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  #31  
Old 12-30-2009, 07:36 PM
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Top Ten Live Performances of 2009

A band's worth can't always be determined by the strength of a live performance, but it certainly helps. Of the fifty-two live sets I saw this year, these ten stood out the most.

10. Baroness - Cincinnati, OH - July 7: Although Baroness were slightly underwhelming when I saw them play with Opeth and High on Fire last December, six months of practice, a member change, and a new album gave them the edge necessary to blow my mind.

9. Overmars - Dayton, OH - August 17: For the last time I was able to go to the Dayton Dirt Collective (probably my all-time favorite venue) before I started school in August, this French doom metal band destroyed my expectations and played disturbing footage of a stillbirth, among other things, on a makeshift projection screen made of a bed sheet. Raw as fuck, gritty as the streets outside the venue.

8. Matisyahu - Columbus, OH - July 15: The Hasidic reggae-rap-rock sensation dragged his songs out a little bit too long at times - probably thanks to the fact that Dub Trio is his new backing band - but incredible renditions of "Youth" and "One Day", as well as the fact that my brother and I were pulled on stage during the encore along with much of the front of the building to dance on stage made this show extremely memorable.

7. Between the Buried and Me - Louisville, KY - September 30: BTBAM are an incredible live band, and of the three times I've seen them (so far), this was by far the best set they put on, thanks mostly to the fact that they played all of their best songs as a setlist. All Bodies, Selkies, Obfuscation, Foam Born, and White Walls. That's unstoppable.

6. Cynic - Cincinnati, OH - April 26: DragonForce were a hell of a lot of fun, but they had an unbelievable act to follow after Cynic spent forty minutes on the stage dropping the jaws of every open-minded member of the audience. The band's stage presence has been criticized, but the music of Cynic is timid and complex. If they ran around the stage while they played, it would look ridiculous. The stage presence fit the setlist, which was flawlessly executed. Welcome back, guys.

5. Rob Zombie - Columbus, OH - November 25: It's hard to walk out of a Rob Zombie concert without having a smile glued to your face for the next several days. No one has a better stage presence as a frontman, no one aside from Iron Maiden puts more sweat and energy into a show, and no one (again, aside from Iron Maiden) has a more impressive stage show. Simply amazing every time.

4. Jucifer - Bloomington, IN - October 31: I couldn't have possibly had a more evil Halloween if Satan himself rose up from his abode to say hello. Amber Valentine and Edgar Livengood did things on that stage that should be illegal. In fact, domestic abuse, which may have been happening, is illegal. The music shifted between doom and grind and punk and was essentially one hour-long piece. I still can't quite describe what was going on up there, but it was a night to remember.

3. Clutch - Cincinnati, OH - July 7: The closest equivalent I can think of to what Clutch did at this show (my fourth time seeing them) is if Tiger Woods took bogeys on the front nine then came back and won the tournament. Clutch opened their set with the snail-paced "Who's Been Talking?" in the biggest "wtf" moment of the year in concerts, but stormed back with rarities like "(In the Wake of the) Swollen Goat" and incredible set closer "Animal Farm" to put on one of the best shows of the year. It's almost like they were challenging themselves to win the crowd back after opening with such a bizarre song. They pulled it off, to say the least.

2. Grayceon - Columbus, OH - August 11: I have to admit, I was knocked the fuck down by this progressive metal trio. When you manage to blow Kenoma and Giant Squid off the stage, you've done something right. That something happened to be making an electric cello (!) the centerpiece of all of your songs and playing with a sense of chemistry unmatched by any other trio not called Rush. This entire set was incredible, and inspired me to immediately buy their discography and slap their logo sticker on my notebook. (Side note: Jackie Perez-Gratz is a very underrated candidate for "hottest chick in metal," and unlike someone like Cristina Scabbia, it's far less for her looks (although she is quite attractive) and more for the amazing command she has over her instrument and the way she simply owns the stage, and from a chair, no less.)

1. Carcass - Cleveland, OH - March 14: This is top three live sets of all time material without a doubt. After arriving late, we still managed to end up right against the stage, eyeball to eyeball with one Mr. Bill Steer for the rest of the evening. From that position, we saw Carcass remind us how they reinvented death metal five times in their five album career, blowing through key cuts from each disc and slaying every naysayer and infidel in the room in the process. Standing face to face with Bill Steer while he unleashed from the bowels of his lungs the opening verse to "Exhume to Consume" pretty much made the rest of the year worth living. Keep on rotting, indeed.
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  #32  
Old 12-30-2009, 11:11 PM
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I was a bit underwhelmed by Cynic. I get the whole "stage antics aren't their thing", thing - but still. I don't know. I'm a big fan of theirs, but they didn't exactly blow me away live. They were "just OK" to me. My opinion.

