), meaning more than a full year without the means to pay rent/staff. That's assuming the borders open and bands will be willing to roll the dice, traveling through ground zero for ineffective disease mitigation (aka USA). Surely the landscape will be changed, even when things return to a semblance of "normalcy."

Metal Predictions For 2021
Winter lockdown looks slightly more tolerable, with hotly anticipated releases forthcoming from Accept, Silver Talon, Voodoo Circle, Therion, Crystal Viper and Heavy Load fans are advised to check out a new outfit, Konquest. That's just what's coming in January! The next month heralds already announced releases by Evergrey and Lake Of Tears. Hopefully we'll get the second unified Helloween disc too. Can't wait. Think, by now, we all have a Doctoral degree in "wait." Enough!

Check out our BravePicks 2020 countdown where Enslaved took the top spot here.



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