Monday, February 18, 2008

Best of 2007 - from #40 to #36

40. vital remains - 'icons of evil'
I was utterly exhausted, devastated by three whole days of Wacken and a couple of hours away from a whole-day bus+train+plane ride without sleeping, but was still quite pissed off when Vital Remains didn't show up for their gig at the big German festival. And there's a reason - after 1349 played, I couldn't have imagined a better way to finish the whole thing off than a show heavily based on this ugly motherfucker of a record. 'Icons Of Evil' is the perfect companion piece to Deicide's trailblazing 'The Stench Of Redemption' (and Benton fronts the band here too). Everything that makes a good death metal album is here, as 'Icons Of Evil' is simultaneously vast and claustrophobic, sweeping and crushingly to-the-point. The tempo doesn't vary much from halfway through mid-pace and speedy, but this helps the stomping feel, as if each riff and each blastbeat is yet another nail hammered into the body of that christ dude. Perfect Erik Rutan production, typical Benton bile and stellar guitarwork from guitarists Tony Lazaro and Dave Suzuki make this a must-have for any self-respecting death metal fan.

Vital Remains - 'Hammer Down The Nails'

39. om - 'pilgrimage'
Al Cisneros says that there has only ever been one song that just varies throughout his career, and he didn't even write it, he just picked off the air what was already there. I guess that's really all you need to know about 'Pilgrimage', a fantastically peaceful and tranquillity-inspiring record that goes even further in the exploration of the immensely musical effects of humming and vibration than the debut 'Conference Of The Birds'. It's impossible to describe the sense of wonder and discovery that this album will have on you if you give it space and time to develop, so try it for yourself.

Om - 'Pilgrimage'

38. grinderman- 'grinderman'
It's easy to explain - Nick Cave grew a handlebar moustache, picked up a guitar and started writing sleazy rock songs on it, and joined fellow bad seeds Warren Ellis, Martyn P. Casey and mega-drummer Jim Sclavunos on a journey through the dirtiest corners in town. Grinderman's music is energetic like we hadn't heard Nick Cave in a long time. Not that his recent albums haven't been amazing, they have, but it's cool to have Nick sound dangerous again, and sometimes very funny too on top of it. The greasy essence of rock is perfectly captured on the immortal 'No Pussy Blues', but the whole album reeks of sex, drugs, sex, rock'n'roll and just a bit of sex. And judging by the Bad Seeds' latest album, this was a very good kick in Nick's career. Get it on, indeed.

Grinderman - 'No Pussy Blues'

37. hardingrock - 'grimen'
[review published on issue #161 of Terrorizer magazine]
Not that it wasn’t obvious, for the various things they already did while Emperor was 100% active, and for what they contributed to the band itself, but it has been interesting to realize how different the two main musical personalities of the historical Norwegian band really are. While Samoth is still firmly rooted in extreme metal, both as musician and label owner, Ihsahn has been exploring all the sounds that he touched upon already with his Emperor songwriting, if briefly. Due to its experimental nature mostly, his solo and project career has been rather hit and miss, but it has nevertheless been a brave and admirable one. Next up is Hardingrock, a name that sounds strange at first but has an easy explanation, for this band consists of Ihsahn on vocals and guitar, his wife (today known as Starofash) on keyboards, vocals and guitars and a Mr. Knut Buen on a traditional Norwegian instrument called a Harding fiddle. This instrument has a devilish connotation, as the church forbade them to enter churches in Norway, and Buen is one of the top players in the country. As you might have guessed by now, ‘Grimen’ is a folk album, but as with other Ihsahn projects, his penchant for symphonic metal and King Diamond wails plays a part, as well as some electronic dabblings in a couple of songs. For the most part this difficult mix works really well, but perversely it’s the purely folk bits of the album, when Ihsahn steps back into the background a tad (vocals included), that are really exciting, as they sound totally natural and flowing. The vocals are used mainly in a poetry-reciting fashion or softly sung at most, so the fiddle really is the driving force for the songs, and together with the ambient backdrops created by the Tveitan couple, it’s capable of creating diverse moods, either melancholically sad or drunkenly festive. Although unassuming in comparison with the rest, ‘Grimen’ is Ihsahn’s most genuine and consistent post-Emperor release so far.

Hardingrock - 'Fanitullen'

36. blood and time - 'untitled'
The Latitudes series has been entirely essential so far, with all the artists contributing to this series of limited releases containing exclusive material really capturing the spirit of it, regardless of their musical genre. Be it Shit And Shine, William Elliott Whitmore or Miasma & The Carousel Of Headless Horses, to mention but a few of the most impressive ones, every release has been astounding. However, Blood And Time's untitled five-song Latitudes album might be the best of them all so far. In case you're not aware, Blood And Time consists of Scott Kelly, Noah Landis and Josh Graham, all Neurosis members, and if that doesn't make you rush out and buy the damn thing already, something's wrong with you. Just in case you need more convincing, though - this untitled little gem is the lost link between Neurosis' 'The Eye Of Every Storm', Scott Kelly's solo album and Michael Gira's solo work. It's sombre, it feels quietly apocalyptic, as if you're watching the end of time in slow motion and it doesn't really feel so bad after all. It's like an acoustic 'Through Silver In Blood'. It's like Blood And Time's sole album 'At The Foot Of The Garden' after a bout of depression. I can go on, but you're wasting precious time that you should be using to order a limited copy of this.

Blood And Time - 'Silver Ocean Storm'

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