Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The list in full

For easy reference, here is the full best of 2007 list, with links for each album's review.

It's been some work, but great fun to do. From now on, the blog will resume its regular activity, with posting still frequent. Hopefully.

What did you think of it? What would you change for your own lists? Did you discover anything with my list? Let me know!

too.many.records. - best albums of 2007

Album Of The Year. Neurosis - 'Given To The Rising'
2. Black Sun - 'Hour Of The Wolf'
3. Ulver - 'Shadows Of The Sun'
4. Rotting Christ - 'Theogonia'
5. Primordial - 'To The Nameless Dead'
6. The Angels Of Light - 'We Are Him'
7. Cobalt - 'Eater Of Birds'
8. Deathspell Omega - 'Fas - Ite, Maledicti, In Ignem Aeternum'
9. Pig Destroyer - 'Phantom Limb'
10. High On Fire - 'Death Is This Communion'
11. Orthodox - 'Amanecer En Puerta Oscura'
12. Cephalic Carnage - 'Xenosapien'
13. Lake Of Tears - 'Moons And Mushrooms'
14. Mayhem - 'Ordo Ad Chao'
15. Caïna - 'Mourner'
16. Stinking Lizaveta - 'Scream Of The Iron Iconoclast'
17. Minotauri - 'II'
18. Portal - 'Outre''
19. Evoken - 'A Caress Of The Void'
20. Whiskey Priest - 'Hungry'
21. Naglfar - 'Harvest'
22. Alcest - 'Souvenirs D'un Autre Monde'
23. Dirge - 'Wings Of Lead Over Dormant Seas'
24. David Galas - 'The Cataclysm'
25. Watain - 'Sworn To The Dark' / IXXI - 'Assorted Armament'
26. Tombs - 'Tombs'
27. A Whisper In The Noise - 'Dry Land'
28. Wolves In The Throne Room - 'Two Hunters'
29. The Angelic Process - 'Weighing Souls With Sand'
30. The Great Deceiver - 'Life Is Wasted On The Living'
31. Impaled Nazarene - 'Manifest'
32. Marduk - 'Rom 5:12'
33. Melt-Banana - 'Bambi's Dilemma'
34. Big Business - 'Here Come The Waterworks'
35. Iron And Wine - 'The Shepherd's Dog'
36. Blood And Time - 'Untitled'
37. Hardingrock - 'Grimen'
38. Grinderman - 'Grinderman'
39. Om - 'Pilgrimage'
40. Vital Remains - 'Icons Of Evil'
41. Candlemass - 'King Of The Grey Islands'
42. Atavist - 'II: Ruined'
43. Coliseum - 'No Salvation'
44. DHG - 'Supervillain Outcast'
45. Red Harvest - 'A Greater Darkness'
46. L'Acephale - 'Mord Und Totsclag'
47. Reverend Bizarre - 'III: So Long Suckers'
48. Fall Of The Leafe - 'Aerolithe'
49. Antimatter - 'Leaving Eden'
50. Behemoth - 'The Apostasy'
51. Pantheon I - 'The Wanderer And His Shados'
52. Deathchain - 'Cult Of Death'
53. DoomSword - 'My Name Will Live On'
54. Dark Tranquillity - 'Fiction'
55. Entombed - 'Serpent Saints'
56. Exodus - 'The Atrocity Exhibition - Exhibit A'
57. El Hijo - 'Las Otras Vidas'
58. End Of Level Boss - 'Inside The Difference Engine'
59. Horna - 'Ääniä Yössä'
60. ManOwaR - 'Gods Of War'
61. Dark The SUns - 'In Darkness Comes Beauty
62. Jesu - 'Conqueror'
63. Decayed - 'Hexagram'
64. Hey Colossus - 'Project:Death'
65. The Ocean - 'Precambrian - Hadean/Archaean'
66. The Howling Wind - 'Pestilence & Peril'
67. Trap Them - 'Sleepwell Deconstructor'
68. Unsane - 'Visqueen'
69. Viaje a 800 - 'Estampida De Trombones'
70. Yakuza - 'Transmutations'
71. Scandinavian Music Group - 'Missä Olet Laila'
72. Shining - 'V: Halmstad'
73. Sigh - 'Hangman's Hymn'
74. Ghost Brigade - 'Guided By Fire'
75. Mael Mórdha - 'Gealtacht Mael Mórdha'
76. Ministry - 'The Last Sucker'
77. Anaal Nathrakh - 'Hell Is Empty And All The Devils Are Here'
78. Sear Bliss - 'The Arcane Odyssey'
79. Middian - 'Age Eternal'
80. Amorphis - 'Silent Waters'
81. Akercocke - 'Antichrist'
82. Blood Of The Black Owl - 'Blood Of The Black Owl'
83. Amber Asylum - 'Still Point'
84. Gravetemple - 'The Holy Down'
85. Helrunar - 'Baldr Ok Íss'
86. Boris With Michio Kurihara - 'Rainbow'
87. Bergraven - 'Dödsvisioner'
88. [Before The Rain] - '...One Day Less'
89. Ravencult - 'Temples Of Torment'
90. Wormwood - 'Starvation'
91. Type O Negative - 'Dead Again'
92. Swallow The Sun - 'Hope'
93. Nifelheim - 'Envoy Of Lucifer'
94. Nadja - 'Touched'
95. Down - 'Over The Under'
96. Paradise Lost - 'In Requiem'
97. Elend - 'A World In Their Screams'
98. Mithras - 'Behind The Shadows Lie Madness'
99. In Vain - 'The Latter Rain'
100. Seahorse - 'I'll Be New'

