Div's Top Ten Righteous Records of 2000 & 9
[copy & pasted from my Facebook note, sans album art]
I've heard about 50 albums released in 2009, what I've done here is narrow down the top 10 and write up a short review for each one. I've made sure to mention some of each album's best tracks so you can go youtube them to see if you like it, as I don't believe people should pay for records before hearing what they're like. 2009 had A LOT of good releases, so it was very hard to narrow it down to just 10 albums. Also, just because one is ranked higher than the other doesn't mean the music is better per-se, everything on this list is worth hearing, the rankings just come down to my own personal tastes. So here they are, ranked from 10 to number 1, enjoy.
Giant Squid – The Ichthyologist
An Ichthyologist is one who studies fish, which is a fitting title for an album by a band called Giant Squid. The Ichthyologist is their second album and is based on a graphic novel written by the frontman Aaron Gregory. The plot centers around a man who has his humanity stripped away and lives in the sea. The songs progress through when the main character starts his journey to the emotional tragedy and his transformation. Now the music is very progressive, and if your friends walked in the room while you were playing this you might get some weird looks. It combines a lot of elements. Heavy, doomy riffs, violins, operatic female supporting vocals, a cello, and some sort of twangy instrument I wan't able to identify. Though it all comes together very neatly and structured. There are some upbeat tracks like Panthalassa and Throwing a Donner Party at Sea, and then there's the more mellow songs such as Sevengill and Emerald Bay. To sum it all up in one word “weird” best describes it all. But if you've got a little patience and are willing to think outside the box a bit, it's a very enjoyable album.
Baroness – Blue Record
After putting out the highly successful Red Album, prog-rock band Baroness is back with the Blue Record, sporting equally weird and symbolic artwork. I'll start by saying that I didn't like this album much the first time I listened to it. But like a lot of good music, you've gotta give it a few spins sometimes before it really sinks in and the new style of music doesn't distract you from the music itself. What the Blue Record is is essentially just wave after wave of chord progression and mini solos hitting you in the face. The vocal style puts some people off at first, it's kind of punkish and not what you would expect on a metal album, but it works... and after a few listens you'll see this music just wouldn't work any other way. So with that said... highpoints: A Horse Called Golgotha, War Wisdom and Rhyme, Steel That Sleeps the Eye, Jake Leg... you see where I'm going with this. I also noticed a lot of the lyrics seem to be centered around the Civil War. Check it out.
Isis – Wavering Radiant
This album came highly recommended from several people I know. Unfortunately the first two or three times I attempted to listen to it I fell asleep. I would get back from class and lay down on my bed and put this on, but wouldn't make it past the second song. Luckily I was able to make some room for this later in my schedule when I wasn't tired and I'm glad that I did. Wavering Radiant is a solid album. Fans won't be disappointed and new listeners will be impressed. The mood created by this album is classic Isis, heavy, yet mellowed out. Just listen to the main vocals of Hand of the Host, or the riffs in Hall of the Dead. This album is definitely a grower, it doesn't stand out at first, but you come to appreciate it over time.
Radio Moscow – Brain Cycles
Don your tie dye shirts and burn your bras, this album has “60's” written all over it. Just look at that album cover? What's going on there? This album really surprised me because I honestly didn't expect any modern bands to be making this style of music anymore. It's two parts Hendrix and one part Clapton. The twangy, distorted guitar sound is something you just don't hear anymore, and it's pretty darn refreshing. The first song sets up the rest of the album, and its all pretty consistent. If you like this track you will enjoy the album, and vise versa if you hate it. No Good Woman is another great track with a groovy ass beat, and is the longest song clocking in at 8 minutes. 250 Miles is a strictly instrumental track with some great guitar jams. Black Boot has some acoustic rhythms and clapping, reminiscent of Bron-Y-Ur-Stomp. I should also mention the last track No Jane, which is the coolest song on the album. This album is a must hear for any type of classic rock fan.
Immortal – All Shall Fall
It's been seven long years since Immortal released Sons of Northern Darkness and then went on hiatus. Sure in 2006 we got the Between Two Worlds album by frontman Abbath's supergroup, simply known as “I” (which I consider one of my favorite albums of all time), but true Immortal fans really wanted something to carry on the band's real style. After all Immortal are one of the biggest names when it comes to Black Metal and metal photoshop parodies alike. So enter All Shall Fall. The style itself sounds more like At the Heart of Winter than any of their other releases, and that's not a bad thing, even though a lot of fans were expecting another Sons of Northen Darkness. Right away you know this album's going to be a winner. The cover art is dark and icy and evil, the disc itself is carved from double-ice, which is twice as cold as the coldest possible ice mined from the glaciers of the very tip of Antarctica. Be sure to use some gloves when handling or else your fingers will crack off and shatter on the floor, the pieces scattering like a thousand black crows. Simply looking upon the uncased CD will give your eyeballs frostbite. By the way, you DO have a CD player that can work at sub-zero temperatures right? The first track is heavy and brutal and grim, and all that other stuff you've come to expect from Immortal. Abbath's famous vocals sound as icy and infernal as ever while the riffs and drumming just chugs along at a breakneck pace. If you happen to get to track 3, Hordes of War, and still don't “get” Immortal than skip ahead to 2:59, right there, that is what Immortal is all about. All songs on this album are consistent, but Norden on Fire really stands out. The energy in this song is just incredible. The same can be said for track 6, Mount North, which lays out some really kick ass riffs. The last track is the eight-and-a-half minute epic, titled Unearthly Kingdom, and if your speakers haven't completely glacialized by then you're in for a real treat. So long story short, All Shall Fall is a solid release and won't disappoint any black metal fans out there. Now go and defrost yourself.
