Saturday, February 26, 2011

Battle of the Trad Metal Bands: Holy Grail vs. Cauldron

When I originally thought up the concept for this post, I had only listened to each album once. (Crisis in Utopia and Burning Fortune, respectively) The more I heard each one, the more the comparison fell apart. But by this point, I had already tweeted that I was gonna do this. As a man of my word, I will continue. Fair warning: this won't be very good.
Album Cover
Holy Grail - Crisis in Utopia: Demonic pterodactyl-like creature screaming into the night. Standing on a corpse on a plateau littered with bones outside a city.
Cauldron - Burning Fortune: Vampire-like woman in a white dress getting out of the backseat of a car. Her high-heeled shoes are on fire.
The point goes to: Cauldron. If we look at it from a Trad point of view and in keeping with the vibe of the album, women and cars win. Besides, dinosaurs don't find jean jackets sexy.
HG: While not as epic as say, Iron Maiden, they have the same fantastical feeling. Maybe even touching power metal type themes. Valhalla, etc
C: More personal and "real life" than HG but still with quite the cheese-factor. Good use of repetition.
The point goes to: I'll give this one to Cauldron. The lyrics seem more Trad. HG's lyrics seems a little more modern. Or at least more bands now follow that style whereas Cauldron's have a much more retro feel.
 HG: Clean. The occasional growl. Good tone and seems versatile.
C: Um, I'm sure the band is cool with the vocals but I don't think they are very good. Backyard picnic quality. Some parts are hard to listen to. But hey, maybe that's what they were going for?
The point goes to: Holy Grail. This was a no-brainer.
HG: These dudes can shred!! Serious shred. Megadeth speed, Dragonforce virtuosity and a modern edge not unlike Trivium. Sweet.
C: Just as catchy as HG but nowhere near the note count. The solos aren't too bad but the feel is different than HG. Moodier.
The point goes to: Holy Grail. They win just because I prefer that style and they are more diverse.
HG: To keep up with those guitars, you have to be good. Really good feet.
C: Well, with this style, the drummer is really more of a time keeper.  Good at what he does though!
The point goes to: Holy Grail.
Final score: 3-2 in favour of Holy Grail.
It should be obvious how this comparison fell apart. While both lean on a retro style, the period and feel are way different. Holy Grail sounds like it comes from a more speed metal place whereas Cauldron feel more late '70s/early hair metal. It's not really a fair comparison. Apples and oranges. Both are quite catchy, "heavy metal" and I'm sure passionate about their music. If you like speed and epicness, go with Holy Grail. If you like white jean jackets and Trans Ams, go for Cauldron. (After wracking my brains on who Cauldron remind me of, I figured it out. The Scorpions.)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Full Blown Chaos - Full Blown Chaos

New York's Full Blown Chaos have started the 2011 listening season off
on a good foot. Their self-titled follow up to '07s Heavy Lies The
Crown is more or less what you would expect from FBC but that's not a
bad thing. While the NY tough style metallic hardcore scene could
easily get over saturated (see anything -core), the cream would rise to
the top. Part of the cream would be FBC. When trying to describe the
album I'm drawn to comparisons to similar but maybe more well known
acts like Hatebreed and Sick Of It All. But FBC is their own animal. A
little more hardcore than (modern day) SOIA and a little more metal
than Hatebreed. There is still plenty of breakdowns to be found. But
in comparison to other bands that (over)use them (Read:
metalcore/deathcore), their presence makes sense. It's not a gimmick.
FBC are not followers, they are leaders. Besides, FBC are able to
build around the breakdowns in such a way that they don't become the
focal point of the music. For me, the focal point is Ray Mazzola's
vocals. If anything, I think they are what separate FBC from some of
their contemporaries. They seem deeper. It's a more death metal
flavour on a traditional hardcore style. Definitely commanding in its
essence. Under his command, with the chest-thumping vibe of the band
behind him, Mazzola could whip a pit into a frenetic whirlpool faster
than you could gang-shout "Go!"
I think what draws me to FBC and bands of this style (when I'm not
knee-deep in Sludge, drowning in Black Metal or being bludgeoned by
Death Metal) is the positivity in it. That never-back-down, stand up
for yourself vibe. It's nice to hear something personal and "real"
without it being whiny or depressing. It's an album that will make you
feel good, make you lift your head up high and maybe even make you
stomp around the kitchen waving your fist and doing air-breakdowns
while making supper. Not that that...or anything.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

2010 Record Label of the Year

Based on the record labels of the bands that made my Top 40 Albums of the Year for 2010, I am pleased to announce the first annual Kingdom of Noise Record Label of the Year. Two labels finished with five bands represented. But one label had two bands in the Top 5. So the winner is.....
Relapse Records!!! (confetti explosion and thunderous applause)
2nd Place: Nuclear Blast
3rd Place: Season of Mist (4 bands)
T-4th Place: Metal Blade and Profound Lore (3 bands each)
5th Place: Prosthetic (2 bands)
Thank you, thank you, thank you for release such great music.
Kingdom of Noise would also like to thank: E1, Rise Above,Deep Six, Init, Unique Leader, Distort, Housecore, Nomadic Fortress, Indie, Kemado, Candlelight, Warner, Razor & Tie, Byelobog, Southern Lord, Dark Balance, EMI, and The End.

Top 40 AOTY 2010 Recap!

