Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Best of 2007 - The action is go!

I've been obsessively dedicated to music since I was a wee lad, and being extra anal about it I have naturally compiled every kind of list possible about music. But my most meaningful lists have always been the end of year ones, to the point that my, erm, liberal updating of this space has been greatly saved by these lists. It's that time again (ie, January), and during the painful task of compiling 2007's list I realized that this has been of the best years for good music, in the sheer amount of quality releases, in recent memory. Doing those top20s that the magazines I write for have asked me was hellish. Stretching it to top50 for too.many.records. alleviated a bit but was still unthinkable in terms of what it would still leave out. Therefore, dear friends, I present you my insane top100 of 2007. And you know what? There's still a bunch of unmentioned ones that I hate to leave out. That's how cool 2007 was.


100. seahorse - 'i'll be new'
'I'll Be New' feels like a genuine musical experience just like they used to make 'em in the old days. A voice and a guitar recorded live in the studio, a backing piano and a little bit of electronics which really add to the atmosphere, and you have a record that feels like that old pair of sneakers that you won't wear out anymore but still keep to wear around the house because they're so comfortable and friendly. There is pain and heartbreak in these lyrics, of course, as there usually is in the music that comes straight from the heart, but the soft hush of the remarkably sharp and evocative lyrics and the occasional foot-tapping moment like the wonderful 'The Devil & I' make for a truly enjoyable experience and an album you'll return to more times than you might think at first.

Seahorse - 'The Devil & I'

99. in vain - 'the latter rain'
Getting people like Jan K. Transeth from the legendary In The Woods... and Kjetil Nordhus from, curiously enough, In The Woods... sort-of-follow-up-band Green Carnation, is a bold step for a band as young as In Vain. Yes, they are both amazing vocalists who greatly enrich the tracks they contribute to in 'The Latter Rain', but they also bring their baggage with them and all the drooly obsessive fans of those bands (including me, especially of In The Woods...) expecting huge things. That's the one thing you have to get over when facing this album, and it's not easy, especially since it sounds so bland on the first couple of listens. Once you do stick to it, however, the depth and subtlety of songs like 'In The Midnight Hour' or 'As I Wither' become apparent, and In Vain emerge as a sort of mix between Opeth's less flamboyant moments and those typically Finnish dark metal bands like Dark The Suns, for example. The quality of this debut is not always constant, but there is such a wealth of riches and potential in these guys that they will surely be on the must-watch radar in the next few years.

In Vain - 'In The Midnight Hour'

98. mithras - 'behind the shadows lie madness'
It doesn't have the same impact as their previous album did (which was not their debut, but since 'Forever Advancing ...... Legions' went by largely unnoticed it almost feels as if it was), but 'Behind The Shadows Lie Madness' is still a gigantic piece of work by the Leon Macey/Rayner Coss duo. If anything, the lesser impact is that because this new album doesn't stray too much from the path carved by its predecessor, but that's by no means a bad thing. First, because it's not a path well-traveled. Mithras' take on death metal is rather unique, a sort of Morbid Angel out in space, expansive, with crazy time signatures and a stellar technical level that allows them to turn beasts like 'The Twisted Tower' or 'To Fall From The Heavens' into mind-expanding rollercoasters of spaced-out brutality.

Mithras - 'The Twisted Tower'

97. paradise lost - 'in requiem'
Some will argue that this approach to the spirit of 'Icon' that has been going on since the last self-titled album is a sign that the Yorkshire gloomsters are running out of experimentation ideas, but a) with Paradise Lost, some will always argue and b) it's refreshing to see these guys not going all exploratory on us. Not that it was a bad thing - it's horrible to refer to this new phase of Paradise Lost as a 'return to form'. If you are just a bit open-minded in your tastes, it's easy to see that they have never really not been on form, if you kindly ignore the one bland and uneventful album of their career, 'Believe In Nothing'. 'In Requiem' doesn't reach the heights of the Paradise Lost classics of the early and mid-nineties, but that's not really the point, and times have changed anyway. It is a much better effort than the last album, however, and it's a great sign that the band is getting this vibe down much better. Melancholic and surprisingly hard in places, 'In Requiem' marks yet another valid step in the illustrious career of Paradise Lost.

Paradise Lost - 'Prelude To Descent'

96. elend - 'a world in their screams'
This French/Austrian trio keep releasing material that shows that you don't have to do faster-than-thou hard-as-fuck satan-metal to still produce harrowing, scary and downright intense music, and 'A World In Their Screams' is the latest example of that. They would infinitely deserve more recognition, but it's a hard middle-space to be in - Elend are too dark and too scary for the 'regular' audiences and too guitar-less for the 'regular' metalhead. The few lucky ones who manage to get their heads round this, though, are in for one hell of a ride. With over twenty musicians contributing to the work of the core three members, 'A World In Their Screams' is an unsettling experience, bombastic, orchestrated, with choirs and spoken passages clashing quite violently with shrieking violins, pounding percussive elements and pure noise, but somehow it all manages to fit together in one big, spooky world of darkness.

Elend - 'La Carrière D'Ombre'

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