This year was a little weak on the new music tip. The good releases were REALLY good thankfully. Even Megadeth released a kick ass record. That fact tickles me especially because I rediscovered them this year. Megadeth was actually the first metal T shirt I ever owned and I wore it to threads. Within 4 years of first hearing them, I was ashamed to own it, though, as the 5 or 6 follow-up albums to Rust In Peace hardly "followed" it at all. (If anyone is selling the "Contaminated" shirt, let me know, I would love to get my hands on another one in good condition.)
I wanted to make this post all fancy with hotlinks and stuff, but we are lucky I got around to putting little pictures next to the entries. Go out and buy these at your favorite local mom and pop record store. They are still out there. I am lucky to live in a city where there are like 6 or 8 record stores and I spend some loot at more than one of them every week. There really is nothing quite like holding the product in your hand and thumbing through the packaging. Vinyl, cassette or CD, it doesn't really matter what format you dig, just don't be one of those clowns with 75,000 MP3s and no physical music collection. Those guys like dogshit like Waking The Cadaver and gave Soulja Boy a career. I quit smoking 6 years ago this January and my vow back then was that I would transfer whatever money I spent on cigarettes to a weekly music budget. I smoked about a carton of cigarettes a week, and as the price of a carton has risen, my music budget has risen as well. Good for music. It is a vice I am happy to support for myself. I can't say I could ever remember being able to rate the cigarettes I smoked in a year, or enjoyed talking about my habit with other geeks. Music is awesome, even if my best of 2009 list is almost exclusively metal this year. I wish something else would have impressed me, but most indie rock has gone up it's own ass and exists only to sell VW's and MP3 players. I would rather listen to the new Nile album (which was surprisingly good) than the new Decemberists (which was a horrifying disappointment.) Hip Hop did exactly nothing this year either, short of that new Raekwon album, and when people tell me about a really great hip hop album they just heard, it usually was recorded 5 years ago. Most of my music purchases this year were catalog purchases, or reissues of awesome shit like Siouxsie And The Banshees, or Discharge. I ordered a ton of shit off eBay too (getting solid copies of stuff I discovered through downloading.)
The best shows I saw were bands that reformed and were doing one more go-round. (Sunny Day Real Estate, Carcass, Jesus Lizard.) The only show that I was really excited about that was NOT some band I was into ten years ago was Dungen, who toured with Fleet Foxes (barf) but played a one off date in my town for about a hundred people. It was amazing and beyond kick ass to see one of the only existing 'non metal' bands I enjoy playing 4 feet in front of me. Sadly, there were only about 30 people from my town at the show, and the majority of the audience was made up of people who drove several hours to see them in a small club setting. The Bone Awl/Volahn/Ashdautas tour was sweet though. I saw that in Detroit and then Cleveland a few nights later. Several of my best of picks, I saw at the Templars Of Doom 3 festival in Indianapolis, which was most assuredly a highlight of my year. I should really make it a point to try and make it to one metal festival a year. Unfortunately, I work and make most of my money on most weekends. I had plans for MDF, but had to cancel for that reason.
I need to move on to the list as this is becoming more stream-of-consciousness blogging, and it really shouldn't be.
I'll spare the mystery and just start at the number one:
1. Iron Age - The Sleeping Eye
Wow... fucking, wow. The first time I heard this was at the record store. The guy sez "You'll love this" and I promptly didn't for whatever reason. It just wasn't the day for it for me. A few months later, a friend of mine tells me they are playing in Cleveland as their only midwest date, with Nukkehammer as support. I went to see Nukkehammer and am glad I did as they crushed. I really didn't care about Iron Age, but they were one of the most pummelling bands I have ever seen live. They were tight and energetic, even after having driven 25 hours straight from Austin to play... really late. Their album has equal parts of Integrity's Cleveland stomp, with Venom's forward thrust in the fast parts. The songs have all the class of Entombed's Clandestine though. Expansive, almost epic qualities meshing seamlessly with expert songcraft. "The Sleeping Eye" is some serious next level shit for me. I got the same vibe from Catharsis' 1-2 punch of Samsara and Passion in the late 90's I wish more bands like that existed. Epic, but getting to the point so their songs weren't 37 minutes long.
2. Argus - s/t
I drove four hours to see these guys. Got there just in time too. They were still tuning up when I arrived. Argus were the second band on day 2 of the Templars Of Doom festival in Indianapolis. Frustratingly enough, they were a month away from having boxes of copies of their albums to sell. One of my old bands played with them some years ago. It must have been their 4th or 5th show with their new vocalist at the time, Butch, who got us on the bill as he was friends with our drummer. Butch has a wall shaking tenor that got him attention as vocalist for the 90's doom metal outfit, Penance. They were "Butch's new band" to us. He was still pretty new to the band though and was not feeling the best about his performance, but it knocked my socks off and I have been waiting for years for a full length to come out. They had just started recording their demo at the time. 3-4 years later and I finally have my hands on their absolutely un-fuck-withable debut self titled full length. Their superior songcraft stood them far ahead of some of the other acts of the weekend. Their twin guitar work compares to ANY twin guitar team in the business. We're talking Roth/Schenker good. We're talking Wartell/Franklin good. If you don't know who those guitar teams are, get googling. Argus are not exactly true doom metal, but add a healthy dose of Witchfinder General and that is probably the closest one could get to pigeonholing them. They are downtuned classic metal I guess. I'm excited to hopefully get to Cleveland in a few weeks to see them play with Pentagram and Gates Of Slumber.
