Ed Sheeran – No. 6 Collaborations Project (2019)

Being the biggest artist in the world, Ed Sheeran has gone a little leftfield here on this recording, and quite rightly so. Featuring the top artists of today, it is another great listen from the man himself and proves, once again, the staying power of Ed Sheeran in the postmodern music scene of today.

We begin with a click and some beats with Beautiful People which features Khalid. It’s a great start to the album, and Ed Sheeran’s singing is excellent here. It’s catchy and exciting enough to get the room pumping. An excellent start to the album.

The follow-up South Of The Border which features Camila Cabello and Cardi B sounds a bit like Shape Of You but it’s somewhat different. It’s still very catchy but great all the same. “Come south of the border with me,” is what Ed Sheeran wants you to do, whilst you sing along to the song. Nice.

Cross Me which features Chance The Rapper and PnB Rock, feels more urgent in its delivery. But it’s a good piece nonetheless, showing the good rapping skills of the guests and Ed Sheeran’s chorus delivery is unique. Epic.

Take Me Back To London featuring Stormzy is a wonderful piece which is almost like a rap battle. Ed Sheeran aims to please and does so very well. It’s about Ed Sheeran’s sort of life, which he has worked very hard away at.

The next piece is a bit different. Best Part Of Me featuring YEBBA is an excellent acoustic guitar and a piano-driven ballad that has the two main artists switch verses on this song. It’s a great effort, although slower than some of the other songs on the album.

The hit single I Don’t Care with Justin Bieber is an interesting take on a night out in Ed Sheeran’s world. It shows an edge of romanticism about it. It’s an excellent piece, however, and shows some decent substance from these two young men.

Antisocial refers to Ed Sheeran’s life, in which he is exceptionally hated at a party or in a social setting. Featuring Travis Scott, it’s a direct rant against people who Ed Sheeran cannot socialise with. It’s still a good piece, however. It does seem a little weaker than the other cuts though.

Remember The Name which has Eminem and 50 Cent, seems reminiscent of some of the older hits of Eminem’s early days. Eminem’s voice hasn’t aged very well, but the song is very very good. The album so far is very consistent.

The next piece, Feels, has Young Thug and J Hus on it. It’s an okay piece, but not as good as the others. It’s good to hear Ed Sheeran branching out somewhat on this album with different musicians. That is very cool indeed.

The cut after, Put It All On Me, with guest Ella Mai is very good. It’s a much more rapid-fire vocal delivery and is reminiscent of a Led Zeppelin style approach to the two main voices on this piece. A nice song, and worth listening to.

Nothing On You with Paulo Londra and Dave is a rather ordinary piece about romance making at night. The two guests’ contributions don’t really fit well here and could have been better thought out in retrospect. It’s okay, but nothing special.

I Don’t Want Your Money featuring H.E.R. talks about the comparison between love and money. It’s a good moral story about love in comparison to materialism. It’s an excellent listen, and the call and response bit towards the end is very good.

The next song, 1000 Nights, refers to the time Ed Sheeran has done gigging and features Meek Mill and A Boogie wit da Hoodie. It could also refer to drug use, however, not openly. It has a great rapid-fire delivery by Ed Sheeran.

The following song, Way To Break My Heart featuring dubstep star Skrillex sounds rather chill with the sonic instrumentation, although it’s a plea from Ed Sheeran himself lyrically. It sets the rules for Ed Sheeran in his life and is the calm before the storm of the song after this one. There are some trippy sound effects at the end.

BLOW which features Bruno Mars and Chris Stapleton is likely the best song of the whole album and is the ‘last but not least’ sort of thing. It’s loud, raw and rocking, with fantastic lyrics at hand. If you should listen to one Ed Sheeran song, this should be it.

Although this is a very new release and has received mixed reviews, ignore the critics for the most part. This is a great moment from Ed Sheeran, and as we continue into the 21st century, hopefully, many more great moments will come from the man.