However...

I guess I gotta go see Jucifer after all.
Clutch is always the shit, so that one you get for free.
Yay, Grayceon!
Carcass was bad as balls.

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  #33  
Old 12-30-2009, 11:16 PM
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Originally Posted by Natrlhi View Post
I was a bit underwhelmed by Cynic. I get the whole "stage antics aren't their thing", thing - but still. I don't know. I'm a big fan of theirs, but they didn't exactly blow me away live. They were "just OK" to me. My opinion.
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  #34  
Old 12-31-2009, 08:25 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Natrlhi View Post
I was a bit underwhelmed by Cynic. I get the whole "stage antics aren't their thing", thing - but still. I don't know. I'm a big fan of theirs, but they didn't exactly blow me away live. They were "just OK" to me. My opinion.

However...

I guess I gotta go see Jucifer after all.
Clutch is always the shit, so that one you get for free.
Yay, Grayceon!
Carcass was bad as balls.

That's all. (Miranda Priestly)
@ Cynic: I'm seeing them again in January and I expect to have an amazing time, so whatever.

@ Jucifer: Yeah, you kind of do. I think I paid 7 dollars. It's worth at least that.

@ Clutch: LISTEN UP YOU STINKING MAGGOTS, et al.

@ Grayceon:

@ Carcass: One of the best nights of my life, no exaggeration.

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Old 12-31-2009, 09:16 PM
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Five Honorable Mentions (In Alphabetical Order Only)

Dream Theater - Black Clouds & Silver Linings

After 2007's wretched Systematic Chaos, I had nearly lost faith in Dream Theater. So much, in fact, that I was hesitant to even listen to Black Clouds & Silver Linings when it came out. When I did, I was struck by a few things; primarily, holy shit, this is the best thing they've done since Scenes from a Memory and holy shit, these lyrics are awful in an awesome way. Some of the songs still drag on a little bit too long for their own good (four of the six tracks clock in at over twelve minutes), but the music is solid all the way through, and every last song has at least one revelatory moment that proves that Dream Theater has still got it.
Key tracks: "A Nightmare to Remember", "A Rite of Passage", "The Count of Tuscany"

Immortal - All Shall Fall

Well, it would have been nice if the seven-year hiatus from black metal's grimmest warriors would have yielded their masterpiece, but All Shall Fall is a more than competent album, and easily the most rockin' maelstrom of sound the Norwegian trio has ever committed to tape. The trend has been continuing since the release of Damned in Black, but this is the culmination of the original epic black metal sound of Immortal's fusion with thrash and classic heavy metal. From the moment that Abbath first offers clean vocals in the title track, it's clear that this is going to be a winter for the ages.
Key tracks: "All Shall Fall", "Norden on Fire", "Unearthly Kingdom"


Shrinebuilder - Shrinebuilder

Supergroups this intense are rarely a good idea, but the combination of Scott "Wino" Weinrich, Scott Kelly, Al Cisneros, and Dale Crover turned out to be exactly the stoner doom powerhouse that it is on paper on record, and the quartet's debut rumbles earth and shakes bowels effortlessly. Elements of Earth, Neurosis, Om, The Hidden Hand, and others from the members' impressive collective resume are all present, but the band has already managed to forge a unique sound all its own, and the the whole package is awash in a sense of grandfatherly know-how that threatens to overwhelm any young bucks who think they can do this better.
Key tracks: "Blind For All to See", "Solar Benediction", "The Architect"

St. Vincent - Actor

American singer-songwriter Annie Clark has been favorably compared to Kate Bush in numerous music publications over the past year, but even that gushing compliment sells her versatility a little bit short. Easily one of the best lyricists in the business right now, Clark (under her stage name St. Vincent) uses ordinary emotions to express complex issues with an arsenal of vocal acrobatics hardly seen outside of the classical discipline and a huge palette of dark rock, pop, and electronica to drape it over. Perhaps the album title is the most telling thing of all: Annie Clark is all of the people she sings about, and she is none of them.
Key tracks: "Laughing With a Mouth of Blood", "Actor Out of Work", "The Party"


