10. Cannibal Corpse - Evisceration Plague: This one might also fall into the “I don’t care what you think” pile. Some bands just have “it”. That knack for making brutal punishing death metal. “Corpsegrinder” has the best vox in the biz. And you can take that to the blood bank. Because that’s where you’ll need to go after Evisceration Plague tears you to pieces. For death metal, it’s pretty catchy. I don’t know how many times I get a riff from this album stuck in my head. Gory death and murder still have a place in metal and Cannibal Corpse lead the parade of carnage. Album highlight: “A Cauldron of Hate”
9. Cobalt - Gin: I’m not a big black metal fan. And you might not consider this black metal. It certainly doesn’t have typical black metal lyrical inspiration. But stylistically, it leans that way. There isn’t a weak spot on this album. The music is pure genius. All from the brain (and hands) of one guy. And the vocals! Oh yeah baby! Scathing to say the least. I recently saw an interview with Phil McSorley and you would never guess that voice came from that person. That gives me hope for myself. Gin gets better every time I hear it. Instant classic. Album highlight: “Arsonry” if I have to choose.
8. Burnt By The Sun - Heart of Darkness: THIS is what metal and hardcore is supposed to sound like. That full sound of metal with the rawness of hardcore. If I saw them live, (which I probably never will) I’d have the world’s biggest bangover. It’s literally impossible not to throw yourself around violently while listening to Heart of Darkness. At least in private. This might be BBTS’s swansong too. A crying shame. I wish I’d gotten into them earlier. I don’t know why I didn’t. This is one album that won’t get forgotten for a long time. Album highlight: The (simple yet) killer, album closing riff in “The Wolves Are Running”
7. Converge - Axe to Fall: How to talk about Converge? That’s tough. And so is singer Jacob Bannon. Dude has tattoos on his neck! It’s basically hardcore but better. Complicated riffs abound. This train could fall off the rails at any minute but it’s Converge, so it doesn’t. Converge are at their best at lightning speeds (“Dark Horse”) but when they throw one out of left field, (“Cruel Bloom” ft. Steve Von Till, “Wretched World”) they still have a captivating impact. They’re just incredible. Bannon is a man possessed, Kurt Ballou is a genius both on the guitar and in the producer’s chair. I’ve (sadly) never heard Jane Doe, but as long as I have Axe To Fall, I don’t really need to. Album highlight: closer “Wretched World”. After all the chaos, it’s a nice cool down.
6. Megadeth - Endgame: As much as I like the classic Megadeth lineup, Mustaine really is Megadeth. And I think his giant ego is backed up by his music. He’s that good. I am amazed at his guitar prowess. You’d never know he was close to never being able to play again. Endgame is classic Megadeth. Maybe not Rust in Peace classic, but Countdown to Extinction classic. Or better. (Countdown was the first Megadeth album I heard.)I think I’ve referred to it as shred-tastic at some point. MegaDave has the same way of telling stories with his songs as always. He’s got the “love song” in there too. And of course, the lyrics are littered with clichés and common expressions/sayings. That’s just Megadeth style. I think Megadeth is a pretty polarizing band. Not many people are on the fence. If you don’t like Mustaine’s vocals, you never will. Megadeth has always been one of my all-time faves and Endgame only strengthens that. Favourite driving album of 2009. Album highlight: Other than the shredding throughout, it’d be “Bite the Hand” I suppose.
5. Slayer - World Painted Blood: It was a hard decision to put this above Megadeth. Really. I think what put it over was Lombardo. Possibly the best drummer ever. Slayer is one of those bands that never has to change. They just do their thing and it’s awesome. Like Endgame, World Painted Blood reminds me of some of their older albums. There’s an urgency to it. It never lets up. Araya is still at the top of his game. If I caught myself with a tune stuck in my head, the majority of the time is was from this album. Even if I hadn’t listened to it in a few days. There’s not really much more I can say. It’s fucking Slayer! I think there was a stretch of a good month that this didn’t leave the cd player in the car. How else am I supposed to warp my young girls minds? Ha, my youngest (2) asked me, “What song is this?” Slayer, I said. “ I know Dad, but what SONG is it.?” I’m so proud. That song was...Album highlight: “Unit 731“. The drums on that track are just so fucking rad.