9/10

Black Sabbath – Paranoid (1970)

Although not the first Black Sabbath album, it is widely accepted as their best. Originally desired to be called War Pigs, Paranoid is a great album, and the definitive Black Sabbath album as well. It’s a good one for sure.

From the beginning of the recording, we enter into metal territory with War Pigs. It’s a great piece of doom. Tony Iommi’s Gibson SG sings well, and the sound is very sparse. But hey, it’s really catchy and likely about the Vietnam War in its own way. It is such a great song that never bores in the nearly eight minutes of length. Superb.

The title track Paranoid is an interesting tale of self-loathing and decline. It’s a good one if you are depressed as it’s not hugely depressing, but loud and rocking all the same. The chugging guitar keeps the song going well, and is a short ode to mental health issues and loneliness. Mint.

Planet Caravan is a trippy piece likely inspired by Black Sabbath’s heavy drug use at the time. It’s a great sonic palette. You’d never guess that it was Ozzy Osbourne singing on this, but yes, he is. Essential stuff.

Iron Man is next, and it is dark, doomy and rather surreal. It tells a Terminator-like tale of a robot saving people and then assuming revenge on those he saved, due to lack of gratitude from those who he saved. Yes, this was the main song in the film series of the same name starring Robert Downey Jr. But it’s a great highlight of the album, and fantastic at that. The outro is classy.

The slower and rifftastic Electric Funeral is up next. It’s less serious than the previous track but still great. You could likely listen to this piece on repeat if you wish to, as with the other pieces on the album. It’s too good to ignore. It goes super subtle at the end, which is an interesting twist.

Ah yes! Hand Of Doom follows and is a great piece. It goes quiet/loud for extra emphasis. It’s about the dark side of drugs, namely Heroin in its point. Anyone who has done hard drugs of some sort can directly relate to this song, it’s a nasty story that is designed to shock you. Listen carefully.

Rat Salad is a great drum and guitars solo. Mostly drums mind you. But it is so epic and fantastic, you’ll keep coming back to it for sure. Just amazing stuff, well done!

Fairies Wear Boots is the last song on this album, but like all the others, it kicks ass! It’s based on a true-life story, but most people are not aware of this. Ozzy Osbourne does some magnificent screaming here about drugs. It’s a great way to end this wonderful album.

Paranoid has become a cult classic in the realm of proto heavy metal. It’s the best way to start the 1970s. Do yourself a big favour and listen to this wonderful album today. The sonic palette here is just wonderful.

9/10

Slayer – Reign In Blood (1986)

The American band Slayer had slowly been gathering momentum. Although their music was in no way mainstream, especially lyrically, Slayer had set themselves up to be the pioneers of Death Metal. It was faster, harder and more aggressive than anything before in music.

This album is the best of Slayer’s back catalogue and began the Death Metal scene that still exists today. It’s a headbanging rush from start to finish.

From the beginning, we have the story of a Nazi butcherer in Angel Of Death. It’s so awesome but scary. You may think that Metallica could not match this, and certainly could not in terms of pace. It’s horrific, but awesome at the same time. It breaks down in the midsection and then rushes into a super fast pace. Good stuff.

The next one along, Piece By Piece, is a brutal sonic onslaught. Hard to believe that this is a metal-based genre. But it’s truly amazing what is done here, and has proper song structures and different tempos. This reveals the variety of Slayer as a band.

Necrophobic reveals the sick and twisted nature of Slayer, at least lyrically. The title says it all but it’s, fortunately, such a short sonic assault that it makes up for any twisted or sick nature lyrically.

Altar Of Sacrifice obviously refers to the hypocritical nature of religion. It’s so catchy that it is easily stuck in your mind for days after. Perhaps these people were Marxists politically? We may never know, but they are Satanists for sure. It slows down towards the end, with our heads still banging away.

The next piece, Jesus Saves, is even more upfront. It starts off slowly, and you can really hear some of the band’s Iron Maiden/Metallica likes influences. It then speeds into a raging track about the hypocrisy of Christianity. A tough pill for some to swallow, but the music still is rocking.

