Saturday, January 22, 2011

2010 Top 40

2010 was a pretty great year for music. I heard all sorts of terrific stuff and could have easily listed 50 top albums instead of 40 but felt too lazy. These are all albums arranged in order of preference and albums I'd score a minimum of 4 on 5 for if this was kvltsite.

But first, three huge disappointments in 2010.

Nevermore's The Obsidian Conspiracy was unbelievably bad. Is this the same band that made Dreaming Neon Black, Politics of Ecstacy and This Godless Endeavor? The riffs are rehashed, the lyrics are rehashed or just plain cringe inducing and the songs sound like a patchwork of past Nevermore songs. Just a really terrible and lazy album.

Anathema's We're Here because We're Here which suffered from too much hype, too much delay and Steve Wilson's bullshit. Thats 2 great bands he's ruined now. But seriously 8 years for this? It sounds like elevator music. Godzilla sized disappointment.

Last is Cathedral. A 5 year gap before they released The Guessing Game and its filled with prog rock and Lee Dorian's vocals which just continiue to get worse. I had a sneaky suspicion they'd go to shit when I read that Dorian had quit the weed and grown into an obsessive prog rock lp collector but this is still worse than anything I was expecting. I miss the simpler days of Soul Sacrifice and The Ethereal Mirror.

40. The Blood of Heroes - The Blood of Heroes

Justin Brodrick and Bill Laswell are on this. There's also a vocalist called Dr. Israel and a couple of electronic artists and the result is an album that is seamless across its influences. Groovy, heavy electronic music and awesome from beginning to end. Sort of like an electronic version of The Ocean. If there's just one song to listen to.

39. Venomin James - Crowe Valley Blues

This band owes a great debt to the first Karma to Burn album along with Kyuss, Fu Manchu, Cleansing era Prong and straight up heavy metal. Still or maybe because of which, Crowe Valley Blues is a total fucking blast.

38. Triptykon - Eparistera Daimones

I had really high hopes for this. This was going to be in my top 5 from 2010 for sure. Yet as much as I heard it, i couldn't escape from the fact that the albums drags. While Monotheist was fantastic from start to finish, this one has one ill advised attempt at electronic trip hop farting around and a couple of songs are a bit faceless. I still loved it but not as much as I thought I would.

37. Blindead - Affliction XXIX X MXMV

Post metal from Poland. This is essentially one long song broken into 7 parts and sounds like a mellow Neurosis. What sets this band apart though is the use of electronics, a catchy groove and a memorable melody. I could name check Cult of Luna, Antimatter and Anathema along with Neurosis and maybe even what Red Harvest would sound like if they chilled out. Very good band and a solid, classy album.

36. Dragonauta - Cruz Invertida

Argentina's Dragonauta have been plugging away for a while now but its on this, their third album that the band has got everything just about right. The occult doom stylings of the band are intact, the riffs are bigger and dirtier and while a debt is owed to Sabbath, Pentagram and St. Vitus it's also original enough and abrasive enough to really stand out and work. Cruz Invertida sounds great.

35. Furze - Reaper Subconscious Guide
Psychedelic black metal. I've seen a lot of bands get tagged that but Woe J Reaper's music is truly psychedelic. It's black metal mostly of the Darkthrone variety but held together by some truly creative song writing and enhanced by the use of some of the most unsettling electronics and ambient noises you'll hear. Furze's new album should be getting a lot more love. Bizarre but beautiful.

34. Ludicra - The Tenant

Imagine taking 70s hard rock, thrash and NWOBHM and then giving it a black metal twist. Ludicra remind me of an extreme metal Slough Feg but not boring. The Tenant is just a very classy extreme metal album and its backed up by some fine musicianship and song writing.

33. Blasphemophagher - For Chaos, Obscurity and Desolation...
Tongue in cheek Italian blasphemy of the highest order. These guys can really rip it and just blast their way through the ten songs on here with a crushing black death thrash hybrid that never lets up. Somewhere between the over the top blasphemy of Arkhon Infaustus and the bludgeoning of Averse Sefira. Black Hole Abomination from start to finish.

