Greetings and salutations from sunny California! Once again, another amazing National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) convention has come and gone! There were a few surprises along the way, and as always, we had a great time checking out all the gear!
What a glorious year in metal we just experienced. After the sheer amount of quality albums that were released in 2018, there is no question that the genre is as healthy and full of life as ever. Thus, making our top albums lists harder than usual.
For the APESHIT goons, 2018 was the year where the legends all shined. JUDAS PRIEST led the charge with their best album since 1990’s Painkiller. DIMMU BORGIR finally emerged from a long slumber and did not disappoint. VOIVOD remain the gods that the mass metal media won’t acknowledge as such. We can’t really think of any letdowns. Can you?
Greetings from the 2018 National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Convention AKA the NAMM Show, where things have been changed up a bit from years past. For starters, all the booths were in different locations, including some booths that were outside the normal convention center area. While there was still an insane amount of people, it felt a bit less crowded due to the new format and wider areas between booths. Let’s not delay any further and get to some of the products we particularly enjoyed!
Sonor displayed the beast of a kit, the SQ2 “The Book of Souls,” made specifically for Nicko McBrain (IRON MAIDEN). Witnessing it up close and personal was truly astonishing. Crafted in Germany, the shells were made to Nicko’s specific specifications, complete with Eddie inlays. Beautiful stuff.
Paiste had a 90” giant gong on display. Yes, a 90” gong. Not sure how practical that would be, but that’s a whole lot of gong going on.
While not exactly metal related, some of you may remember the old Roland TR-808 or TR-909 drum machines, and now they have been officially reintroduced as virtual plug-ins. Note that you’ll have to use the Roland cloud, however, this is extremely cool and a great throwback for those nostalgic drum sounds.
Dependability is crucial to any band’s fanbase and 2017 did not disappoint. All of the bands that we’ve come to depend on for great music more or less delivered the goods. One band stood out to us all were the death metal gods from Yonkers, New York, IMMOLATION. They continue to stand as a pillar for metal with their unending well of creativity and longevity. Atonement blew us away with its complexity, ominous atmosphere, and inventive brutality.
Enjoy our lists of our favorite albums of 2017. And remember: Buy or die!
The 2017 edition of the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Convention has concluded, and it was mostly filled with updates/improvements on past products, but there were a few items of interest to the metal community! Let’s gear up (pun intended) and see what 2017 had to offer!
First and foremost for heavy metal fans, Paiste introduced its limited edition Nicko McBrain (IRON MAIDEN) “Treasures” set – impressive looking cymbals with the artwork of the sun god, Tonatiuh, and of course with the Paiste logos in the classic IRON MAIDEN font. When the company says this set is limited edition, it truly is limited, as there were only 83 sets produced worldwide! For all you OCD freaks out there, Paiste also announced the Color Sound 900 series, with a variety of new colors to match the color of your kit. I saw purple, blue, black, and red on display, and the color scheme was a delight for the eyes.
Honorable mentions included the Soultone booth, where they showed a picture of the late Nick Menza (OHM, ex-MEGADETH), which was a very touching and cool thing for them to do. Yamaha drums celebrated their 50th anniversary, and were displaying a few of those solid kits on display.
NAMM is always top-heavy on guitars, and the APESHIT crowd loves to hear about new guitars on hand.
Another strong year is in the books for heavy music, so strong that making a year end list seemed unfair to every release that we did not include in our lists. The underground continues to thrive with releases from legendary bands such as DARK FUNERAL, VADER, and NEUROSIS that will stand the test of time. Actually, most of the long running bands did not fail to meet or exceed expectations. Thrash metal pioneers, MEGADETH, VOIVOD, and TESTAMENT, certainly released excellent records. What is more important is that 2016 saw a lot of great releases from less trendy, more obscure bands.
This past year is personally notable as lost a dear friend and contributor, Brandon Stratton AKA rocknro11chef13. As a small tribute, we’ve included albums that he would’ve likely picked for his year end list. Life is short, my friends. Embrace it.
This year at NAMM 2016, (an industry-only global music product trade show) everything seemed to be scaled down a bit, but the show still had plenty of new items on hand that were related to the Metal genre and community. Let’s dive into some of the exciting products that were on display!
On the drumming front, Tama had the new Iron Cobra (HP900PN) and Speed Cobra (HP910LWN) pedals with new features such as a new Super Stabilizer Design and Para-Clamp II Pro, which in essence, the lighter weight allows you to increase velocity with minimal work to pound on those bass drums.