4. SerpentCult - Weight of Light: I cheated on this one. It was originally released in 2008 but the North American release wasn’t til Jan ‘09 so in my mind it counts. I bent the rules because this slab of doom deserves all the cred I can throw at it. Sometimes it’s categorized as sludge, but the band prefers doom and I agree. It might not be at a snail’s pace, but this fucker is HEAVY! Oh, so heavy! The tones are so crushing. You can really hear the bass guitar too. It sounds like the strings are gonna fall off. As low as everything is on this, they have a female singer. With a beautiful voice. Every once in a while she throws in a grunt just so we know she’s metal. I wanted to go see them play with Zoroaster and The Gates of Slumber but I was unable to make it. What a shame. I bet they destroy all live. They were on first but they should headline. That’s just me. IMO, the singer (I really need to get better at names) puts Christina Scabbia, that chick from Evanescence, or any of those chicks in goth metal bands to shame. The album wouldn’t be as awesome with a male singer. Best new band of 2009. Album highlight: “Arkanum”
3. Baroness - Blue Record: Early in their career, Baroness were thought of like Mastodon clones. Like Mastodon, Baroness has evolved beyond that. Continuing with what they started on Red Album (My Top Album of 2007), Blue Record isn’t so much sludge metal as it is heavy rock. What makes Baroness so great is their song writing ability. Every song takes you on a journey. It consists of so many parts (not verse/chorus/verse) but every part is there for a reason. And it all flows so well. Every note leads to the next like they were meant to be together. Another great part is the range of tones. It’s not flat. For the most part the tones are very bright. Despite the name, Blue Record makes me feel good. Maybe because it makes feel like I’m flying. Or given the fish imagery on the cover, speeding through the clear blue sea. Something I usually don’t care for but do on Blue Record is the little acoustic passages. They sound like they fit. Almost Americana. Not Across Tundras Americana though. That IS too much. Blue Record sounds like it couldn’t have originated from anywhere but America though. I can only imagine what the future holds for Baroness given that this monumental, dynamic, inspiring album is only their second full length. I can’t wait to find out. Album highlight: “Swollen and Halo”
2. Blood Tsunami - Grand Feast for Vultures: There’s two main reasons this is ranked so high. 1. Overwhelming winner on play count. 2. Not a day goes by that I don’t want to listen to this. No matter what mood I’m in, I can listen to Grand Feast for Vultures. It’s new thrash but it’s not American. I can hear the Slayer influence and at times a riff is only a note or two off from Metallica. I don’t care. I get so amped up listening to this. If I’m in a pissy mood, I scream along to this and it gets that negativity out of me and I feel much better. Speaking of scream along, that’s my favourite part. The screaming. It’s so powerful. He’s giving it all he’s got. And so do I. I don’t know most of the words but I scream right along with it. I’m actually pretty proud at how well I can emulate his style. Their debut, Thrash Metal, was great but Grand Feast for Vultures is a big step up. There’s just something about this album that speaks to me. It’s hard to explain. It just must have the same resonance frequency as I do. Whatever the reason, this is one of my all time favourite albums. Album highlight: “Nothing but Contempt”
1. Kylesa - Static Tensions: I knew this was going to top my list from the first listen. There was no doubt. It has everything you could ever want and more. Phillip Cope and Laura Pleasants are an incredible team. From the guitars to the vocals, they compliment each other perfectly. The album is very layered and complex. However, in a live setting, they can pull it off and nothing seems missing. Awe inspiring. While Kylesa’s not the only band to have two drummers, Kylesa’s the only band that does it this well. Eric and Carl are in perfect unison. (When they’re supposed to be) Cope did an amazing job producing. Sometimes the drums are separate and sometimes centered. It’s quite the experience with headphones. Seeing the two drummers live was one of, if not the, greatest concert experience of my life. My jaw was on the floor almost the whole time. Unbelievable. My buddy Mark McGee (drums, Architect) and I couldn’t get over it. I was also lucky enough to interview Phillip and Laura before the show. (transcription in progress) I was truly grateful they shared their time with me. There is no weak spot on this album at all. Amazing front to back. By this point in many bands careers, they’ve hit their stride but with Static Tensions, Kylesa is still accelerating. The jump from the last album (Time Will Fuse Its Worth)to this one is staggering. They were amazing before but they’re exceptional now. If you’re not in love with Static Tensions, shame on you. Buy it now!! I have but I need to get the vinyl now. Album highlight: “Said and Done” but really they’re all highlights.
0. (What? There’s a 0?) If any one of you has read my lists before you know that some bands have a special place in my brain that absolves them of all flaws. They can do no wrong and I am unable to be unbiased. So instead of just making them Number 1 every year, I just make them 0. It’s only fair. This year, like 2007, it’s Clutch. Strange Cousins From The West. Clutch’s blues tinged brand of hard rock is second to none. No matter hard a band may try, none sound like Clutch. Every member of the band has such a unique style which cannot be emulated. As with previous releases, SCFTW is just stylistically different enough from the rest that for the most part, the songs only fit on this release. It’s amazing how Clutch can still sound distinctly Clutch but never become stale. Neil Fallon has to be the greatest front man ever. As captivating as he is live, he commands just as much respect on the album. I think there’s so much going on in his head, he could write a new song everyday and still not run out of ideas. Between Christmas and New Year’s, Clutch was playing their self titled album in its entirety. Too bad I missed that. I’ll have to settle for SCFTW. That’s not so bad. It’s Clutch and they are better than you. Album highlight: “The Amazing Kreskin”
0b. Yup. A b. The Bakerton Group - El Rojo: It’s basically Clutch without vocals (with Per Wiberg from Opeth on keys). Fantastic!
So that’s the list. Argue with me if you like. It’ll be fun. Time to start on 2010!