40. Necros Christos - Doom of the Occult
I was immediately taken aback by the 23 song tracklist on Doom of the Occult, thinking that this album was going to be very convoluted in structure, as I can't name an album that I've enjoyed with so many tracks. However, Necros Christos create an odd atmosphere with the instrumental series, Temple and Gates. With this being my first exposure to Necros Christos after a glowing review from Illuminatus, I wasn't a huge fan. The death metal that I loved in it was so cut back by the changes in mood and unnecessary warps to other influences and genre types that I couldn't see this album finishing out the year on my list. But like so many other albums this year, it just clicked. The lyrics are musings upon various pagan gods, etc, and I had a ball reading through all of them. I began to notice the little connections in lyrical content and similarities in the instrumentals that made the whole album seem so cohesive and fun for such an occult release.
39. Braveyoung - We are Lonely Animals
I began the year trying out the daunting task of rating every release that was posted on the excellent post-rock site postrockxchange.com. Although I didn't complete it, because they have now posted well over 150 albums on that site this year, I did find myself with a dozen of excellent gems, such as the aforementioned 417.3. One of the more impressive ones I found was Braveyoung and their release We Are Lonely Animals. There wasn't an album released this year that combined the post-rock experience with so much melancholy. Similar to another metal release this year, I felt like I had to have a really fucking good day before I listened to this album, because it winds its way around such an emotional ambiance that it can really affect you after listening. This album has a lot more in common with ambient post-rock bands than your more straightforward post-rock, but it connected to me in a way no other album did this year.
38. Woods of Desolation - Torn Beyond Reason
As bans like Alcest gain more and more traction in the growing black metal landscape, there are a myriad of bands that just can't keep the excellence going. Woods of Desolation is an album a lot more in the Écailles de Lune vein than many of its fans would like to admit, but it still differentiates itself by not fucking around with its song structure. The title track immediately begins with a riff echoing the second part of Écailles De Lune's title track, and it keeps going in a similar vein the whole way through. Torn Beyond Reason however is much more of a black metal album than any of Alcest's two, with a noticeable lack of clean vocals and slower despondent parts. For willingly being included in a new genre that is gaining detractors as quickly as it is fans, Torn Beyond Reason isn't an album that is easily discarded.
37. Novembers Doom - Aphotic
For an album that I saw catch a lot of flak before I heard it, I was amazed about how much I enjoyed Aphotic. Novembers Doom has been one of those bands that always shows up on my last.fm and despite their insistence that I would love the hell out of them, I never quite got it. But much like Evangelion and Wavering Radiant before it, Aphotic really sent me the memo. I was really drawn by the heavy as balls production that shined its way through on the Dark Host and Of Age and Origin. What kept this album from flying higher, however, was that I couldn't help but feel that this band had too many shades of later Katatonia in it and it gave me a slightly ill feeling, although my love for Forsaker should be documented. Still, Aphotic really opened my eyes to what I was missing with Novembers Doom
36. Skeletonwitch - Forever Abomination
"I'm only about two minutes into the new Skeletonwitch and it's already insane." Was my reaction on first listen to listening to the Ohio thrasher's third album, and with it, they established themselves as a bastion of consistency in the metal landscape. I'm starting to wonder if these guys ever run out of riffs to play, because their tendency to just pull another riff out of nowhere is out of this world. Although Chance Garnette didn't deliver his most crushing vocal performance like on Beyond the Permafrost, his performance still cuts through your vocal cords like a hot knife through butter. With a little bit of death metal thrown into their previous two concoctions of black and thrash metal, Skeletonwitch really continued their trend of releasing killer metal for the masses to enjoy.
35. Light Bearer - Lapsus
I want to like this album so much more than I do. That's the truth. This British atmospheric sludge act came heavily recommended to me by a certain Santa Rosa area Mexican whose immigration status is still in the air. For a band that draws influences from bands like Isis and meandering post-rock bands, this album should be an album of the year contender, but it's not. Its songs like Primum Movens entice the listener with a siren like clean riff call, before dropping into the Scylla and Charybdis (know your Odysseus before you read my shit) of sludge riffs and Aaron Turner esque barks for the next ten minutes. However, its riffing becomes very noticeably similar throughout, which is so frustrating because everything else is just on point. The instruments are mixed perfectly for a sludge album, with its vocals sitting buoyantly above the guitars and cymbals, sounding absolutely perfect. However it begins to hear like the Aeolian era The Ocean album that Staps and co. decided not to make by the time Prelapsus hits you. Still, another Aeolian era The Ocean album is always welcomed in my book, but this album is not as good as it could have been.
34. Rotten Sound - Cursed
Wow, what an experience. After being tossed around by Rotten Sound at the Finntroll and Ensiferum show I went to earlier in the year, I realized that I really fucked up by not making sure I knew all there was to know about this act before I went. Their 27 minute beast Cursed is a death metal hole punched type of grindcore that goes and never stops going, with no time to catch your breath or think about what you're listening to. The production is a little out of left field for a grindcore album, with its guitars and drums rather clear in the mix, but what it allows for is a much more accessible release than a lot of purists would like. Still, its an album that reminds of Anaal Nathrakh's intensity that by the time the third track hits, the album is an unstoppable force traveling through your ears.
33. Vader - Welcome to the Morbid Reich
As a pretty big Vader fan, I was a little disappointed with the Polish dudes' 2009 release Necropolis, and I really wanted their 2011 release to pick it up. I really didn't want one of the more consistent death metal acts since the 90's to drop off like I thought they were. However, where Necropolis was afraid to change pace in fear of being called soft, Welcome to the Morbid Reich diversified the Vader sound that was starting to sound stagnant. With Piotr busting out his usual throaty yelling sort of vocals, Vader created an album that displays their old sound of De Profundis with a refreshed and smoother feel than I thought you could get out of Vader this late into their career.
32. Russian Circles - Empros
Probably the album that took me out to a nice seafood dinner the most in 2009 was Russian Circles' Geneva, and after a long love affair with Geneva and its title track, I decided it was time to move on. However, that was luckily only a few months ago, and Russian Circles were just about to release their fourth album, Empros. Nat made the very appropriate comment that I think should be restated here with an addition. Enter = Station = Geneva = Empros. This band just doesn't give up on making cool album after cool album. The opening track 309 has a quicker tempo than most Russian Circles albums display, and Mládek displays a lighter side to the band than I thought was there while still dipping into the sort of heaviness that you expect from the band. The whole album seems to slope into a more ethereal ambient kind of sound, that takes you down from the high created by 309 and Mládek, ending the album in style with the classy Praise be Man. This is a band that will always give you what you need every two years, and I'm counting on them doing it again in 2013.
31. Krallice - Diotima
Similarly to Torn Beyond Reason, Krallice are one of the bands that are growing the black metal sound to encompass a much more progressive side to the genre's landscape. Although the sound catches a lot of hate, I think it adds depth to the black metal brand. In contrast to their previous self titled effort, Diotima displays a lot more of a Weakling sort of sound and a collection of better riffs that wasn't their on their earlier attempts at progressing the black metal sound. Krallice are often mentioned in the same breath as Liturgy, and their lyrics were pointed out to me as a little snobby and pretentious, however it seems to me that Diotima features a lot more of attempts at cool stanzas than pretentious lyrics. Still, Diotima is an album that's not easily breathed in all at once, and is one that even the most taken aback listener should give a few tries before discarding it as easily as an album such as Aesthetica.