Monday, February 11, 2008

Best of 2007 - from #45 to #41

45. red harvest - 'a greater darkness'
[review published on issue #34 of Unrestrained! magazine, slightly adapted for too.many.records.]
Always a left-field band, Red Harvest have gone one step further into the unusual with this. These Norwegians have been refining their innovative industrialized thrash for well over a decade now, with Cold Dark Matter their most accomplished work to date, but A Greater Darkness is one mean motherload of an album that eclipses everything they’ve done so far in terms of sheer quality. The most phenomenal difference towards the other albums is the threatening, poisonous atmosphere of terror that stains the whole thing. The darkness on this album is indeed much greater than before – check out the coiled, about-to-explode venom of 'Hole In Me' or the dissonant creepiness of 'Dead Cities' for textbooks examples of sonic evil. This unique ambiance is achieved through a slightly different approach to songwriting, as the sound feels much less mechanical than before. The industrial vibe is still present, but invaded by an organic, (post-)human feel. Put it this way: if Red Harvest were a mean robot before, now they are a killer cyborg. This makes the album much more challenging and, seemingly paradoxically, more immediate than any previous work. The immediacy of the beats and the shredding riffs is counter pointed by the insidious melodies and pounding cybergrooves that lodge themselves in your brain after a few listens. The final icing on the cake is 'War Themes', a military march of a song, constituted mostly of sampling and percussion, that is simply obliterating.

Red Harvest - 'Hole In Me'

44. dhg - 'supervillain outcast'
DHG, for those not in the know, is how Dødheimsgard are now known. When I interviewed main man Vicotnik last year he told me that the name change was no big deal. It’s a supplement, we never stopped being Dødheimsgard, we just have two names now,. no big philosophy behind it, he told me, but maybe subconsciously that was done to shed just a little bit of the pressure that was on this band to deliver something. Okay, so this is not a million disc selling band, but within our little world of strange music, the name Dødheimsgard carries a little weight, on the strength of the revolutionary work they left almost a decade ago when, due to millions of problems, the band went on hold for a while. '666 International', for example, was the blueprint for a whole new world of modern, futuristic post-black metal that never really materialized, as the few bands that seemed destined to spearhead it either disappeared, broke up or went somewhere else musically (Thorns, Satyricon, Arcturus). It still sounds wonderfully fucked-up and absolutely brilliant to this day. Well, 'Supervillain Outcast' won't have the same kind of impact, probably, but it's still miles ahead of most supposedly forward-thinking bands. Vicotnik overhauled the whole line-up, arming himself with new vocalist Kvohst, who was also in Code, along the way (and who has since left the band, sadly), but it's the unpredictable quality of the music that still carries the band's sound. The album, and DHG in general, is not as crazy as every review tries to make them seem, but the constant wall of electro-black intensity makes the album so unusual that you won't even know how to categorize it, let alone appreciate it fully. Genius, still, after all these years.

43. coliseum - 'no salvation'
[review published on issue #9 of Rock-A-Rolla magazine]
The fact that Ryan Patterson, vocalist/guitarist for this Louisville band sounds just like Agnostic Front’s Roger Miret is true, but probably misleading as a means to define the band, so let us not reduce them to just that. They do have a general musical framework close to Agnostic Front and a few other hardcore classics, but the great thing about Coliseum is that they sound incredibly angry, more so than most bands in recent memory. The intensity levels throughout the entire album (no, there is no respite) reach worrying levels sometimes, as the average breakneck speed increases even more to help get their desperate message across – there are no rose-tinted glasses here, as the band pummel into you the world like it really is. Some of the songs are metallic enough to recall equal parts of Black Flag and Motörhead at their grittiest, but despite this fiery aggression, there are as many chances to sing along as there are to headbang. Coliseum never lose their sense of melody in the eye of each of these 13 storms, and as such some great hooks are thrown aplenty throughout. When a band has this much to get off their chest, and when it’s done with this much honest, genuine passion, it’s easy to overlook the songwriting element, and the great thing about ‘No Salvation’ is that underneath the violence you have songs, so the album won’t last you for two weeks, it will last you for years. Unassumingly so, this might help shape the more traditional-influenced hardcore to come.

Coliseum - 'Funeral Line'

42. atavist - 'ii: ruined'
Lights go down and then everyone dies. Slowly, painfully, drowned in the sorrow of their worthless, miserable existence. Grrrrrrrrrrurrrrrrrrghdooooooom.

Atavist - 'II'

41. candlemass - 'king of the grey islands'
After yet another bout of Messiah Marcolin insanity, Candlemass, the legendary doom giants who seemed completely revitalized after 2005's crucially awesome self-titled album, were left with an album and no vocalist. A great album, on top of it, with some soaring songs and some near-psychedelic arrangements thrown in among the traditional Candlemass doom that has inspired so many of the bands that we currently listen to. The chosen man couldn't be more appropriate for the job, or more surprising - Rob Lowe, singer for the-other-best-doom-band-in-the-world, Solitude Aeturnus, a band that very fortunately he did not leave. That problem solved, you get everything you usually want from your Candlemass albums, Leif Edling's crushing grooves, even spiced up a bit by those elements. Take the instantaneously recognizable as prime Candlemass 'Devil's Seed', or the dreamy, unusual feel of 'Of Stars And Smoke'. So why isn't this in the top 5, then? Well, because, although it stands head and shoulders above most competition, 'King Of The Grey Islands' has moments where Candlemass doesn't really sound much like Candlemass for real. An adaptation for which there was no time or will would have benefited Lowe as well, as it seems that he's trying to modulate his talents to a structure that was already written for someone else. So, Leif and the boys, here's the deal - 'King Of The Grey Islands' is great, but since we know that the next album, thought since the beginning with Rob in mind and with a better environment around the band, should be a motherload of doom, we'll leave this one here in this already very respectable position and cross fingers. Deal?

Candlemass - 'Of Stars And Smoke'


  1. Great Blog!
    I'm gonna keep reading these "Best Of 2007" to aid my search for great music.

    Thanks for doing this!

  2. That's cool, Charles! Hope you discover cool things here. :)