Struck By Lightning - Serpents

Blame personal bias if you must, but I can't help but think that Greg Lahm (formerly of Mouth of the Architect, now the frontman for Struck By Lightning) is going to be one of the most important dudes in underground metal in the coming years. With this record, he shows his ability to seamlessly transition from playing syrupy, sludgy post-metal to playing pissed-off crust and D-beat without losing the lessons he learned in the process as the MOTA influence seeps in on a number of the songs. It's also very encouraging that this album is the band's debut; it seems unlikely that they won't dominate the Ohio metal scene over the next decade.
Key tracks: "The Watchful Eye", "Supercell", "Becoming Earth"
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  #36  
Old 01-01-2010, 07:17 PM
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Top Ten Albums of 2009

10. Baroness - Blue Record

It might not be as instantly soul-owning as Red Album, but once you give it a few (dozen) spins, the greatness of the new album by Savannah prog-sludge monsters Baroness begins to reveal itself. The leitmotif recurring throughout the album is immensely satisfying, and the songs work with their interludes and intros, making them a part of the experience rather than a useless track that earns a skip every play. Boiled down to its essence, Blue Record is a celebration of the album as it once was, and it seems to spell great things for the future of its creators.
Key tracks: "A Horse Called Golgotha", "The Gnashing", "The Sweetest Curse"


9. Nile - Those Whom the Gods Detest

2007's Ithyphallic, while still awesome at times, can be regarded as a misstep by the best band in death metal today, South Carolina's unstoppable, Egpyt-obsessed trio Nile. Those Whom the Gods Detest sets them firmly back on the right path (left handed though that path may be). Everything that one might seek in a Nile album is here in droves: the Egyptian chant choir vocals, the unusual instrumentation, the brutal vocals, the PhD-level lyrics and liner notes, the light-speed guitars and drums, the unparalleled lead playing of Karl Sanders. It's all here, and it's all as good as it's ever been. The gods may detest them, but no sane death metal fan should after hearing this.
Key tracks: "Kafir!", "Those Whom the Gods Detest", "Permitting the Noble Dead to Descend Into the Underworld"


8. Mastodon - Crack the Skye

When a band puts out what is easily the worst album they've ever done and it still cracks the top ten in a hyper-competitive year, you know you're looking at one of the greatest bands ever. Mastodon stripped away a lot of the heaviest elements of their sound and attacked their newest full-length with a prog-drenched, clean-vocals-only approach, to startlingly terrific results. What it lacks in the balls-out metal of the previous three albums it makes up for with its moments of melodic beauty and epic scale. Depending on my mood, there are between three and six masterpieces on this seven-track album, the transition to the band's new style appearing to have gone off without a hitch. Long live the '90s Bulls of modern metal, and may they forever rock.
Key tracks: "The Last Baron", "Oblivion", "The Czar"


7. Propagandhi - Supporting Caste

It would be easy to point to this record as the token non-metal album in my top ten, but it's possible that that isn't totally accurate. While it's true that Propagandhi are known for their stripped-down political punk, this album is without a doubt their most polished and actually has lots of fantastic riffs that wouldn't seem out of place on a new Slayer album - you know, if Slayer were still any good. Back in the early 80s, metal used to wear its punk influences on its sleeve, so it's nice to see punk returning the favor, and even though the politics in the lyrics are sometimes spread on a little bit too thick for my liking, there's still a level of poetic brilliance there that can hardly be rivaled in music today.
Key tracks: "Dear Coach's Corner", "Supporting Caste", "Potemkin City Limits"

6. Wolves in the Throne Room - Black Cascade

I've said it before and I'll say it again: the past decade has proven that, in faux-evolutionary terms, black metal has proved itself remarkably adaptable, whereas death metal has by and large proven itself to be a dinosaur with little to offer except more brutality, more technicality, and more tepid attempts at fusing the two. A band like Wolves in the Throne Room highlight this phenomenon all too well. In 1994, a band that fused elements of post-rock with traditional black metal, lacked a bass player, worshiped the environment, and exclusively wrote ten-minute-plus songs would never be able to exist. In 2009, they do exist, and they're perhaps the best black metal band on the planet right now. With yet another near-perfect album now under their belts, it's becoming hard to imagine a world without them.
Key tracks: "Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog", "Ex Cathedra", "Ahrimanic Trance"

5. My Dying Bride - For Lies I Sire

There's not a whole lot of metal bands whose resurgences can be described with the phrase "thank God they brought back a full-time violinist, that was just the shot in the arm they needed to make their masterpiece." For My Dying Bride, that pretty much covers it. I'm all about their classic Turn Loose the Swans and The Angel and the Dark River albums, and I'm even pretty much in love with their 21st century gothic doom metal albums, but the new record from the saddest men and women in Britain is probably their best yet from my perspective. Aaron Stainthorpe's vocals are more tortured than they've been in a decade, violins are taking back some of the leads from the guitars, and comparisons can accurately be drawn to sources so diverse as Swans and Iron Maiden. If you're a fan of My Dying Bride's previous work, it really doesn't get much better than this.
Key tracks: "Santuario di Sangue", "Fall With Me", "Death Triumphant"