Megadeth – Endgame
It's been two years sense “Megadave” Mustaine released that god awful piece of shit United Abominations. Megadeth fans have become accustomed to being disappointed by Dave trying oh so hard to write the next big hit and failing miserably. So imagine the shock and awe when his new album turned out to be one of the top 5 best Megadeth albums ever written! It's no Rust in Peace or Killing is My Business... but you can hear the riffs, the beat, the solos, the vocal style, everything that made Megadeth good in the first place is in this album. So let's talk about some of the songs. 44 Minutes, about the North Hollywood shootout, isn't the epitome of thrash, but the chorus becomes somewhat catchy after awhile and even though I wasn't initially impressed by it, I found it lingering around in my head later on. 1,320' comes right after that, and if you knew there were 1,320 feet in a quarter mile than you knew this would be a song was about drag racing. This is a pretty kick ass song to blast when you're driving around, and one of my favorite tracks on the album. I suppose this is Dave's answer to Metallica's “Fuel”, and not only does it overtake it in the first few seconds, but completely leaves it in the dust. A few tracks later we get to the title track, Endgame. This is the source of all the controversy surrounding the album. Dave's political views were always a bit extreme and he holds no bars with this. He doesn't use any type of subliminal references, he just goes balls out with what he wants to say. Don't let that put you off though, this is one of the best tracks of the album. “This is the end of the road, this is the end of the line, this is the end of your life, this is the ENDGAME” Skipping ahead a bit comes up the best track of them all, motherfucking HEADCRUSHER! NOW LET THE TORTURE BEGIN! DEATH BY THE HEADCRUSHER! HEADCRUSHER! If your face didn't melt off your skull in the first 10 seconds of this song you're made of stronger stuff than I am. This is where its at, classic Megadeth songwriting here. From the riffs, to the solos, to the way Dave slurs “all alone” when he sings. All the ingredients are here and come together to blast you back into the 80's. So even if you're not a Megadeth fan, this one deserves a few listens. Completely dominates Shitallica's latest cash grab and Slayer's recent abortion.
Om – God is Good
If you don't know anything about Om you might think this is some kind of cheesy Christian rock album. But no no no, this is Al Cisneros of legendary doom band Sleep. Expecting some hard hitting “punch you in the face” metal? Well look somewhere else. Om's style is similar to what you'd expect from Sleep. Slow, doomy, and bass heavy. But that's what you get when the frontman is a bassist. The first track, which runs 20 minutes, is yet another spiritual journey from Cisneros' mind. It is in no rush to get to the heavy parts either. It slowly builds up and when it finally hits the half way mark your mind is tuned just right to fully accept the riffs in all their glory. The music in this album is heavily laden with middle eastern instruments and if you lose your eyes you may forget you're not wearing a Keffiyeh. The lyrics are Cisneros' own cryptic spiritual perspectives, don't ask me to explain what they mean, it would probably take the high priests of Israel over a decade to decipher it all.
Devin Townsend – Addicted
Most people I've spoken to refer to it as “the crayon album”. This was a good year for DT fans. Addicted is the second Devin Townsend album to be put out in 2009 and part 2 of his four album project. Each album in the project focusing on a different musical style, this being the “pop” album. But don't let that fool you, yes there are blastbeats and plenty of hooks to go around, but this is Hevy Devy we're talking about here not Miley Cyrus. Infact the first two tracks (Addicted! & Universe in a Ball!) are pretty standard with only some minor keyboard and synth work in the background, it's not until track 3 “Bend it Like Bender!” comes on that you know this album has something different than anything ever put out by Devin Townsend or Strapping Young Lad. That thing is a she named Anneke van Giersbergen, a female vocalist who makes this album succeed so well. It's seriously impressive. Listen to Supercrush! to see what I mean. Another thing that caught me completely off guard was the re-recorded version of Hyperdrive, one of my favorite songs off the Ziltoid album. Infact this song is great for showing just how much vocal range she has. Resolve! comes next. Recognize that opening riff? You should, it's the same one used in Bring Your Daughter to the Slaughter. But we're not going to accuse Devy of ripping off Maiden here because he managed to write a better song. In-Ah! returns Devin to the leading vocals for a bit and has sounds more like something off Ki. The last track, Awake!, is worth mentioning because its mellow but still nice and heavy. You may recognize the melody from being briefly sung in the beginning of the first song. Devin's been sober for years now and even though he kept his “wall of sound” style, you can tell its clearer and more structured than older releases like Ocean Machine: Biomech or SYL's City (which are two of my personal favorites because he was on the verge of a mental breakdown when he wrote them and you can just hear the insanity) Anyway, that ends the album. If anything on my list is to be liked by more mainstream listeners it's probably this.