3. Krallice - Dimensional Bleedthrough
Epic, sweeping, cold black metal, played by a bunch of guys from other bands that all live in NYC. They are better at it than most. This record is the shit. I saw them play this entire album from beginning to end just before they joined up with Wolves In The Throne Room for a US tour. It was so loud it was stupid. Everyone was playing through a full stack. I had earplugs in and my ears were still ringing afterwards. I loved the first album and they didn't play a note of it live. I don't know why I latched onto these guys, but I really REALLY like them. I kinda feel that these guys are the torchbearers for good, pure USBM at this point. Great stuff, and they aren't pretentious about it. WITTR strike as the pretentious torchbearers of 'hipster black metal' that they are made out to be. Living in the woods and all that shit. Krallice live in Brooklyn and probably take the subway to band practice. They have no designs on being kvlt by concealing their identities or wearing face paint (a practice that I feel USBM acts have no claim to.) I still like Wolves... and Black Cascade would be in my honorable mentions, probably more because everyone is naming them in their top ten and I think Krallice is gonna get the short end of it by releasing their album later in the year.
4. Deathspell Omega - Diaboli Veritas In Aeturnum: Chaining The Katechon
Unlike Krallice, this band is TOTALLY pretentious about everything. I guess they has every right to be. I find this band to be completely incredible. The way dissonance is used to make melodies that are totally anti-melodic, yet still catchy is like catnip to me and I wish I could do it as well. This is one 22 minute song that actually keeps my attention for 22 minutes without me needing to do something else. I will actually listen to this and stare off into space for 22 minutes WITHOUT cleaning my room or reading a book or reorganizing my music collection or anything. Listening to Deathspell Omega in headphones is one of the most disorienting experiences one can have with music, next to maybe trying to figure out what Portal are doing, which just gets tedious to me after awhile.
5. Keelhaul's Triumphant Return To Obscurity
One of the best bands... ever. They finally put out a new album this year. Caught these guys live too, by total accident. I used to love seeing them back in the early 00's. They ruled everything as far as I am concerned. They made all those Botch clones sound like a bunch of chumps. They made all the tech metal assholes sound like clowns. They still do as far as I am concerned. Thankfully, the Botch worship bands kinda fell away, but there is still lots of Psyopus and Ion Dissonance garbage out there that needs to be shown the door. Keelhaul are totally unapologetic in their delivery. Their insistence on the rhythm is entrancing to me. Somehow, they don't get lost. It's spooky how well they play together too. Judging by the album title, they are hanging it up again for at least another few years after this, so if you didn't get to see them on their tour last September, then shame on you.
6. Zebulon Pike - Intranscience
I hate Pelican, ISIS and Russian Sparrows. It's boring and unoriginal. Neurosis did it when I was in high school. I've seen these guys compared to those bands because they are instrumental and heavy and proggy. That's really sad. I think this is a self released album, and therefore I may be posting it on here before too long because it is pretty effing amazing. I saw them at the Templars fest too. Someone told me they were like Pelican and that made me want to go hang outside (or hang myself) where there were people I didn't know doing things I didn't approve of. I decided to chance it with the band playing music I didn't approve of. I listened for about 20 seconds before deciding that I approved. Enough to buy this album and a T shirt. I wish I would have bought another album from them too. They had all of them for sale. I fucked up. They knocked my socks off. If the guitarists played any tighter, they would have been spooning.
7. Coke Bust - Lines In The Sand
The best hardcore band I have heard in years. This is their new 12". It's fast. I saw these guys live this year and they were intense and tight. I was impressed with how the live feel of this band was captured on recording. Their Fuck Bar Culture 7" was one of the best hardcore releases of the last decade. I felt and this full length is not too far behind. I think it's only drawback is the fact that it IS a full length and the impact of 6 brutal minutes of feedback drenched, but still super-tight thrashcore has been stretched out to 18 or 20 minutes.
8. YOB - The Great Cessation
If YOB releases an album, it is in my top ten for the year. The Great Cessation is no exception. YOB does doom metal like only YOB can. Mike Scheidt twists and distorts his voice and guitar tones in ways that no one will EVER be able to do again, without begging a direct comparison. My girlfriend took me to Chicago for my birthday dinner. I wanted to go to Kuma's Corner. I ordered the YOB. I will never eat another burger again... update, since writing this the first time, my girlfriend has decided to go vegan, which directly affects my culinary decision making and the YOB may very well be THEE last burger I ever eat. I really hope this is not the last YOB album Mike Scheidt decides to do though. YOB reminds me that all that is sacred and holy in doom metal is still important to some, and it isn't all about playing one drone for 65 minutes.