2007 album of the year

neurosis - 'given to the rising'
It was obvious, wasn't it? It's funny that you see Neurosis' name thrown around a lot these days (hell, I'm guilty of that in spades, I can find a Neurosis reference point in just about any album you can throw at me, it's like a superpower or something), but especially by people who can't find anything else to say about an ambient/drone/monolithic riffing/rather unclassifiable record and just lump everything together in the one-size-fits-all "oh, they sound like Neurosis and Isis and Cult Of Luna" dropword. Well, fuck that. Neurosis aren't a band to be lumped in with any other bands, good as they might be, or with any movements, or trends, or anything. As the most essential and primordially true musical entity of the post-Swans era, Neurosis are their own movement. They have followed their own individual way on every single thing they've done and that is why they are so revered, considered so influential and also so misunderstood. As with any musical force of this magnitude, with Neurosis it's much more than just the music. It's the vision, it's the path they take to follow that vision, it's the very resonance of their impact on everyone who has ever listened to them. It's that blood-curdling, soul-cleansing, 30-second scream on 'To The Wind', where Scott Kelly dregs up just about everything he has inside him and just throws it, well, to the wind, as it were.

Photo by Brendan Tobin PhotographyNo other band can even remotely reach the heights of intensity, of total immersion, of oneness with their own art in its every manifestation that this band does in every single release, in every single song, in every single note. Whereas regular-joe bands stagnate and good bands "evolve", Neurosis just keep adding and adding. There's no evolution, so to speak, in their manifestations, since way back on 'Souls At Zero' - what there is, is a spinning cycle of life, death, fire, soul, blood, tears and truth that keeps spinning around itself, somehow like the ouroboros on the cover of 'Through Silver In Blood', keeps devouring itself, but growing and expanding at the same time. 'Given To The Rising' is just that. There's everything - from ravaging fury to unavoidable pitch-black ambient passages, from blinding aggression to delicate darkness, from the fiery directness of 'Enemy Of The Sun' to the tribal mysticism of 'Through Silver In Blood' to the elegiac sombreness of 'The Eye Of Every Storm' to unique dymanics and developments in songs that are as ton-heavy as they are inspiring, moving and touching to behold. It's like going to the moon to watch the final apocalypse from there - you have all the slow, funereal atmospheres developing in front of you, but at the same time the entire event presents itself with the singular beauty of finality. And what you would hear in such a situation would surely be something akin to the first half of 'At The End Of The Road', one of the several tectonic movements on this album that will resonate long, long after you've heard them.

Needless to say, you need this. Everyone does.