32. Sailors with Wax Wings - Sailors with Wax Wings
This album came out of nowhere. Put together by R Loren of Pyramids with Ted Parsons, Aiden Baker and Colin Marsten along with a host of guest vocalists including Aaron Stainthorpe and Jonas Renkse and artwork by David Tibet, this album is a sprawling post rock soundscape with a dissonant shoe gaze black metal feel. Ted Parsons' drumming on this is brilliant. And Clash and Clash of Hoof and Heel

31. Celeste - Morte(s) Nee(s)
Imagine Deathspell Omega with an industrial influence and maybe a bit more talent. Celeste are more French black metal with a variety of influences and Morte(s) Nee(s), their third album has blown my mind consistently since I first got it. This is incredibly heavy stuff and quite brilliant.

30. Ramesses - Take the Curse
Tim Bagshaw and Mark Greening have shed the baggage of Electric Wizard with Take the Curse. This is some awesome sludgy death doom that's a whole lot better than the new Wizard and is also easily the best album Ramesses have done so far. Essential for fans of the big riff.

29. Diocletian - War of All against All
This is some really confrontational black-death metal from New Zealand. The music is incredibly abrasive and dirty and old school. There's no polish to any of this album and its all the better for it. Exhilarating from start to finish and makes you want to take a bath once its done.

28. Salome - Terminal

Salome's split from last year with Thou left me feeling that the band was set for something a bit special and Terminal pretty much lives up to the promise of those two songs. This is some intense sludge. Like hardcore made as slow as humanly possible and then made heavier. There are times on Terminal when the band sound almost drone like and they make it work. This much heaviness for a sludge band without a bass player shouldn't be possible but what the fuck do i know?

27. Melechesh - The Epigenesis
This band always left me a bit cold. Never been a big fan but the more I heard The Epigenesis the more I grew to love it. The song writing on this album and the seamless weaving together of extreme black, death and thrash riffs with ethnic and folk sounds is spell binding. Not an easy album to get into but well worth the effort.

26. Whores of Tijuana - Psycholongevity
This is some wonderfully inventive stoner rock. A variety of influences on the second album from this three piece that manages to sound original in a genre thats crowded and quite incestuous. Sure, the obvious nod to Kyuss is present but the more I listen to this album the more its apparent that the Whores are treading a slightly different path here. A real grower.

25. US Christmas/ Minsk/ Harvestman - Hawkwind Triad
Magnificent tribute to Hawkwind from 2 insanely good bands and Steve Von Till's solo project. The song choice is immaculate, the playing superb and its basically 3 of the better stoner bands around today that are covering one of the most important psychedelic rock bands ever. A must if you like hawkwind or any of the three bands involved. This is US Christmas doing Psychedelic Warlords

24. Hooded Menace - Never Cross the Dead
In just about 3 years of being together, Hooded Menace has probably become the most exciting old school death doom band around. Never Cross the Dead is a superb exhibition of doom metal. Huge riffs, melodic and heavy as fuck with some really memorable songs. We can only watch as this creature ascends

23. Starkweather - This Sheltering Night
Starkweather are a strange bunch. 2011 will see the band turn 22 years old and they are a metalcore band from back in the day when it simply meant a mix of metal and hardcore and had nothing to do with Iron Maiden or At the Gates or sickly sweet choruses. This Sheltering Night is some nasty heavy music. The songs are mostly slowed down hardcore songs that are heavy on the dissonance and with a vocalist who can get quite unsettling. Not for everyone I guess but a terrific band and a great album.

22. Undergang - Indhentet af Doden
Second album from this Danish trio and Indhentet af oden is some powerful death grind. The band sounds massive right through this album and the songs have that face ripping intensity that all of death grind strives for but few ever achieve. This blew my mind and this band is one to really watch out for.

21. Inquisition - Ominous Doctrines of the Perpetual Mystical Macrocosm
This is ripping black metal. Colombia's Inquisition has just fine tuned their sound to such an extent that these riffs are glorious and will rip your face off. Dagon still sounds like Abbath with throat cancer but his vocals are used in a better way. They used to remind me of a more chaotic Absu but with this new one, Inquisition are pretty much on their own. Terrific stuff.

20. Solace - AD
In plain speak, this rocks. Solace take bits of southern rock, hardcore and heavy metal and fashion a superb example of stoner metal. The riffs have bite, the grooves are memorable and the songs kick immense ass. The bands best album yet.

19. Drudkh - A Handful of Stars
2009s Microcosmos saw the band exploring newer sounds and A Handful of Stars is a very natural evolution. This is prog inspired black metal done right. The songs are epic, memorable and always interesting. Not something I would have previously associated with this band.

