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- 'Saturnalia' is remarkable album, full of melodies, groove and personality, sounding like old time rock without being outdated in the slightest.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.




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