Neurosis - 'To The Wind'

Monday, April 14, 2008

Best of 2007 - #2

2. black sun - 'hour of the wolf'
Here's the reason why some people call me a schizo. On the very podium of my favourite albums of last year, there's the direct leap from Ulver's album, the most quietly beautiful release of the year, to this - the most abrasively noisy piece of ugly dirtiness of the year. No subtlety, pleasantries or any kind of remorse in sight, Black Sun just beat you into a fucking pulp until you stop moving and then they keep doing it and doing it and doing it until they're satisfied with the mess you're in. And then they do it for a long while more. Many parts of songs consist of ripping the same THUD! chord out of their instruments for several minutes while spewing forth some words of hatred, while others ooze the sludgiest, grittiest riffs this side of fuck knows what. I had this to say when I reviewed the wretched thing for issue #154 of Terrorizer magazine, and it's pretty accurate still:

With James Plotkin doing the mixing and mastering of the album and Billy Anderson throwing in a mix as well for one of the songs, you can more or less form an idea of what to expect from Glasgwegians Black Sun. Despite that, you’ll never be totally prepared for the filth that’s coming. The easiest reference point would be the Swans’ early output, as the pounding, confrontational nihilism of ‘Hour Of The Wolf’ resonates with the same sense of foreboding evil. The dirty rumble also brings to mind the vicious menace of Eyehategod or Godflesh’s ‘Streetcleaner’, but Black Sun are operating primarily on their own twisted mindspace here. You just don’t fuck with Black Sun - witness in horror as ‘Krokodil’ spirals down into slower-and-slower repetition for the latter half of the song, cower in fear as the furious ‘Stuck Pig’ mercilessly beats you up and finally surrender to the slow-burning heaviness of the 18-minute long ‘A Deputation Of Spastics’. Essential stuff.

Put it this way. Black Sun have a t-shirt, that I admit I wear rather proudly, that says 'BLACK SUN.' on the front. On the back, the ugliest skull you've ever seen, black cross on its forehead, slapped in between the lettering 'YOU WON'T LIKE IT.'
Yeah, that sums it up.

Black Sun - 'Disintegrate To Khrist'

Best of 2007 - #3

3. ulver - 'shadows of the sun'
When I first conceived this list, 'Shadows Of The Sun' was well positioned, a top ten record, yes, but not this well positioned. However, in the few months since the first version of the list was dreamt up (and that's the coolest thing about lists that people who argue bitterly about them never seem to get - they're not set in stone, they evolve just like we do and any list is just a picture of a moment), this album has been steadily, quietly and very enjoyably listened to on an almost daily basis, and it seems set to stay that way. It's a perfect situation-album if there ever was one - it's the perfect album to put on when you're going to sleep, when you're on a long journey, when you want to make a certain kind of love to your partner, in the early morning when you feel like being quiet, you name it. As a mood-setting album, there are precious few, ever, that can match it. In yet another one in the long list of Ulver style-jumps (we're talking about a band that has made, among many many others, a phenomenally harsh trvekvlt album with 'Nattens Madrigal' or a trip-hop William Blake concept album with 'Themes From William Blake's The Marriage Of Heaven And Hell'), 'Shadows Of The Sun' was initially thought by its creators, and mainly by chief genius Kristoffer 'Garm' Rygg, as the most sombre album possible, with no percussion at all. Although it does feature a little bit of it, this is essentially the theme of this album - 'Shadows Of The Sun' doesn't drive, rock or pound. It floats. By night. Constituted by mostly plaintive passages, never flashy or flamboyant, at first seemingly freeform but with a very deep and slowly developing structure, it's a record that rarely jumps on you and makes you go 'whoa!', but when it's over, you'll probably breathe a long sigh, think about what you've just listened to, and finally draw out that long, inspired 'whoa' anyway. It's almost wrong to talk about this album in a technical way, in a 'this sounds like that' kind of way, because that's not the point. The piano, Garm's always softly and somberly (and soberly) sung voice, the electronic effects, the intelligent and purposefully vague (yet deeply affecting) lyrics, all of it combines into a complete whole that is one of the most quietly and enduring emotional musical experiences that I can think of. Ever. As a sort of bonus, although it does fit the continuity of the album perfectly (it's not the token 'last song', either), Ulver thrown in a cover of Black Sabbath's 'Solitude' that, well, has to be heard to be believed. If it's not the best cover version of any band, ever, it's damn well close. It's hard to pick apart an album that you won't avoid listening to all the way through, but songs like the simply beautiful 'All The Love' or the discouraged 'Funebre' will maybe be some of those that stand out more, but not one thing sounds out of place in this remarkable album. Is it beautiful, like music?, Garm near-whispers on 'Like Music'. And it's not. It's much more than that.