18. Legen Beltza - Need to Suffer
This Spanish band has been languishing in obscurity for more than a decade now and Need to Suffer is their 4th full length. The band plays a furious brand of thrash that owes a fair bit to the first 2 Annihilator albums and early Anacrussis but delivered with some seriously aggressive intent. In a better world, Legen Beltza would be riding high on the thrash revival.

17. Monster Magnet - Mastermind
Dave Wyndorf finally wrote the perfect hard rock album. Its full of catchy rock music and Wyndorf's made a stunning return to form. It occupies a different place in comparison to the classic albums from the band but I think the return of Ed Mundell made a huge difference to these songs. Dig that Hole, When the Planes Fall From the Sky, Time Machine.

16. Stargazer - A Great Work of Ages

Soaring epic extreme metal with frightening levels of technical prowess wrapped up in a raw old school production job. This veers from straight out attack to awe inspiring prog-metal realms and back again. Great stuff.

15. Seamount - III
Doom rock is a genre I've been hearing a lot of lately. This reminds me a lot of Thin Lizzy but updated for a modern audience. Incredibly catchy hard rock songs that occasionally go towards doom and heavy metal. Great driving music.

14. High on Fire - Snakes for the Divine
Bastard Samurai and How Dark We Pray are worth the price but the entire album's pretty great. The band sound more focused and the songs are great. They're not as ballsy as they used to be but I can't really complain about anything on this album except for that stoned Slayer riff on Ghost Neck.

13. Man's Gin - Smiling Dogs
This is the Cobalt guy's solo album. Its like Degradation Trip but with better songs and American folk music vibes. This is a terrific album full of dark but ridiculously catchy songs.

12. Weapon - From the Devil's Tomb
Weapon was my discovery of the past year. This Canadian band by way of Bangladesh, essentially play death metal but with enough touches of thrash and black metal and leads that are just classic metal. Fantastic album from another young band. Album #3 might just be a classic but From the Devil's Tomb is pretty close.

11. My Brother the Wind - Twilight in the Crystal Cabinet
Swedish jam band with some insanely good musicians. These 5 guys pretty much just landed up in the studio and jammed and recorded. Considering that, these songs are amazing in their cohesion. Sort of like Half Man but less blues and more 70s psychedelia and prog rock. There's some stunning stuff on Twilight in the Crystal Cabinet.

10. Agrimonia - Host of the Winged
This is difficult to describe. The band play a furious crusty death metal but break up the blasting with epic doom metal riffs, melodic interludes, some electronics and long periods of spacey jams. Agrimonia is like Fall of Efrafa with bite. Fantastic.

9. Negura Bunget - Virstele pamintuli
Negru's the only remaining original member and there's a definite change in sound. The opening song with the flute is incredibly eerie and sets the mood for an album that's more east European folk inspired than any of their previous albums. Stunning from start to finish.

8. Impaled Nazarene - Road to the Octagon
This is a serious return to form. The Finns haven't sounded this malevolent in a while. Road to the Octagon gave me the same kind of rush that Legion and Panzer Division Marduk did. I don't know if this has the staying power but its been a constant companion for the last few months.

7. Integrity - The Blackest Curse
This made me happy. Integrity's a band I've loved for no good reason for a while now but there are a few new bands around that make Integrity sound old and safe. Anyway, without getting maudlin, when I heard the mid paced, ominous opening riff on the album followed by girl doing spoken word bit followed by breakdown and then manic riffing and Dwid's shouting I had a big fucking smile on my face. Integrity is back. This is brutal old school metal core but its also a band trying new things and succeeding. Whether its epic and strange 8 minute songs or just the bands patented mix of thrash, hardcore and Motorhead, Integrity spew venom and hate. This is perfect music to bash someone's head in. Do not however play in car during traffic jam.

6. The Meads of Asphodel - The Murder of Jesus the Jew
The Meads have finally got the sound they needed and they've got the songs to back up their ambition. This is a sprawling concept album based on the life and times of Jesus Christ and The Meads as usual wear their distrust for religion on their collective sleeve. However, its the music that is utterly spellbinding. Black metal is now just the foundation on which the band builds an extreme metal sound that is influenced by hard rock/ metal, anarcho punk, folk and pop music not to mention a couple of absolutely stunning vocal choir pieces, acapella and terrific lead guitar parts along with the usual nods to Hawkwind and Skyclad. This is The Meads of Asphodel at their very best.