4. Redemption - Snowfall on Judgment Day

Big-name traditional progressive metal is, for all intents and purposes, in the doldrums right now. Queensryche are releasing mid-tempo propaganda for the troops, Dream Theater and Symphony X think they should be emulating Metallica and Pantera respectively (with the new DT as a notable exception), Evergrey is a shell of their former self, and Fates Warning are recording nap-time prog of the first order. The rush of adrenaline that the genre so desperately needs has arrived in the form of California's Redemption. Now, I don't typically go for this kind of uber-melodic, clean-vox-only metal - Jeff Teets Music, as only those in the know are allowed to call it - but this is a really tremendous album on every level. Also, it earns the unofficial title of Coldest Non-Black Metal Album Cover, which should definitely count for something.
Key tracks: "Black and White World", "Love Kills Us All/Life In One Day", "Walls"

3. Slough Feg - Ape Uprising!

Massive credit has to be laid on Slough Feg, the best traditional metal band on the planet, for taking a concept that could have been so goofy and making it so incredible and not the least bit contrived. This loose concept album can be summed up pretty well by one of its lyrics: "We shared your ancestors/You kept us caged like monsters." That's right, folks: Slough Feg have recorded a revenge fantasy from the perspective of apes! Taking their cues from the less ubiquitous St. Vitus and Thin Lizzy rather than Sabbath, Maiden, and Priest, the California quartet has created a true gem for their previously somewhat inconsistent career. It's not even impossible that this is the best traditional heavy metal album since Judas Priest unleashed Painkiller. Unlikely, but not impossible.
Key tracks: "Ape Uprising", "Simian Manifesto", "The Hunchback of Notre Doom"


2. Between the Buried and Me - The Great Misdirect

Now, I've made it abundantly clear that 2009 is probably the best year for music in my time as an active listener and seeker of tunes, but only this album and the one outranking it left me unconscious on the ground from a tidal wave of awesome. Every moment of the new opus from BTBAM (and would-be magnum opus if it weren't for the somehow even more awesome Colors) is incredible. Despite throwing seemingly every curveball that exists at some point in their previous career, they throw at least two dozen new ones on this record. They play an admittedly throw-shit-at-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks style, but it would be wrong to fault them for it because it works so damn well. If I could find a criticism to offer I would, but I really can't. Keep doing what you do, boys.
Key tracks: "Obfuscation", "Desert of Song", "Fossil Genera - A Feed From Cloud Mountain"


1. Cobalt - Gin

My next post will offer a lot more insight on the record, but I'll give you a few words to hold you over. Ugly. Grim. Raw. Fucked-up. Dark. Classic.
Key tracks: "Gin", "A Starved Horror", "Arsonry"

Dishonorable mentions:
Green Day - 21st Century Breakdown
Queensryche - American Soldier
Slayer - World Painted Blood
Heaven & Hell - The Devil You Know
Pestilence - Resurrection Macabre
3 Inches of Blood - Here Waits Thy Doom
Sonata Arctica - The Days of Grays
Porcupine Tree - The Incident

These albums all basically sucked. None of these have more than one song that I genuinely like.
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  #37  
Old 01-01-2010, 07:43 PM
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Pestilence - Resurrection Macabre
;_; Should I even bother?
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  #38  
Old 01-01-2010, 07:44 PM
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;_; Should I even bother?
Maybe it's similar to the old, old shit, but it's nothing like Spheres or Testimony of the Ancients, and imo, it totally blows.
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  #39  
Old 01-02-2010, 09:49 AM
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Maybe it's similar to the old, old shit, but it's nothing like Spheres or Testimony of the Ancients, and imo, it totally blows.
It's actually VERY different from the old stuff, but in my opinion it was surprisingly good, considering Martin van Drunen isn't on it. It's heavy as fuck, I'll tell you that. It won't break my top ten or twenty or what have you, but IMO it definitely did not suck.

Ditto the last sentence in the above comment for World Painted Blood.
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  #40  
Old 01-02-2010, 02:42 PM
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struck by lightning kick ass. along with Lazarus A.D., best debut of the year. I wish more bands played music like this.

....are there any bands that play the same style of music as these guys? I would be very interested to know haha.
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