Ulver - 'All The Love'

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Best of 2007 - #4

4. rotting christ - 'theogonia'
This is it - this is the album that Rotting Christ have been hinting at for over a decade and a half. Although they are already part of extreme metal's history, with their historial (and very important for their time) first albums, most notably 'Non Serviam', way back from 1994 (this is how we music geeks notice that we're getting old!). However, the development of their career has seen them waver unstably between their mediterranean metal style (an expression which I don't really like, but it fits as a description somehow) and a mid-90s Century Media-style dark metal, with some good and some less good results. Even in the less inspired albums, though, there has always been something noteworthy, a couple of songs that have made us all wish that they would always be like that. 'Theogonia' marks Rotting Christ's 20th anniversary, and as a celebration, no fan could have wished for more. Sakis has revealed how grueling the preparation for this album has been, with over a year of writing, and it shows. Much like Primordial, funnily enough right down here in the list, 'Theogonia's songs are immense, broad in scope, but not as tormented as Primordial's - here, it's as if you were overseeing a vast green plain, while riding your horse. On the plain, however, there are also armies of evil monsters, because every song has, besides the epic feel, also a very vicious streak, with probably the nastiest riffs since that 'Non Serviam' landmark. Right from the pounding, catchy opener 'Sign Of Prime Creation', the whole album is just addictive. Sakis' deep but raspy growl has never sounded better or fuller, and the songs are so well crafted that a tribal call to arms like 'Nemecic' doesn't need more than 4 minutes and a bit to feel like a 15-minute opus. Like Nile, for instance, it's the way they weave everything into the very body of the songs themselves - there's no need of sword fight samples to make a song feel warlike, there's no need of ethnical instrumentation to give it that Eastern feel, there's no need of warriors' chants or operatics to give the songs a fanfare, boastful atmosphere. All you need is the music itself to make you feel that. They haven't lost their demonic streak either, just check out the short and furious 'Rege Diabolicus' for proof of that. Varied, exciting, rousing, inspiring and totally killer from start to finish - 'Theogonia' deserves the highest praise and demands that Rotting Christ be taken into consideration on the upper echelons of extreme music. Brilliant stuff.

Rotting Christ - 'Nemecic'

Friday, April 11, 2008


Quick break to tell you that most of the .mp3 from the entries previous to the last one (Primordial) aren't working due to a bandwidth issue, I'm in the process of migrating the files and I expect everything to be done in a few days. Apologies for that. In the meanwhile, entertain yourself with the teaser for the forthcoming SWR festival in Barroselas, in the north of Portugal. Don't miss it!