5. Killing Joke - Absolute Dissent
Its been 28 years since this line up last recorded as Killing Joke. Damn, this band's been around a while. Absolute Dissent is a friendlier beast in comparison to the 2 albums that cam before this but probably the better album as well. It's filled with memorable rock songs with totally hummable melodies and enough crunch to keep fans happy. There's absolutely nothing wrong with this and the band is just continuing along the path set by the comeback self titled album in 2003.

4. Thou - Summit
Thou was fantastic in 2010. Be it the numerous splits through out the year (all collected on the awesome Rendon Singles) or on Summit, their new full length where the band added a string section, a slightly more pronounced black metal feel and took Crowbar's sludge metal sound to previously uncharted territory and made it heavier and slower. Summit is a towering monolith of doom and the best thing they've done so far. Magnificent.

3. Ihsahn - After
Man, Ihsahn's solo career has just been phenomenal. Starting from The Adversary to aNgl and now After, each album has seen the growth of the artist. I kid you not. After is another evolution in his sound, this time with the addition of the saxophonist from The Shining and the rhythm section from Spiral Architect. It's completely brilliant. I thought the man would have a tough time topping aNgl but now I have no clue how he's going to top After. I'm pretty confident he will though. Awe inspiring.

2. Horn of the Rhino - Throne of Coronation
The band has hit their own stride. It could be the magic of the third album but Horn of the Rhino are completely magnificent here. They remind me at various times of Goatsnake and The Obsessed. They get brutally heavy, have a fantastic vocalist and the doom can get both heavy and soulful. Case in point is this awesome song. Another completely brilliant album by a young band.

1. Swans - My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky
This sounds like the last Angels of Light album but mixed with the clanging of The Great Annihilator. It sounds like Swans. Opener No Words No Thoughts is a fantastic start with its clanging off time riff and repetition and layers of noise and Eden Prison is Swans at their hypnotic best. The album is right up there with anything the band has ever done. The abrasive exists right next to the calm and it sounds better than ever.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A for easy, B for swan

I put on Overdose's Scars in the car today after ages. It was great fun singing along to all the weird sounds the vocalist makes and tomorrow I'm going to play Progress of Decadence. Happy new year to all and good cheer and greet the next 11 months with a smile and a song or cower under your blanket or simply ignore it. Whatever works for you. A new year and decade is upon me and I'm getting older. Its strange that I don't usually feel like this on my birthday but do at the start of the year. Old, old, old. I was going to write about random shit and suddenly here I am talking about my weary bones. When I pay attention to my friends they too seem to be saying the same things. Litanies to aging everywhere I look. I told my sister to watch Easy A and she asked me if my tastes were sobering down with age. Maybe they are. I also told her to watch Nightmare Detective in a desperate bid to regain some street cred. Tough times and secret relief when she said no.

I should get round to making year end lists soon but I really can't remember too many movies. Last year was one for watching tv shows of all sorts.

India just finished a brilliant test series against South Africa and drew level for the first time. The SA commentators were ridiculously partial throughout and the coverage was sucky and Ravi Shastri was the only Indian on the team but the actual cricket was fantastic. Sachin just continues to play the best cricket of his life and Kallis is, I think the greatest cricketer of the modern game. The IPL auctions also happened today and Chennai's managed to retain almost everybody except Murali who's going to Kochi and Shadab Jakati who's coming to Bangalore. Kochi's looking good as are Pune and Kolkotta and Mumbai has both Harbhajan and Symonds. And the tournament starts right after the world cup followed by tours to England and Australia. This is going to be a hell of a year for cricket. Did anybody actually think Ganguly was going to get picked? He should have retired. And lara also. Both great players have embarrassed themselves. Anyway, going to go watch Do Dooni Char. More later.

Later's turned out to be 2 days later. Oh well, Do Dooni Char was a surprisingly warm and amusing film. A slightly muddled ending but held together by excellent performances from Rishi Kapoor and Neetu Singh. Kapoor in particular was terrific as the maths teacher struggling to keep his family happy. Also saw Black Swan finally which in the end turned out to be more like a surreal version of The Wrestler except that it dealt with the high pressure world of ballet. It's a strange movie with an underwhelming conclusion but held together by a great performance from Portman. Vincent Cassel was great as the director of the ballet company too. The whole movie reminded me of Bergman at times and has a very distinct European feel to it. Overall, worth watching I guess.

This is going to be one long and disjointed update.

Also been watching twin peaks again. Not sure why but the coffee is still damn good.

Maybe not that long.