The follower Criminally Insane begins with a basic drum beat, some palm muted riffing, and laughter. It’s so good to hear something that is different than everything on the radio. It is so well arranged by Rick Rubin that it deserves listening on.

Reborn starts off with a sort of jam, before erupting into a sonic assault referencing Satanist activities. Even though the band here gives little variation in their sound, it just is so good. No track sounds out of place on this record. “I won’t be reborn!”.

Epidemic is the next song up, and it is a bit slower than others on the album. The guitar solo sounds like something out of a B Horror film. “Pain results in screams, bleed eternally.” Surely, these guys were on something like meth? It’s a rather sinister song.

The wicked Postmortem is up next. It rolls along nicely in the first half, being very song like and slower than usual for this album. It then bursts into a truly great riff, and screaming galore.

The last song, Raining Blood, is creepier and more evil sounding than anything Black Sabbath ever did. It finishes off the album with more horrific imagery and ultra thrash paced metal.  At the end, we hear the pouring rain of blood. Sounds evil and satanic for sure. The albums ends with one feeling like they have listened to Satan himself talking via music to you. It’s out there, all right.

Remastered reissues of the album have given us two extra tracks by Slayer, Aggressive Perfecter and the Criminally Insane (Remix) which are great additions to Slayer’s repertoire. This album is for anybody who wants to hear really freaky music. If you want to test some heavily religious Christians, play this in earshot of them. You won’t be disappointed with this album, halfway between thrash and death metal. Merely looking at the front cover artwork of this album is to see pure hell.

Awesome.

8/10

Metallica – Master Of Puppets (1986)

The mid-1980s was a terrible era for mainstream music. Music began to sound so artificial and distant from what pop music originally intended to be in the decades before. Horrible synth-pop bands dominated the charts. Metallica needed to make an album to counteract this trend which would have a large and positive impact on the world of music. And they did.

The Master Of Puppets album is seen as Metallica’s best in a long career with many ups and downs. It’s thrash metal, of course. But that is merely scratching the surface of what the album is about. It’s a great album, no doubt and set Metallica on an upward commercially trajectory at the time.

We enter the realm of this album with the fast and furious Battery. The musicality of this album is wonderful. We begin with flamenco style acoustic guitar parts before the song begins, and then we go into beserk mode with James Hetfield screaming “Battery!” It’s a great introduction to a great album.

The title track Master Of Puppets has a quirky musical intro before going into some Black Sabbath style riffs and James Hetfield singing about the blind nature of the use and abuse of drugs. It has some wicked vocals on it. No longer was James Hetfield struggling with his pitch and delivery, here he sounds on top of the singing game at last.

The Thing That Should Not Be is the weakest track on the album, but even so, it’s great to hear even today. It talks about monsters which are likely inspired by Cliff Burton’s interest in H.P. Lovecraft novels and the like. A good song with an interesting guitar solo too.

Welcome Home (Sanitarium) talks about injustice and human mistreatment in the mental health system. It’s a strong message and a slower, more thought out piece. Brilliant to hear regardless. It bursts into a great Kirk Hammett guitar solo towards the end.

The follow up predates Nirvana style stop/start parts. Disposable Heroes refers to the waste of human lives in war situations and provides a gentle reminder of the horrors of war. It’s an epic piece which is super intense, all the way to the end of the song.

Metallica then points out the hypocrisy of organised religion in Leper Messiah. It’s so direct about the issue that some people are likely to be offended by this piece. But then again the statement rings true: “Send me money, send me green. Make the contribution and you’ll get a better seat. Bow to Leper Messiah!” It’s another great piece.

Orion is a great instrumental, so much so that it makes one feel deeply moved emotionally. It is perhaps Cliff Burton’s shining moment here, as he (and the rest of the band, too) put in a fantastic effort here. Essential listening. This track was played at Cliff Burton’s funeral after his tragic death shortly after the release of this album.

Damage, Inc. is the final track and is the fastest track on the album. It never lets up in the five and a half minutes. Metallica, at least at this point, were hugely talented musicians and could make great music.

