Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Best of 2007 - from #95 to #91

95. down - 'iii: over the under'
Never try / You either do it or don't waste your time, croons Phil Anselmo hoarsely on 'Never Try', one of the standout tracks from the third Down album. It shows the determination that's behind this album, a determination that's fueled by very real factors, especially for the former Pantera frontman - his battles with addiction, Dime's death and everything that happened up to that point, Phil is a man with demons and he's not afraid to look them in the eyes, and his vocal performance is intense, soulful and one of the best of his career. Katrina is also a theme hanging over the music created by all these New Orleans natives (Phil, Pepper from Corrosion Of Conformity, Kirk from Crowbar, Rex the ex-Pantera bassist and drummer Jimmy Bower who's been in nearly every known local band), and all these hardships give the hard rockin' blues of 'Over The Under' a very real and very gritty feeling. The music is right up there, too - from the 70s rock of 'N.O.D.' the the monstrous groove of 'I Scream', this is Down through and through and won't disappoint anyone looking for some honest, fat-groovin', heavy southern rock.

Down - 'Never Try'

94. nadja - 'touched'
It's drone, Jim, but not as we know it. Nadja's main man, Adrian Baker, has hit upon a formula that is nothing short of revolutionary, and will be more so once he develops it more. And he does get chances to, as his flow of releases is steady and fast-paced! But 'Touched' has been rather special among everything else Adrian has done recently. Withing the doom-applied-to-drone framework of Nadja, it's probably where you should start if you want to discover this band, or even a whole new genre. 'Touched' is drone for people who aren't into it (yet?), the swathes of saturated noisy textures always 'saved' by a sense of motion and of atmosphere that makes them listenable. Once these things start to settle through repeated listens, you start to perceive the enormous motion that's going on in these tracks, the underlying dynamics that build up tension and anxiety and then release them in huge cycles of sinister moods. To crown this achievement, there's 'Flowers Of Flesh', a total mindfuck of a 'song' that will be your best bet whenever you need to clear a room. Pay attention to Nadja in the future.

93. nifelheim - 'envoy of lucifer'
The Bröderna Hårdrock are back! The most famous evil twins of extreme metal, guitarist/bassist Tyrant and vocalist Hellbutcher, have returned along with the rest of Nifelheim which now includes former Entombed drummer Peter Stjärnvind, rechristened Insulter Of Jesus Christ! after his entrance into the Nifelheim kingdom. During this seven year gap, they did release a couple of split albums, tributes and a best-of, but not a proper full-length, which is what we really want from Nifelheim. The wait was long but worth it - 'Envoy Of Lucifer' is the most exciting record the band has done so far. A filthy, no-holds-barred blackthrashing attack (the mouldy crypt-like feel of 'Evil Is Eternal' has to be heard to be believed), it does nevertheless show an impressive level of musicality. Beneath the apparent simplicity and crudeness of the sound, there are real riffs and real structuring holding the songs together, something that is easily explained by the twins' love of hard rock and classic heavy metal, namely their obsession with Iron Maiden. At Wacken 2008, there'll be a chance to catch both Maiden and Nifelheim live, so let's all go and raise horns!

Nifelheim - 'Evil Is Eternal'

92. swallow the sun - 'hope'
After two sublime albums of Opeth-esque, growling doom metal, 'The Morning Never Came' and 'Ghosts Of Loss', these Finns have opened up their sound to let in a more fragile kind of melancholy. The crushing, hopeless doom riffs are still there, but now a little pale light is let in now and then with quieter passages and surprisingly delicate clean singing by vocalist Mikko Kotamäki. The appearance of Katatonia's Jonas Renkse on the song 'The Justice Of Suffering' speaks volumes, as they are one of the closest reference points to the hypnotic sadness that songs like the mesmerizing 'Don't Fall Asleep' are capable of creating. An elegant and subtle way to be doomed.

Swallow The Sun - 'Don't Fall Asleep'

91. type o negative - 'dead again'
Peter Steele and his cohorts' attitude on stage might be going a bit way too overboard with the don't-give-a-shit thing, but the fact is that, decadent (in a good or bad way, depends how you look at it) as they might look in that context, Type O Negative's albums have never wavered in quality. 'Dead Again' is yet another huge, hazy trip through the warped mind of Type O, with the by-now trademark overly long skip-me-if-you-dare song ('These Three Things'), the doomed-out rocker that always makes it to the airwaves (the apocalyptic 'The Profits Of Doom') and plenty of other drugged&doomed-Beatles sort of excursions in black humour, like 'Some Stupid Tomorrow' or 'September Sun'. Business as usual, and business is good.

Type O Negative - 'The Profits Of Doom'

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