Saturday, October 10, 2009

Best of 2008 - #55 to #51

55. the gutter twins - 'saturnalia'
Mark Lanegan doesn't really move anymore on stage, but he doesn't need to - his voice does all the moving he needs. While his solo records have been nothing short of magical, it's been a while (since 1996, to be precise, with 'Dust', the last album of the Screaming Tree) since we've heard him rock out a bit. It took Greg Dulli, the other gutter twin, to get him back on that track again, and we should thank him. Actually, Dulli isn't really the "other", as he seems to be the main driving force in the band, and shows up in style as well with marvellous guitar lines and a strong voice that fits well with Lanegan's low and sexy croon. It all just clicks - 'Saturnalia' is remarkable album, full of melodies, groove and personality, sounding like old time rock without being outdated in the slightest.

54. withered - 'folie circulaire'
There's black metal, there's death metal, there's even a bit of grind (Barney from Napalm Death's unmistakable bark shows up at one point!), and not one second of it sounds forced our out of place. That's 'Folie Circulaire', an almost unbearably intense yet extremely atmospheric blast of extreme music's best bits, mean, agressive and focused. Most of all, it's the thick dark fog that seems to envelop every song (including the very appropriate Necrophobic closing cover) that gives the album its identity and its running thread, not to mention that overpowering menacing air.

53. zozobra - 'bird of prey'
The name Caleb Scofield might be familiar to the more sludge and post metal-minded among you, having been in Cave In and Old Man Gloom, and while he surrounds himself with a few notable people (Aaron Harris, Stephen Brodsky, Adam McGrath) on this, Zozobra's second album, it's very clear that he is the man here, and that he's acquiring a very interesting musical personality. 'Bird Of Prey' is a much more accomplished effort than 2007's 'Harmonic Tremors', with all the Old Man Gloom-like suffocating weight that you'd expect from such a band but with a notable improvement in the songwriting. Thick, black grooves permeate the gruff screaming and monstrous dense riffs, making songs like 'Heartless Enemy' or 'Sharks That Circle' stand out among the current throng of young sludge bands trying to be Neurosis. Bodes very well, this does.

52. menace ruine - 'cult of ruins'
One of two albums released by Menace Ruine last year, 'Cult Of Ruins', the first to come out, is actually the hardest to talk about, given the stratospheric heights attained by the other one... expect to find it higher (much higher) on this list, incidentally. Which is a bit unfair, really, since it has more than enough merits to stand on its own and earn this position in the list - more aggressive and raw that 'The Die Is Cast' (such is the name of the other beast), it already contains that eerie and undescribable atmosphere and labyrinthine songwriting that has made this band one of my recent favourites. Sort of picking up the spirit of The Angelic Process, also being a couple duo from Canada and engaging in similar, in spirit at least, exercises with feedback, atmosphere and texture, Menace Ruine nevertheless show a darker aesthetic, closer to black metal, a colder industrial feel and a greater willingness to let it rip in the noisier sections. 'Cult Of Ruins' is a long and rewarding journey that got a very swift continuation - keep your eyes on the list for more, even if you might have to wait for the top 10...

51. the firstborn - 'the noble search'
Finally realizing the potential they have always had, also with, at long last, a sound that makes them justice, Portugal's The Firstborn delivered the very best album of their career by a long mile in 2008. Still on the path of Buddhism, approaching some of its ideas from interesting angles, making apt (read - not going apeshit with them and remembering they're still a metal band) use of instruments like sitar, The Firstborn's greatest achievement is nevertheless in the songwriting department, where they don't live or die strictly by Bruno Fernandes' powerful and unique voice anymore - there are meaty riffs and some tremendous guitarwork that will stick with you, not to mention almighty choruses like on 'Flesh To The Crows' or 'Water Transformation', where the talent of Bruno is evident. As if that wasn't enough, Hugo Santos from Process Of Guilt shows up to roar like only himself can on a couple of songs. Best Portuguese album of 2008, no doubt.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Best of 2008 - from #60 to #56

A bunch more, before it's 2010 and I have another fucking list to spew forth.

Oh, and screw the song links too. Let me know if you really really want those to return, but hey - you guys will download the whole thing anyway if you fancy it, cheap bastards you all are, so.