Historical observers would notice that this album is structured just like the classic Black Sabbath Paranoid album, but for thrash metal fans. Metallica may have made other albums that are different in style and approach since, but none were ever as good as this one. Shortly after the release of this album, bassist Cliff Burton was tragically killed in a road accident. Metallica would never be the same again afterwards. Despite that, this album is a thrash metal masterpiece.

9/10

Stone Sour – Stone Sour (2002)

Nu Metal is fairly recent a musical movement, hence the name. It is basically a modern day heavy metal movement with mega drop-tuned guitars and mainly percussive sounds. Bands like Korn come to most people’s minds with this genre, but don’t forget Stone Sour though. The band released this album after a long period on/off as a band in 2002, and no doubt was immediately seen as the up and coming of the Nu Metal movement. The group had already been prevalent in the metal scene for years, but this is a great effort which gave them recognition in the music world regardless. Notably, the group had some former members of Slipknot in their ranks.

So from the start, we have Get Inside. This album is really heavy straight up. Like, mega. The sound is immediate and cranked to full. It’s a great way to start your day if you enjoy really heavy metal music. The music is inspired by metal greats, such as Metallica. But it sounds far more demonic.

The next piece Orchids is groovetastic. This is a band of variety, compared to some thrash metal and death metal bands out there. It’s good to hear such inspiration, even in the heaviest of music. It goes into a quiet midsection, before returning to full volume to surprise you.

Cold Reader has some brilliant guitar work. One thing that is underappreciated about metal guitarists, in general, is how excellent the guitar work is. Even at these tempos, the guitar work is very good. Something to keep an ear out for. There is a brilliant use of the “f” word here in the song, and if only people could say it like this every time that they used it, the world would be a better place.

Blotter has a really weird intro of someone who sounds possessed on an answering machine message at 7AM, before diving into a fairly average song. It feels a little weaker here, but it’s still Nu Metal to the max.

The next song Choose is much better than the previous song, starting off with a keyboard-based groove, before going into a riff-heavy piece. It is more songy and consistent than you’d think. A great Nu Metal song.

After that, we have Monolith, a slow piece with some awesome drum work here. The words refer to anti-religious sacrifice, so quite simply if you are a fan of Hillsong, do not listen to Nu Metal. It’s likely satanic for the most part. The guitar solo sounds halfway between Kirk Hammett and Yngwie Malmsteen.

Inhale comes next, and has more of a progressive chord melody than the other songs. It’s a good song with almost a singalong chorus for the most. It then goes into some manic screaming. It’s almost pop music upon listening. It’s no surprise it was released as a single.

Bother is a melodic and melancholic piece which is even more pop. It features, unusually for this music vocals, strings and acoustic guitar, nothing else. It was written and performed solo by singer Corey Taylor but was later attributed as an effort by Stone Sour. It’s really beautiful listening.

The follow-up Blue Study returns to Nu Metal territory on the album. It has some classy screaming on this particular song. The screaming on this album is very close to the emotional screaming that Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails did in the 1990s. But unlike Trent Reznor, Stone Sour are directly following a Nu Metal mission, no mistake about it.

After that, we have Take A Number which features more prominent bass lines in the song where Corey Taylor goes from modest singing to screaming maniac in a short time. It’s Nirvana-ish in that respect, and it loosely follows Grunge music in that respect.

Idle Hands is a great song. No doubt about it. In fact, it’s songs like these which combine many different elements of different genres of music and place them into Nu Metal. If you listen closely, there are rock, punk and many other influences in the tracks made. Even some disco like sensibilities exists here.

Tumult is a headbanging piece for Nu Metallers. It’s rather explicit but involves keyboards, sex sounds and loads of screaming vocals. It’s super intense, particularly at the end of the song. Not bad if you want to go crazy.

The last piece Omega is the funniest thing on the record, although there are humourous moments elsewhere too. It’s actually a spoken word piece which features Corey Taylor drunk doing some rambling. It’s a must listen for a laugh. More bands should do this sort of thing. It’s about the failure of government.