Best of 2007 - #5

5. primordial - 'to the nameless dead'
The growth of Primordial has been staggering. These Irish warriors are one of those bands that make you wonder how on earth they're going to make another album at each of their releases, such is the monumental scope of their music, and then a couple of years later they do and it all seems perfectly natural evolutionary step. Albums like 'Journey's End' or 'Spirit The Earth Aflame' were tremendous, and some of the few in metal history to actually merit the word 'epic' which is so casually thrown around these days. However, the one big leap in Primordial's career has been 'The Gathering Wilderness'. Their 2005 album is one of the finest musical creations of the 00s, a rousing and moving glorious lament that is equal parts standing-on-a-windswept-moor chest-beating inspiring as it is infinity-gazing Neurosis-like everything-metal. It collected album of the year accolades just about everywhere and it's a career-defining moment that is even more inconceivable to follow than any other of their albums. That is the huge burden hanging on 'To The Nameless Dead', and the finest compliment one could pay it is that it stands tall and proud while bearing that heavy load. As vocalist Alan Nemtheanga himself said when I interviewed him, "we might never write another 'The Coffin Ships'," in reference to the most moving track from 'The Gathering Wilderness', but that's where the great thing about 'To The Nameless Dead' resides, as it doesn't try to follow directly on the path of its illustrious predecessor. Whereas 'The Gathering Wilderness' was essentially Irish in its soul, and with a tragic, sombre lamentation environment, 'To The Nameless Dead' is more universal in its thematic appeal and more elegiac in its tone. As its title implies, these songs are a hommage to those who have fallen unsung, while bravely defending a land or a cause against a bigger, outnumbering enemy and severely negative odds. Nemtheanga has cited his travels as great sources of inspiration and that is very evident here, this album is the work of someone with a broad view both of history and of present times, because 'To The Nameless Dead' isn't just about old war tales - in fact, much of it can be taken as a metaphor for the globalized world that we are being fed in this very moment, as Alan himself has expressed in the interviews after the release of this album. This is not a gimmick, or an empty show of false integrity here - for something like this to work, it has to come straight from the heart and guts, and you don't get much more honest than this band. We're talking about a bunch of guys who recently refused a five-figure deal to use one of their songs as a ringtone, much to the bemusement of the phone company who had proposed them the deal. Alan's soulful, affecting screams, roars and spoken passages, the vastly evocative quality of the mournful and rousing music and the often chilling lyrics (that you may look away, but your children will not at the end of 'As Rome Burns'...), all of it makes this album a true experience that anyone with half a soul won't fail to be moved by. Where is the fighting man?, Alan howls during opener 'Empire Falls'. He's right here, Alan. Right here.

Primordial - 'As Rome Burns'

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Best of 2007 - #6

6. the angels of light - 'we are him'
Michael Gira and Jarboe have taken very different paths ever since the dissolution of the Swans, who are, along with Neurosis, the most seminal, important and underlyingly influential band of the last 20 years. Of course, being part of something so essential is both a blessing and a burden, as none of them will ever be seen outside the Swans context for the rest of their careers, especially by Swans loony-fanatics like yours truly. However, both are talented enough to not let that lingering shadow cloud their subsequent projects in a negative way. Jarboe has proceeded with her harrowing solo work, as well as collaborating with some of (alt-)metal's most gifted visionaries of today, like Neurosis themselves, Justin K. Broadrick (of Godflesh and Jesu fame), Cobalt and even Attila Csihar (Mayhem) and Phil Anselmo, who will guest on her next record. Gira, for his part, has wandered further into the left-field, both on the artists he signs on his wonderful Young God Records label (he discovered, among others, Devendra Banhart and Akron/Family) and on his own work. Although he has also collaborated with several people on other projects, as well as maintaining his brilliant solo career (his concerts in Portugal were one of the most intense musical experiences I have ever witnessed - and photographed), The Angels Of Light are nevertheless his main musical output these days. Quite close to the Swans on the first couple of albums, the project has veered towards a psychedelic folk direction with the inclusion of the Akron/Family members on the line-up, and the last album 'The Angels Of Light Sing "Other People"' was rather uncharacteristic of Michael's usual sound and mood, despite being a very good record. Not so with 'We Are Him', which is where the personality that this band has taken meets the horrifically apocalyptic feeling of the Swans, with gigantic results. Although I harbour quite a soft spot for 'Everything Is Good Here / Please Come Home', there is no doubt that this is the most accomplished Angels Of Light album to date - on it, Gira sounds absolutely in control of his talent and vision, draining himself to the bone of heavy emotions that are as intense as they are genuine. The opening pair of songs is one of the most potent in recent discographic memory. 'Black River Song' is a thundering pitch-black anthem, where Gira, prophet-of-doom-like, howls black river runs beneath this ground / black river flows forever but he makes no sound over a repetitive guitar line and a rhythmic drum pounding. It's eerie and there's no escaping from it, as 'Promise Of Water' delivers a similarly uneasy ambiance, despite the more acoustic calm of the song. 'My Brother's Man' is one of those disturbing family songs where murder and love are interweaved in the closest of ways, a theme that is revisited occasionally throughout the album, which see-saws between haunting gospel-like movements and Gira's alternatively spooky or apocalyptic howl. When the whole thing is over, you'll feel emotionally drained but also affected by the skewed beauty that every song seems to offer, for those that know where to look. At 54 years of age, Michael Gira still evolves, changes, mutates and innovates as an artist as few have ever done before. For all this, he deserves the highest praise.