As always, Yamaha had a myriad of new drums on display, but as technology moves forward, digital drums have become the norm, and one of those products like the DTX-760, delivers an exceptional sounding drum kit that can be fully utilized for recording or music production.
Paiste introduced the Big Beat cymbals which sounded quite crisp and you have to experience these cymbals first hand. Pictures won’t do them justice, so check them out if you get a chance.
Sonor once again welcomes Nicko McBrain from IRON MAIDEN back to the fold and his kit looks awesome. The toms and bass drums all come in a beautiful black finish, which really accentuates the aesthetically pleasing look of the kit. Can’t wait to see this kit in action at upcoming MAIDEN shows!
Guitars have always been a huge part of the show, and there have been some awesome axes announced in 2016!
ESP guitars showcased their amazing custom shaped guitars (most of which aren’t for sale, unfortunately), and some new signature models. METALLICA’s Kirk Hammett had his Nosferatu (LTD KH-Nosferatu) axe on display and James Hetfield’s Vulture was also a sight to see. Other notable signature LTD models were introduced from Mille Petrozza (KREATOR) and Max Cavalera (SOULFLY). However, the most impressive and unique item unveiled was the brand new Gary Holt (SLAYER/EXODUS) guitar with the body painted from his own blood! The “wow” factor for this piece was simply incredible.
Schecter guitars brought out a few new Jeff Loomis (ARCH ENEMY) signature models including the JL-7 and CYGNUS JLX-1. The huge unveiling however, was for the brand new signature Zakk Wylde models, including the Viking V FR and Odin models. Taking the design from his older Gibson models, the new Wylde models look more updated and sleeker on the Schecter versions.
Ibanez introduced Nina Strauss (ALICE COOPER) signature models such as the S5521QDPB, which may impress some of the badass female guitar players in the world, and new Paul Stanley (KISS) and Steve Vai models were updated as well.
Not completely new news, but recently Praxis Musical Instruments took over the B.C. Rich line and the brand was set for a complete reboot for the 2016 year. Hopefully the quality does not suffer and the B.C. Rich continues to make sweet looking axes for Metal players worldwide (Kerry King, Lord Ahriman, etc.)
Coinciding with MEGADETH’s new album Dystopia, both Dave Mustaine and David Ellefson had announcements of their new signature models. Mustaine introduced his Dean “Zero Dystopia” model, complete with cover art of the new album, and Ellefson introduced a few of his new Jackson CBX IV and V models. Great looking guitars and basses on the Mega-front!
The goons here at APESHIT will continue to provide annual NAMM product updates related to the Metal world, and once again thank the great people at NAMM for letting us cover the show!
When looking back at 2015, the only thing that seems to matter is the passing of Lemmy Kilmister. Of course losing Phil “Philthy Animal” Taylor in November was sad but Lemmy was on another level – one of the pillars of the entire rock ‘n roll universe. Thankfully, he left a voluminous legacy for us to enjoy for eternity, including some of music’s best interviews and quotes possible. Cheers, Lemmy.
Other than that, 2015 was a remarkably strong year for the pioneering, long-running bands in the metal scene. Everyone from KILLING JOKE, MY DYING BRIDE, FEAR FACTORY to AMORPHIS put out fantastic records. This past year also saw some very good super groups in TAU CROSS and FIRESPAWN make their debuts. You’ll find that many of them made it to our respective lists.
Additionally, we’ve recruited some fresh blood in Charles Elliott, Andrew Sample, and Jeff Wagner. These industry vets have been in the trenches with us for years and years, and have helped bring you many of the greatest records ever released for the past 20+ years.
The APESHIT goons have raved about the post-apocalytic cowboys from Reykjavík, Iceland for a few years now. Their last two studio albums, Svartir Sandar (2011) and Ótta (2014), are epic pieces of atmospheric soul. If there was ever a band to rightfully take on the mantle of FIELDS OF THE NEPHILIM while also leading the Icelandic metal scene, SÓLSTAFIR are the chosen ones.
We finally got in touch with vocalist/guitarist Aðalbjörn Tryggvason during their recent (mostly sold out) European tour to talk about their volcanic rise in the scene.
NAMM amped up (pun intended) everything in 2015 – from the delicious lunch trucks outside to the amazing performances at the end of each day by GEORGE CLINTON & PARLIAMENT FUNKADELIC and other artists. Oh yeah, did we mention that there are also the amazing new products on display? As always, there’s too much to talk about so let’s highlight a few items that caught our eye.