Let's just hope you then go and buy the ones you really like.

60. outlaw order - 'dragging down the enforcer'
Jokingly known as EyeHateJimmy by the band members themselves, and it's easy to understand why, because Outlaw Order consists of all the members of EyeHateGod (plus Pat Brouders now, on bass, he plays for Crowbar too) minus Jimmy Bower, who is often busy on tour with NOLA supergroup Down. If you got past this typical New Orleans crossbreeding with no confusion, then the obvious point should have remained with you - GO GET THIS ALBUM. Ruthlessly confrontational, single-mindedly focused on the band members' much discussed problems with the law, with Mike Williams' trademark twisted lyrics and vocals, Outlaw Order is like a faster, more concrete version of EyeHateGod, and that should be all the recommendation you need.

59. made out of babies - 'the ruiner'
I must admit I got this album banged into my subconscious by my wife's incessant playing of it, but if it did find the way there, then it's because it has its worth. And quite a bit of it, too. Never having been all that much of a fan of Julie Christmas' other musings, be it previous Made Out Of Babies albums or what she did with Battle Of Mice, 'The Ruiner' was where it all clicked for me. Not only does it burst all those into insignificance with its razor-sharp writing and playing, much more to-the-point than before, it also shows Julie in the vocal form of her life. Finally focusing the uncanny talent of her voice properly, it lends the songs that extra dimension they seemd to lack before. Take opener 'Cooker' for the perfect example, equally expansive and hatefully restrained, it's an explosion of great guitarwork, memorable songwriting and that voice. A solid and consistent album that finally realizes the potential of Made Out Of Babies.

58. lords - 'fuck all y'all mother fuckers'
Title says it all, really. Lords are back, they sound just they did on 'Swords' and you'd better fucking love it or Chris Owens will probably kick your ass, as he does frequently to people during the average 364 days of the year that they spend touring. Unhinged, out-of-control noisy punk-fueled chaos is what they do, and it rocks. What's even more amazing is the fact that despite that whole don't give a fuck attitude and with songs like 'This Is Not A Song, Dumb Ass' (and it isn't, but it's cool anyway) and 'Why I Don't Give A Fuck', they don't come across as some sort of joke or crazy just for the sake of it band. They rock hard, they rock mean, and they rule.

57. khold - 'Hundre år Gammal'
Proof that it's still possible to do a kick-ass, hateful black metal album in 2009 without reinventing the damn pentagram, and it wasn't even so predictable that Khold's main man Gard would be able to produce this sort of thing. Very far from being a minor band in terms of quality, Khold's previous albums haven't, however, always come up with the goods consistently, 'Masterpiss Of Pain' really stands out as something that neither 'Krek' or 'Phantom' were able to surpass. Well, this bile-fueled little thing just managed to surpass them all at once, by combining everything that was great about each one of them. More than being raw, it feels raw, with Gard's voice the main instrument in creating that feeling, spitting out his Norwegian lyrics with such force that you can almost understand them regardless of whether you understand the language or not. However, soundwise, it's hardly Darkthrone we're talking about, the guitars are satisfyingly thick and the riffs buzz through you with the strength of a sledgehammer, as every song sticks, without the need for any filler or indeed any frills. With Satyricon going further and further down the road to boring town, this is what we need - stripped to the bone, dark and potent black metal like we someimes feel they don't do it anymore.

56. decrepit spectre - 'coal black hearses'
Behind that rather silly band name hide the mighty figures of Kvohst (Dødheimsgard, code), Aort (code, Blutvial), Heimoth and Cyriex (both from Seth), so don't fuck with them. It's only a three track EP, but it's extremely promising - if code is too out there for you, go listen to them a few dozen times more, because they're awesome and you're missing out. But while your brain can't cope, try this. Somewhat similar to the Khold album I just talked about above, it's meaty, well-produced black metal, stomping in its mid-pace fury, but unlike Khold it also creates that eerie and discordant atmosphere that these musicians are renowned for in the other bands they're a part of, except without that layer of avantgarde-ism that we've come to expect. A short piece of gloomy horror that paves the way for a proper debut full-length that is coming shortly. Watch this dark space.