Slough Feg – Ape Uprising!
Life is often filled with disappointments. Friends move away, relationships come to an end, you get laid off from work only to find out the timing belt on your car snaps a day later. But despite all the potential doom and gloom on the horizon there is one sure fire consistent thing you can count on in life, and that is a new Slough Feg album every two years. So just who the fuck are Slough Feg anyway? Well picture Iron Maiden in their prime, now cut out some solos and replace it with chord harmony and more riffs, then give Bruce Dickinson a tracheotomy and turn down the bass. That's Slough Feg in a nutshell, and the fact that this type of NWOBHM is still being released by an American band post 1980 is very cool. But anyway, on to the music! Each Slough Feg album is slightly different in style from the last. Ape Uprising! sounds more like Atavism than anything else they've put out, but relies less on catchy hooks and goes deeper into song progression. The album starts off with The Hunchback of Notre Doom, which is the only Doom song on the album. Ape Uprising runs a full 10 minutes and keeps changing things up, some really excellent songwriting here. Shakedown at the 6 was a song written about a time the band was staying at a Motel 6 while on tour and some cops came in and tried to do a drug bust on em. Ape Outro is another great song, lasting 3 minutes, and continuing the albums trend of keeping things short and sweet. Hell, there are only 8 tracks total on the album and not 1 second of it is cheesy filler. You just get riff after riff and this song shows it best. Nasty Hero is the last track, which is a real jammer. It hooks you right away with that main riff and the little mini solos sporadically thrown in the background. Plus nearly every sentence rhymes which makes it even more catchy. There's a little 5 second bass line somewhere in the middle that just slows everything down for a brief moment followed by about a few chord repetitions right before launching into a solo which then launches into Mike Scalzi giving a maniacle laugh which kick starts an all out blistering barrage of riffs, and at the end of all that followed by the main riff again as the song fades out. This was probably the single most impressive part of the album for me. If you've never heard Slough Feg than get this album and proceed to get the rest of their back records. If you already are a fan than you've already spun this album about 50 times, and that makes you a winner by default.
Black Pyramid – Black Pyramid
FLY THROUGH THE FLAMES AS THE SUN EXPLODES are the lyrics that describe what youre in for when you give the self-titled debut release of Massachusetts stoner/doom band Black Pyramid a listen. This record takes the number one spot by leaps and bounds, and I'm sure it will be an instant classic that people will be referencing 10 years from now as a major contribution to the genre. What we've got here is some amazing Sabbath/Sleep worship going on with heavy, doomy riffs that chug along from solo to solo. This album just brings everything about metal into focus, “UNDER THE PALE MOON RIDES THE MOURNING STAR, WITH KEYS TO THE ASTRAL GATES AND MYSTIC DOORS” as soon as the first track, Visions of Gehenna, starts off it pulls you right in. This album doesn't pussy foot around and make you wait till track 5 for the good shit. Only one song, Celephais, could be considered filler. It's a little acoustic interlude that can be skipped, but isn't bad in itself. Worm Ouroboros really lays on the Sabbath worship with its groovy twangy intro reminiscent of N.I.B. and picks up heavy only to go out sounding like it could of come right off Paranoid “IT EATS ITS OWN TAIL” The last track on the album is Wintermute, the “long” song, not because it's any longer than the others, but the way its structured makes it seem long. Starting off with an acoustic intro “DEATH RIDES THE GOLD THAT BLEEDS FROM MY EYES” picks up to a repetitive, yet sweet melodic part, “BUILD A BRIDGE ACROSS THE VOID BENEATH MY FEET” which leads into a great string of solos and riffs before fading out. AHHH, so good. Everything about this album just slays, infact it “WILL KILL THE SAGGITARIUS” Four legged archers beware.
More albums of note:
Devin Townsend - Ki
Cobalt - Gin
Lazarus A.D. - The Onslaught
Russian Circles - Geneva
Skeletonwitch - Breathing the Fire
Devastator - The Summoning
Ensiferum - From Afar
Kylesa - Static Tensions
Kalisia - Cybion
Kreator - Hordes of Chaos
Slayer - World Painted Blood
Hyades - Roots of Trash
Municipal Waste - Massive Agressive
Queensryche - American Soldier
Mastadon - Crack the Skye