AMA is Heavy Blog’s monthly community Q&A column, where readers ask questions across the gamut, and we are legally required by the universal laws of “AMA” to answer them! These are edited and excerpted transcripts. To see full transcripts and participate in future conversations, join the Heavy Blog Facebook Community Group!

James asks: What has been the most surprising or unexpectedly great release of the year so far?

Eden Kupermintz: Christian Cosentino‘s Lawn or Stone Healer‘s Conquistador.

Jordan Jerabek: Brii or Moral Collapse

Jimmy Rowe: I didn’t care about The Armed much prior to ULTRAPOP.

Nick Cusworth: Two come to mind from bands I wasn’t familiar with prior to this year. Meer‘s Playing House and BRUIT ≤‘s The Machine is burning and now everyone knows it could happen again. One was just unexpectedly great prog-pop, and the other has been probably the most surprising and refreshing post-rock release this year so far.

Noyan: Beyond Christian Cosentino I’d say Stortregn

Trent Bos: I’ve never been too into ambient house type electronic music, but Grandbrothers‘s mix of that with the piano driven nu-jazz style of GoGo Penguin just instantly puts me a in a better, relaxed mood that’s kept it among my most listened releases this year.

Karlo Doroc: Never heard of these guys before, but it’s really great pop rock full of huge hooks

Scott Murphy: Apparently they’ve generated a lot of buzz over the last couple years, but Black Country, New Road came out of nowhere for me and released a serious contender for my AOTY.

Also, like many people, listening to a record from Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders & The London Symphony Orchestra was not on my bingo card for 2021.

Josh Bulleid: This year has been full of surprises actually. My “albums of the year” list is currently dominated by either new bands (Trillionaire, Cryptosis, Cry) or ones I’ve previously had no interest in (Ruins of Beverast, Dvne, Green Leaf). There’s some old favourites in there (While She Sleeps, Rob Zombie, Gojira) and some anticipated follow-ups (Enforced, The Armed) but 2021 has definitely been characterised by new and largely surprising discoveries for me.

Supratik asks: Which 2021 album has been your biggest letdown and why?

Trent Bos: Not a specific album, but I’ve been underwhelmed by hip-hop’s output in general this year. Don’t think there’s a single album in the genre I’d put in my top30 so far (Benny the ButcherThe Plugs I Met 2 might come close).

Noyan: The Vildhjarta single did absolutely nothing for me. We talked about this on the podcast, but basically it sounds exactly like Masstaden, but I don’t want it to sound like that. I want it to sound so interesting that it blows me away like Masstaden did 10 years ago. Doing the exact same thing today doesn’t accomplish that.

Eden Kupermintz: The new Genghis Tron. I knew I shouldn’t get my hopes up but I sort of did and I found the album very bland. As I’ve said before, they tried to do electronic post-rock but they just have nothing to add to the genre or any of the other styles they touch upon on the album. The production and the fact that they’re good musicians makes the album sound fine but nothing more than fine.

Karlo Doroc: A little unfair, as it’s due to personal rather than record quality reasons, but Immortal Guardian for me. really loved their previous record, was in my top 5 for the year. the music and melodies are still great on the new one, but the last thing i needed after 2020 was an album where lyrics are super audible / at the forefront, and key messages centre on lockdown, quarantine etc. i want music to help me get out of that space, not drag my thoughts back there.

Scott Murphy: The Body. Their music has increasingly impressed me with each new release, but I just can’t STAND the lo-fi shrieking they insist on using across every release. The closest I’ve come to to enjoying one of their albums was their collaborative album with Uniform from 2019, Mental Wounds Not Healing, where the dude from Uniform handled most of the vocals and The Body guys actually introduced some vocal variety on their end. But within minutes of putting on I’ve Seen All I Need to See, those same obnoxious vocals were back in full swing. I know it’s not fair to expect perfect continuity between a collaboration and a standalone album, but I truly thought there was a better chance of their music finally clicking with me this time.

Josh Bulleid: For me, it was either Hatebreed or Dark Tranquility, although neither were as disappointing to me as the new Genghis Tron record. It’s been a while since I’ve been let down by a new release as much as that one I think.

Rowan asks: Are there any bands that on paper you should like, but you just can’t get into? As an example, Obscura on paper sounds like it should be a grand slam, but it just doesn’t resonate with me.

Karlo Doroc: Great question, and there are definitely a few. despite not being into doom / slow tempo music i really want to love Dreadnought but I just cant get into it. Others include Blood Incantantion, Bent Knee, Artificial Brain, Oceans of Slumber, Devin Townsend, a full album of Meshuggah.

Eden Kupermintz: Black Peaks. I love all of the elements that go into their sound but something about the mix just doesn’t grab me.

Josh Bulleid: For a long time this was Trivium for me. The Sin and the Sentence largely changed that, although I still struggle with some of their older stuff. At the moment though, the big one for me is Conjurer. Theoretically I should love everything about these guys, but their music has just never grabbed me. I don’t think they’re bad or anything, but the way I hear other people rave about their music seems like we’re listening to a completely different band.

Brad asks: What’s your favorite non heavy release of the year?

Karlo Doroc: If pop rock counts as no heavy, then the normandie record i mentioned earlier. If it doesn’t, then ediTCome To Grips (glitch hop)

Eden Kupermintz: The Floating Points/Pharoah Sanders album mentioned earlier. Incredibly lush and deep contemporary classical + heartfelt soul with just hints of electronic ambient.