For the drummers, a few great items were released. Tama announced the Tama Star hardware consisting of snare stand, tom mount and straight and boom cymbal stands. The Star line has been a hit with drummers of all genres already, and the new hardware will compliment their kit nicely. Another great item is Tama’s SLP or Sound Lab Project snare line, which will offer optimum configurations for every type of drumming style, including extreme metal. Add this with the new line of colors, such as the walnut kit, Tama has once again proved why their brand is so coveted by professional drummers.
Since we’re discussing legendary drummers, Paiste has launched the signature Dave Lombardo 22” Rude Power Ride cymbal, aptly called The Reign. Inspired by the original cymbal which Lombardo used on Reign in Blood, this heavy ride features not only a piercing, metallic ping, but stays clear in extreme conditions – note to extreme metal drummers, as this ride would surely cut through the downtuned guitars on featured album recordings.
Speaking of ride cymbals, Sabian introduced the Big and Ugly cymbals which produce a dry and organic sound, which cuts through more than the typical run-of-the mill cymbals, especially since we’re living in a 100% digital recording world now. Check out the following models from this line: King, Nova, Pandora, Phoenix, Apollo, and Monarch Rides.
One of the coolest drum kits that we have seen must have been from Schlagwerk – a German percussion company. At first glance, these Cajon drums looked like cardboard boxes, but they packed quite a punch and looked crazy and awesome (see our pics for more detail). Innovative and awesome!
Most of our readers are interested in the new guitars, so let’s talk about the some of the new guitar products!
Since THE HAUNTED’s last album Exit Wounds was my favorite album of 2014, I had to check out guitarist Ola Englund’s signature Washburn line, and the Swedish flag model was my favorite one. A beauty to see in person, and I’m sure it plays just as beautifully.
ESP recently acquired a new endorser, none other than EXODUS/SLAYER axeman Gary Holt! Holt was previously with Schecter, but has ditched them for ESP, and they belted out a new signature axe for him. The new GARY HOLT EC is a pretty sweet axe I must say, with crisp and clean highs to produce amazing solos, and nice action for that thrash attack. The blood red finish and red pickups are definitely a nice touch to the signature model, and retails for a cool $9,118.40. There are more affordable models as well, the GH-600 and GH-200, so check them all out!
Shredder Gus G. (OZZY OZBOURNE/FIREWIND) also debuted a few new signature models, most notably the ESP Gus G. As always, ESP had some amazing and gorgeous custom models for display. Most were not for sale, but the few that were went up to a dizzying $70,000.
Jackson introduced a few Dinky models in various finishes, and one new model that stood out was the signature Scott Ian (ANTHRAX) Thraxagram Soloist model, full with pentagram and U.S. flag. Of course a few new colors for Jackson Randy Rhodes V’s and David Ellefson (MEGADETH) models were available as well. Phil Demmel’s (MACHINE HEAD) signature guitars had some cool black/gray and black/red combo finishes on the body, and they looked pretty damn sweet.
Since announcing the famous Dave Mustaine line a few years ago, Dean had a few new models on display, such as the In Deth We Trust, United Abominations, and Rust in Peace axes. I loved the original Dimebag Dean design, but unfortunately, it seems like Dean has been milking any and all new Dimebag designs to death – new color schemes and the many Razorback designs just seems in bad taste just to generate some extra interest in what was already a great designed guitar. Anyway, at least Dean was gracious enough to have Dime’s original Dean from Hell on display.
Last but not least, Ibanez of course, had sick new models to show off to the world. New Steve Vai Jem models were beautiful, and guitar virtuoso counterpart Joe Satriani also was rockin’ his new line as well. KISS fanatics definitely appreciate the brand new Paul Stanley models, like the PS120, with chrome hardware, black finish, and sweet inlays. There was even a RG Iron Label 8 string Prototype on display too…craziness!
One last honorable mention was the limited edition MÖTLEY CRÜE “Final Tour” Marshall fridge. With authentic Marshall parts, genuine MÖTLEY CRÜE logos, this thing would be a conversation starter for sure, and there’s even a limited run of hand signed versions of the fridge as well. Killer!
The convention keeps getting better every year and we are extremely grateful to the NAMM folks for the opportunity to cover these sick products! Stay heavy!