The Angels Of Light - 'Black River Song'

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Best of 2007 - #7

7. cobalt - 'eater of birds'
[review published on issue #161 of Terrorizer magazine]
This album will surely get a lot of attention of some circles from which it probably wouldn’t otherwise, because of the presence of Jarboe’s unrivalled, haunting vocals on two of the songs. While this seems a bit unfair, because her contribution, while excellent in creating some chilly moods in those songs, really isn’t all that meaningful to the outcome of the album, it’s actually a good thing. Because most of those people will really want to hang out a while with ‘Eater Of Birds’ once they taste their initial morsel of it. The straightforward violence of their debut ‘War Metal’ has been considerably twisted into something much darker in the two years that have passed since its release. Not that it’s any less violent, on the contrary – the songs on ‘Eater Of Birds’ positively drip with black bile, a thick miasma surrounding them in a way akin to early Anaal Nathrakh. Nevertheless, the Colorado duo have discovered the power of atmosphere, which is interesting since they are on the label that has issued some of the most impressively atmospheric records in recent memory, like Alcest, Caïna, Nadja or Nachtmystium to cite but a few. Of all those, Cobalt are, however, the most bruising ones by far. With some dirty Doomriders-gone-black-metal grooves contrasting heavily with the harrowing late Swans-like passages. ‘Eater Of Birds’ is also infused with a strong tribal feeling (don’t think Sepultura, think ‘Through Silver In Blood’) that is the last step in this solid, merciless beating. The concept of the album is apparently about the return to the primitive aspects of man, and most of the music here fits that notion with great aplomb. There is something indeed animalistic about these eleven songs, something that is particularly highlighted by these dynamic contrasts of the songwriting. One of the two Cobalt members is away for Army duty right now, but believe me, it’ll be worthy waiting for him to return to hear this stuff live.

Cobalt - 'Invincible Sun'

Best of 2007 - #8

8. deathspell omega - 'fas - ite, maledicti, in ignem aeternum'
Wanna know what this sounds like? The title of the album means, in Latin, 'By divine law, go, you cursed, into the eternal fire!'. That's more or less it. Okay, I'll try to resist the temptation of ending this analysis right here with a loud 'GO GET IT!'. This tempation is strong, because 'Fas - Ite, Maledicti, In Ignem Aeternum' is daunting. In every way. Thematically, it's already the second chapter on a complex trilogy that goes so further into the probing of mankind's relationship with faith and its rejection that this would turn into a mini-course in theology if we'd get into it properly. So, erm, let's not, but you'd be well advised to read, search and investigate about it if you really want to enjoy this record properly. The initially aparent randomness of the album is disconcerting and you need any foothold you can get to get to grips with it, and after a while (a long while, probably) it will dawn on you how close the music follows this light-and-dark concept. Even in purely musical terms, 'Fas...' is very complex. The irregularity of the rhythms throws sudden explosions of blastbeats and harsh vocals as quickly as it retreats back into the shadows where it lurks in anxious wait of the next assault. Listening to this album is a deeply unsettling experience, akin to walking along a claustrophobic corridor in pitch-dark, knowing that at some unknown point along the way an evil presence will come out of the wall and rip your eyes out. Again and again. The sinister mood is even deeper because of the ecclesiastical environment, as if that corridor was in a long-lost catacomb underneath an abandoned church where all kinds of unearthly rituals may occur. Am I full of shit? I probably am, but this is the kind of stuff that goes through your head throughout this rollercoaster of true darkness. Whereas lots of today's black metal is easily dismissable as cartoonish, you can't dismiss the seriousness behind Deathspell Omega very easily, which is what makes this the foremost band of the genre and the one that pushes it forward the most nowadays. Joining everything of the best that the genre has to offer, from the longing, far-away despair of Burzum to the maniac intensity of Watain to the creepy atmospheres of Blut Aus Nord, 'Fas...' is a monster piece of work to be discovered by the darkest of souls only.