Josh Bulleid: Although there were plenty of pop releases that dominated my listening last year, nothing from this year outside the realms of rock and metal has really grabbed my attention so far. The one non-metal release that’s really stuck with me is Arab Strap’s The Turning of Our Bones, but it’s still definitely a “heavy” release, tonally and thematically, if not sonically.

Brady asks: Given what we’ve been through and the rollout of the vaccines – what’s the vibe about prospect of future gigs? Learnt helpless, cautious optimism or a mix of each?

Karlo Doroc: imo this year will likely still have a ton of cancellations, next year will be a push and pull between what goes ahead and what doesn’t based on spikes and outbreaks, and by 2023 i expect things to be back to ‘normal’

Jimmy Rowe: I’m sure the shows in the late summer to fall in America will happen more often than not. It’s a shame a quarter to a third of the US are morons who will make it more dangerous with their vax refusal.

Eden Kupermintz: Here’s my hot take: shows will come back and they will be super-spreader events. Shows, where people are singing and yelling, are among the most dangerous environments for infection and this wasn’t highlighted to the public enough, imo, because it’s perceived as a luxury and not common enough (which is wrong). Because there is, and will continue to be, such a mix of vaccinated and unvaccinated people in the US, you’re creating a perfect environment for infection (and for mutation, by the way). I also don’t think the US has the infrastructure (social and physical) to screen unvaccinated people, so unvaccinated people will show up to these events, get infected, and spread it to other unvaccinated people. Sorry.

In Israel btw, shows have been back for a few weeks and I’m still not going because hey, I was old even before Covid started and that hasn’t changed 😛 I just don’t really like going to shows anymore.

Jordan Jerabek: Cautious optimism fueled by desperation. I really want live music back in my life but I’ve accepted it’s pretty much a matter of time before another spike rolls around and presses pause on things again, seems like things are again getting lax maybe sooner than they should.

Our local venues have been announcing upcoming gigs for the end of this year and into ‘22, and while I’m comfortable knowing most in my immediate area have been vaxxed, I have concerns about the wider message that sends to those who haven’t taken it as seriously. It’s kinda tough to put the toothpaste back in the tube.

Nick Cusworth: Seeing some people and bands I like and respect announcing shows in the fall, and….I just can’t support it. Vaccine hesitancy among the age demos most likely to attend shows is still way too high, and we still just don’t have enough data about how resilient and long-lasting the immunity from the current vaccines is. I have all the sympathy in the world for the bands who so desperately want to get back out there and really need to get back out there, but I will not be going elbow-to-elbow with people I don’t know in confined indoor spaces for the foreseeable future.

Scott asks: What’s the “one that got away” in terms of music? As in, you put off buying a record, merch, concert ticket, etc. and you wish you hadn’t missed it or it’s not available anymore?

Scott Murphy: Back in 2014, Century Media reissued the first three Ulver albums as a wicked cool box set on silver vinyl. It was ~$100 with shipping, and while I could have TECHNICALLY afforded it, I felt weird since I was in college and only working part-time. Fast forward to now, all the used copies on Discogs are $200+ used, and as a lame, responsible adult with bills, I just can’t justify it. I wish I had caved to my less-responsible, 20-year-old instincts and just impulse bought it.

Jimmy Rowe: Currently I’m wishing I would have grabbed those colored Gojira records prosthetic pressed back in 2015 of From Mars To Sirius and The Way of All Flesh.

Karlo Doroc: In my formative metal listening years I thought Metallica was over-rated so, at a festival, i chose to see The Offspring, Paramore and Sum 41 instead. In the years that followed I’d fall in love with Metallica, while the others are never in my rotation anymore. Haven’t been able to catch Metallica since (the last tour I finally got tickets, but they cancelled).

Josh Bulleid: I’ve seen most of the classic hard rock and heavy metal bands live at this point, but I never got to see Motörhead. When I was in high school I went to see the Foo Fighters on the In Your Honour tour and Dave Grohl kept pointing out that Motörhead were opening for Mötley Crüe (who I’ve never seen either, and probably don’t want to now…) literally across the road at the neighbouring stadium. The Foo Fighters were great that night and I haven’t liked anything they’ve done since, so I wouldn’t trade it. But I always figured I’d simply catch Motörhead another time, and now I never will. I also had a Suffocation Blood Oath long sleeve that I accidentally put in a charity bin that I’d really like back.

Simeon asks: Favourite snack from a convenience store pls

Jordan Jerabek: Tie between Flamin’ Hot Doritos & Rap Snacks Honey Jalapeño chips

Eden Kupermintz: Well, right now I’m eating “Cow Chocolate”. Yes, that’s what it’s called. The logo is a smiling cow. It’s like, cheap milk chocolate but it’s extremely good.

It’s literally called that by the way in a colloquial sense. That is, the cow was there first as the logo but in the 60’s Israel had austerity and foreign chocolate was extremely expensive. So this was all you could get and people started to refer to it as “the cow chocolate” and that’s just its name these days.

Jimmy Rowe: Gas stations around here have pizza rolls and they’re incredible. Way better than they have any right to be.

Nick Cusworth: Not enough places carry it, but cheddar and caramel popcorn is my kryptonite.

Jordan Jerabek: I loathe popcorn (damn husks) but I cannot resist this combo.

Eden Kupermintz: The mind meld continues. I’m addicted to that stuff.

Scott Murphy: Close tie between Takis (spicy, tangy rolled corn tortillas) or Spicy Sweet Chili Doritos (one of the very few dairy-free Dorito flavors I’ve found).

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