9. Teitanblood - Seven Chalices
I had my doubts about this release the first few spins I gave it. After about a dozen or so spins, it really started to grow on me. I don't spend enough time on the internet to stay up on every noisy, muddy neo "dark death metal" band, but I have a few friends that do. One of them, it's his job to keep up on this stuff. He's a writer and publicist. I ask him about three times a year to hip me to what I am missing by not frequenting the message boards and forums. He sets me on the left hand path pretty successfully, and often. This was his early entry for album of the year. I can't say that is it the best thing I have heard all year, but it is a murky, epic masterpiece in a market share that is getting more and more glutted with one dimensional Blasphemy worship. Seven Challices comes stocked with dark and freaky intros and outros, and a ridiculous guitar tone that creates an oppressive atmosphere. Impolite and evil.
Box Set: MAGMA - Studio Zünd
I don't feel the need to own many box sets as there are very few bands that maintain a level of quality throughout their career. When I caught wind of this being released, I waited a bit before ordering it. I finally grew some sack and dropped the loot over the summer, used off eBay. I totally lucked out and got it for $90. It quickly went out of print shortly after that and is now selling for more than twice that. I can't say it is anything I am ever going to sell though. My copy of MDK cost me $18 6 or 8 years ago. I bought it in NYC too. This is the entire studio output of Magma and it would be worth the $200 just to have all of them together. There is only one musical misstep and that would be 1982's 'Merci,' which is awful. If you ever wanted to hear Magma doing their own personal take on Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing" go for it. Aside from that, it is cover to cover genius. The only REAL drawback to it is the assembly of the separate packages themselves. The plenty thick booklets don't fit the packages very well. Still, it took me like 3 days to read all the liner notes. This was a fantastic effort. The only other box set I could see myself owning is maybe the 1970-1976 Genesis box, which I can get at Barnes and Noble. Where am I ever going to see something like this ever again?
Best reissue: Vulcano - Bloody Vengeance
My last blog post pretty much spelled out my complete and total admiration for this recording. Were it not for file sharing, this album would never have been heard by me and I would not have spent the money on it once I found it. I walked into Magnolia Thunderpussy in Columbus with EVERY hope of finding this, but no expectations. I almost squealed like a schoolgirl when I did. eBay and direct purchases from labels are cool, but I know when I enter "Darkthrone T Shirt" into the search function, I am going to see 18 different Tshirts of varying dubiousness come up. I pay the money and it shows up on my doorstep after a few days. It's a sure bet. The true rush of discovery only occurred when I found a faded Darkthrone logo shirt for $3 at the Salvation Army (true story BTW, it doesn't fit me now that I have a belly, so my girl wears it) I enter with the hopes of finding a true gem, and I kinda say to myself "I really hope I find XX item" but rarely do. I actually did NOT say anything to myself about hoping to find a Darkthrone shirt when I did, I just did and that was sweet. When I walked into Magnolia, I actually was thinking "Maybe they will have the reissue of Bloody Vengeance" and they DID. It was weird. The packaging is so-so. There isn't like useful liner notes or really kick ass biography of the band or anything. Just some fun, old photos and lyrics, but the fact that it exists (and I physically own a copy) rules everything. I will forego putting a little picture next to this since it was my last blog post.
Best Demo: Coffinworm - Great Bringer Of Night
I have gotten to be pretty tight friends with a couple of the guys in this band. That has no bearing on my feelings about this demo. I am a doom metal junkie and this album hits all the bases when it comes to doing modern doom metal right. I already posted this a few months back cuz it blew me away. Download it with all due haste. I've heard an unmastered final mix of the full length due out on Profound Lore in the coming months, and when it is released, I would recommend purchasing it with all due haste as well.
Best compilation: Demented Anthem Harcore Assemblage
Nightbringer has a track on this comp, which is why I got it. This is the only compilation I have purchased this year cuz I usually hate them. This one is sweet though. Every band puts a sick track on it. If you want to hear the best of American and Japanese hardcore, get this. I think Burai Core distro still has a few copies for order. Some crafty googling will achieve you results.
Marduk - Wormwood (almost made it. Edged out by Seven Challices. Marduk didn't hit their stride until Plague Angel)
Beherit - Engram (Nuclear fukkin Holocausto!!! please tour!!!)
Wolves In The Throne Room - Black Cascade
Megadeth - Endgame (just for putting out a record that stands up to the early catalog)
Nile - Those Whom The Gods Detest (FAR better than expected)
Proclamation - Execration Of Cruel Bestiality (what the hell does that even mean?)
Diephago - Filipino Antichrist (roughest shit EVER)
Converge - Axe To Fall
Obscura - Cosmogenesis (I hate tech metal, but damned if this ain't a good listen, fantastic solos and a sense of melody and structure, while still being brutal as hell)
Impetuous Ritual - Relentless Execution of Ceremonial Excrescence (what the hell does THAT mean too?)
Onward to the year we made contact.