Deathspell Omega - 'A Chore For The Lost'

Best of 2007 - #9

9. pig destroyer - 'phantom limb'
[review published on issue #78 of LOUD! magazine, translated and slightly adapted for too.many.records.]
The incessant racket that was Pig Destroyer's previous album 'Terrifyer', had a accompanying counterpoint to it, the mysterious DVD-audio that contained one single sinister, slow and oppressive 37-minute song called 'Natasha', for which you needed even more stomach to listen to in its entirety than for the album itself. Aware of the effect that these contrasts provoked in their listeners (or victims?), Pig Destroyer have on 'Phantom Limb' a sort of mix of both. Of course, the minute-and-a-half insane discharges are present and accounted for, but roughly half the songs here are over three minutes long, showing a complexity and different arrangements that make the record a much more intimidating whole than the constant grind of yore. Expect no mercy, however. Everything hits you, and it hits you hard. Harder than before, even - as the dynamics improved, the fast parts are much faster and project an even greater image of uncontrolled insanity, and their effect is much more pronounced because of the contrast with those bits when everything becomes sicker, slower and you go back to that dark room that was 'Natasha'. It's not pretty at all, and with a new fourth member hired just to wreak havoc on samples and electronics, it gets even uglier, which is obviously the point. Vocalist J.R. Hayes is a liberated monster, belting out his penetrating lyrics mixing esoteric lyricism with visceral gore like few have done this side of Dax Riggs and sharpening these songs beyond what's reasonable. Pig Destroyer were already at the top of the grindcore 'hierarchy', but judging by all the territories this album visits, soon you'll have to mention them on the death metal hierarchy, as well as doom's, and devil knows what else. No need to go into petty discussions about best songs and whatnot. It's all a merciless beating from beginning to end, and you'd have to be crazy to endure it all. Fortunately, we all are, a bit.

Pig Destroyer - 'Thought Crime Spree'

Best of 2007 - #10

10. high on fire - 'death is this communion'
Matt Pike, High On Fire's legendary frontman (he was in Sleep with Al Cisneros) said in an interview shortly after the release of 'Death Is This Communion' that he doesn't need to dress up in a warrior's costume covered with blood and guts to prove that this band is for real, and that is the perfect way to start to understand High On Fire. Crystallizing like few others the true spirit of what rock and metal really are, High On Fire are just a kickass power trio like they used to make 'em, belting out fist-to-the-face tune after fist-to-the-face tune, grooving wildly as if the devil himself was whistling a tune. It all sounds loose and devil-may-care, but underneath it all there is a rock-solid structure that makes this album one of the strongest of the year on a musical level as well, besides the unbeatable feeling. The balance of songs is spot-on, and you'll be sorely missing out if you just hear an isolated song from this. It's an album and meant to be enjoyed at one, from the roaring-out-of-the-gates enthusiasm of opener 'Fury Whip', reminiscent of stuff from 'The Art Of Self Defense', you're totally hooked, and from there the record see-saws between wildly different moods. Perfectly captured by yet another legend that is producer Jack Endino, you get Eastern-tinged exoticism ('Waste Of Tiamat' and 'Khanrad's Wall'), blitzkrieg go-ahead brutality that will make you smash any furniture unfortunate enough to cross your path if you listen to it at home ('Turk') and tribalist intensity that Sepultura would kill for ('Headhunter'). The ending is the final climax to this mind-twisting collection of songs, as the strangely moving 'Return To NOD', where Matt's lingering solo work is more epic than any band, well, dressed up in warrior's costumes covered with blood and guts. A blindingly intense album, supremely mature but that will nevertheless make you feel like a teenager all over again.