Wednesday, January 17, 2007

top50 - the first batch

To re-activate the long-dormant too.many.records., nothing better than a list, for all you geeks like me out there.

In the next few weeks, I'll be telling you about my 50 favourite records of 2006. I hope you like it, and contribute with your agreements and disagreements, as well as your own lists!

Without further ado, the first 10:

41. sleepytime gorilla museum - 'grand opening and closing!'
Delightfully and endearingly oddball - if rock bands were boxes stored in the big rock warehouse, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum would be a grinning jack-in-the-box springing at you as soon as you open it. Inhabiting a warped mindspace similar to that of Fantômas, Mr Bungle or Primus, the music (not to mention the complex web of serious/jokey -you never know- lyrics!) in 'Grand Opening And Closing!' twitches its way from head-blowing heaviness ('1997') to creepy lullabies to gentle acoustic passages. Hell, they're even capable of belting out a potential radio hit, with the terribly catchy 'Sleep Is Wrong'. You never know what's next, but after a while you realize that whatever it is you're going to love it, because there is an underlying mazy structure to all this madness that makes it utterly compelling.

42. johnny cash - 'personal file'
Even though the 49 songs on this double-CD album were recorded between 1973 and 1982, they had been locked away in the man in black's House of Cash studio, in some boxes marked 'Personal File', and were only unearthed, as it were, in 2006, 3 years after his passing. Predating the spirit found in his Rick Rubin-produced final albums by over a decade, this personal file is a collection of hauntingly intimate songs, just the great man's voice and his guitar, complete with a few spoken introductions that make clear why some of these songs meant so much to him. An irresistible glimpse into the heart of Johnny Cash's immortal musical legacy.

43. god dethroned - 'the toxic touch'
After several years of good-to-excellent Slayer-like intense thrash, with a couple of essential records along the way (like 'Bloody Blasphemy'), these Dutch blasphemers have decided to shake it up a bit. In 'The Toxic Touch', they injected a lot more melody and a few changes in their writing style, with a less blastbeats and much more variety. While this kind of thing is usually a recipe for disaster if not thought out well, God Dethroned have pulled it off in great style. 'The Toxic Touch' exhales a miasma comparable to records like Kalmah's 'Swampsong' or Aura Noir's 'Deep Tracts Of Hell', punctuated all the way with infectiously melodic guitar leads for some really appealing dynamics. A resounding success.

44. callisto - 'noir'
If the likes of Isis or Neurosis are too oppressive for you but you'd still like to sample some quality post-rock, or whatever the term happens to be this week to define this kind of band, give these Finn boys a try. A bit like Pelican with vocals, 'Noir' builds on the wonderful 'True Nature Unfolds' with added chill-out bits, showing a jazzy side to Callisto's music hitherto unknown, while still maintaining the big riffs that they're capable of pulling out. Given their tender age, they are a great hope for the future.

45. lair of the minotaur - 'the ultimate destroyer'
'The Ultimate Destroyer' more or less embodies the true spirit of metal. By combining death metal, old thrash and doom in a powerful and tight cocktail, Lair Of The Minotaur are one of those bands that will make you headbang until your head falls off, but also whistle the groovy riffs afterwards in the shower. Their unashamed love for metal (the first song is called 'Juggernaut Of Metal', for god's sake) and the passion that was surely present in the making of this record shine through all the way.

46. dragonforce - 'inhuman rampage'
The London-based band (because it's hard to call a South Africa-Hong Kong-New Zealand-Ukraine-England collective 'British') is now suffering, from the rock and metal community, a bit of the backlash for all the unexpected success they have had in the past few years, but in this case it's totally unfair. Dragonforce deserve to be big. 'Inhuman Rampage' isn't as essential as their first two albums, but the excitement you can get from it is undeniable. The frantic speed, the rousing choruses and those impossible-looking Herman Li solos might not constitute the deepest, most meaningful music you've ever heard, but in terms of pure entertainment Dragonforce are basically unrivaled.

47. suffocation - 'suffocation'
It's always a great feeling when a band that has helped spawn an entire genre returns with good results, instead of just trying to re-hash old ideas and capturing long gone glory days. Such was the case with Suffocation. The death metal pioneers showed up again in 2006 as though they had never left. The self-title is a sign of how they don't need any frills or big fanfares, as long as they deliver what a death metal fan expects from them - crushing savagery. The insane speed, the inhuman precision and those vocals are still as essential to the more brutal-minded music fans as they have ever been.

48. boy omega - 'the grey rainbow'
From the bombast of the previous album to the diametrically opposite feeling - 'The Grey Rainbow' is an apparently unassuming little EP, which might remind you of what Bright Eyes used to sound like or what The Notwist sound like today. Martin Henrik Gustafsson (the man behind Boy Omega) is somewhat of a wizard, though, and his sparse and uncluttered melodies, with their gentle guitar pluckings and loose-feeling electronic bits, will soon find their way into both your brain and your heart.

49. bal-sagoth - 'the chtonic chronicles'
Age doesn't seem to fade away the bombast and dramatic sense of these brits, and this is as grandiose as any of their previous efforts. Famous for their mile-length song titles, they should be famous instead for some of the most epic sounding music ever to grace the ears of those more inclined to all things Lord of the Rings (and suchlike). the swirling keyboards, the theatrical recitations of vocalist Byron, the galloping charges - it's all there. Might be cheesy, but it's great fun too.

50. the mars volta - 'amputechture'
Chapter three in Cedric and Omar's post-At The Drive-In life is where The Mars Volta finally feel like a real band, instead of little schizophrenic snips of potential brilliance. On the contrary - the songs here are huge, not only in length but in scope, with an almost Isis-like sense of space but more jazzy and quirky. Or, horror of horrors, even poppy sometimes. The most charming thing about The Mars Volta is their ability to morph together different times, as if they're updating Yes, Led Zeppelin and King Crimson to the noughties. Maybe they really are.


  1. Welcome back! I was starting to get worried ....(cough,cough) ... It always amazes me just how much metal is out there, let alone music in general. I've always appreciated your variety of choices ... a well rounded blend of interesting music. I look forward to the rest of the list. And thanks for including Bal-Sagoth into this list. Truly a brilliant original band.

  2. hey, thanks, dpth!

    it's nice to know that someone still remembers my humble blog. :P

    yeah, work got too hectic there for a while, but i expect to keep this properly alive from now on.

    i've been reading yours frequently too, great stuff in there. it's always a good place to find out folk-y music in particular.

    hope you enjoy the rest of the list!

  3. Welcome back. I cringed when I heard Dragonforce. I didn't know Virgin Steele had a new album. I liked them some way back in the 80's.

  4. nice to see you again, mark. :)

    yeah, dragonforce is a rather love-it-or-hate-it affair. the first two albums are better, anyway.

    give the new virgin steele a listen, though. they've maintained their style, while getting better with age.

  5. Anonymous12:53 am

    I was wondering where you got to. Glad to see you come back with this awesome list.

  6. I reiterate... That God Dethroned album is great, and Lair of the Minotaur. That's the shit right there.