This is a cult classic amongst Nu-Metal fans, but there is more musical variety than you would think. It’s not a bad listen, despite the fact many people do not enjoy Nu Metal. But if you want to receive an audio assault (metaphorically of course) this is a great way to experience it. And unlike Metallica, it actually can scare kids away. Recently Stone Sour have re-released this album remastered, with some additional songs that are just as good. If you like this sort of music, ensure you keep an eye out for that one.

The musical equivalent of a horror film and no Slayer don’t come close to that.

6/10

Metallica – Metallica (1991)

Metallica needed a fresh start. …And Justice For All was their biggest album to date. The only problem with it was that the songs were so complex that it was difficult for the group to play such songs live, given their length and structure. Metallica knew this after some time and went back to the drawing board for the next album.

To start again, they enlisted famous rock producer Bob Rock. He was successful in creating some of the most widely known rock music of the 1980s. They abandoned their thrash metal style in favour of a more stripped down and slower approach with this album. Known famously as “the Black album”, this album broke Metallica into the mainstream.

Unlike many of their later efforts after this album, this sure is a great listen. It just sounds heavy and metal and totally awesome. Let’s dive in and observe this awesome album, track by track.

The lead-off song is Enter Sandman. This is probably Metallica’s most catchy song of all time. The intro riff leads on into a built-up structure into a party Metal piece, although sounds a little cheesy itself. Still, it’s one of their best songs. Essential listening for someone who does not know Metallica.

The next song, Sad But True has an awesome drop tuned riff and covers one’s fears in life. It’s a great song and wasn’t even one of the more played Metallica songs. This was extensively sampled by Kid Rock for his own American Badass song.

Holier Than Thou is a semi-thrash song about the hypocrisy of religion. “Holier than thou, you are, no, NOT!” It’s a weaker song on the album, yet sounds fast and interesting enough to catch one’s attention.

The Unforgiven is Metallica’s first real ballad. With some heartfelt lyrics about how difficult it is through struggle, it has some nice fingerpicked acoustic guitar throughout. It spawned a huge amount of sequel tracks based on the original, some better than others.

Wherever I May Roam is next, with a sitar intro before bursting into an awesome metal song about the supernatural beings. Perhaps Metallica was thinking along the lines of the Master Of Puppets album with this idea, but it’s still totally sick.

The next song is the weakest on the album. Don’t Tread On Me features stop-start guitar riffs and drums but although it is not out of place, it is definitely a weak track. Trivia fans may note that the song title is linked to the album artwork.

After that Through The Never follows and although it could have also been done better, it has a great midsection riff that gets stuck into your head. The calm before the storm like impact of the good quality song after.

Nothing Else Matters is the famous love song that singer James Hetfield wrote about missing his girlfriend on tour. It’s a brilliant piece and sounds like he really was singing from a deeply loving place. “Never opened myself this way. Life is ours, we live it our way. All these words I don’t just say. And nothing else matters.” A true gem of a song, pop and fantastic.

The trashy Of Wolf And Man comes next about a being who can shapeshift. It’s okay, despite the fact it hasn’t aged well. Interesting subject matter though.

Christians beware, The God That Failed refers to the Christian Science beliefs than James Hetfield’s mother held which prevented her from life-saving surgery when she had cancer. It is an intense and understandable listen in this respect.

My Friend Of Misery is a rather depressing piece about said emotion. It should have been shortened, but the emotion of the whole thing is right there to feel for the listener.

The Struggle Within ends the album nicely. It’s a pseudo Thrash Metal piece that talks about internal struggle, of course. It’s a nice break in length from the previous overlong song, and by now you sense that this album is a classic.

This album is not just a classic album. It is the best introduction to heavy metal that you can get. With a large variety of awesome songs and a clear, crisp heavy metal sound, you can sense why this album is so good. Too bad Metallica never matched this afterwards as money and fame got in the way of the music. Still, this is fantastic to hear any day.

9/10