40. haarp - The Filth
39. Cancer Bats  - Bears, Mayors, Scraps & Bones (Most Fuct Up Hair)
38. Hour of Penance - Paradogma
37. Melechesh - The Epigenesis
36. Wolvhammer - Black Marketeers of WW III
35. Kataklysm - Heaven's Venom
34. Immolation - Majesty and Decay
33. D.I.S. - Critical Failure
32. The Sword - Warp Riders
31. The Dillinger Escape Plan - Option Paralysis
30. Misery Index - Heirs to Thievery
29. Early Man - Death Potion
28. Exhale - Blind (Most Like My Mind)
27. Black Breath - Heavy Breathing
26. Exodus - Exhibit B: The Human Condition (Thrashterpiece of the Year)
25. Kingdom of Sorrow - Behind the Blackest Tears
24. Hail of Bullets - On Divine Winds
23. Malevolent Creation - Invidious Dominion
22. Aeon - Path of Fire (Death Metal Track of the Year)
21. Rotting Christ - Aealo (Song Most Likely To Frighten Children)
20. Iron Maiden - The Final Frontier (Only One To Win A Grammy This Year)
19. Unearthly Trance - V
18. Ludicra - The Tenant (Sickest Riff of the Year)
17. Watain - Lawless Darkness
16. Salome - Terminal (Vocal Performance of the Year)
15. Hooded Menace - Never Cross the Dead
14. Jucifer - Throned in Blood
13. Kvelertak - Kvelertak (Rookie of the Year)
12. Burzum - Belus (Most troo/kvlt)
11. Norma Jean - Meridional
10. Landmine Marathon - Sovereign Descent (Scream Along Album of the Year)
9. Kylesa - Spiral Shadow
8. Deftones - Diamond Eyes
7. Electric Wizard - Black Masses
6. High on Fire - Snakes for the Divine (Live Performance of the Year)
5. Fear Factory - Mechanize (Comeback Album of the Year)
4. Black Anvil - Triumvirate
3. Howl - Full of Hell (Album Cover of the Year)
2. Bison b.c. - Dark Ages (Canadian Album of the Year)
1. Wihered - Dualitas (Vinyl Version of the Year)
0. Soulfly - Omen (overbiased in favour of band)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Damn it!

Remember what I said about having internet access at work? Well, cancel that. They just locked it out again. It was nice while it lasted. I will still try and post more reviews anyway. But for now, all you need to know is, Crowbar rules. And I still have Twitter!

My 40 Favourite Albums of 2010: TOP 10! (+1)

*DISCLAIMER! All rankings are based on 3 major factors. 1. I actually have to like the album. Nothing is included because it's on everyone else's list or because I think it would make my list look better. 2. I can listen to it no matter what I am in the mood for. 3. Overall play count/I actually paid money for it.  Remember, this is my opinion. It's not overly analytical. Most, if not all, rankings are VERY fluid. Don't get your panties in a bunch because your favourite band is lower than "that fucking piece of shit band!"*
I am perpetually broke so if I throw down my hard earned money on something, it better be fuckin' good. With that being so, if I bought a physical copy of something, it's almost guaranteed to land in my Top 10. Keep in mind that on any given day, any one of these albums could be considered #1. So without further adieu, My Top 10 Favourite Albums of 2010.
#10.  Landmine Marathon - Sovereign Descent (USA, Prosthetic):  Last year, my I-just-need-to-fucking-scream album was Grand Feast for Vultures by Blood Tsunami. Hop in the car, crank it up and fucking scream like there's no tomorrow. This year, that album is Sovereign Descent. I'd say 99% of the time I'm not singing the right words (or words at all) but it does the trick. This is one of the most aggressive releases I heard last year. I think one the things that makes it like that is because it feels so raw while still maintaining good production. It feels very organic as well. Like the process of making this death/doom/grind hybrid was totally natural. Nothing forced. Just the obvious result of 5 souls coming together as music. I had the pleasure of meeting the band at one of their shows (I have a signed LP to prove it). You couldn't ask for a more relaxed, down to earth, unassuming bunch of people. But on stage they are a tour de force. Especially Grace Perry. One of THE nicest people I've ever met, but she threw me around like a ragdoll and literally ripped another guy's shirt off his back. (She gave him a new one) On top of that, I don't think she's sung a clean note in her life. A beast of a vocalist. 5 stars. Perfect 10. 4 horns up. Fuck yeah. Standout track: "Steadfast Hate" (shoutouts Ryan, Dylan, Andy, Grace and Matt! Come back to Kingston!)
#9. Kylesa - Spiral Shadow (USA, Season of Mist):  Following on the heels of 2009's amaaaazing Static Tensions, (2009 KoN AOTY) mighty Georgians Kylesa brought us another masterpiece in Spiral Shadow. This record is the next step in the evolution of Kylesa. They keep moving forward with each release. They keep growing and maturing as a band. Spiral Shadow fits the mood of its content perfectly. It's very textured with light and shade. But with an overall positive vibe. It swirls in an almost psychedelic fashion. Together, it makes me picture a luminous orb emitting music and colour creating a spiral shadow as reality rotates around it. I've yet to listen to it blitzed but it's an amazing headphone record. Production wise, the job was handled again by guitarist/vocalist Phillip Cope, It differed slightly from Static Tensions in that I didn't notice as much panning of the two (dynamically talented) drummers. Still an amazing job. A Phillip Cope production has been at or near the top of my AOTY list 4 years running, including this one. I think it's fair to say I'm a big fan of his work. Also, I feel it differs in that there are more songs dominated by either Phillip or Laura, rather than Phillip and Laura. Could just be me. Whatever the case, the teamwork between them (and the rest of the band) pays off in spades. I was looking forward to seeing them play in Kingston last month but I missed it. Sorry guys! But I had a brand spankin' new baby at home. I'll do my best to raise her as a Kylesa fan. Standout track: "Don't Look Back"
#8.  Deftones - Diamond Eyes (USA, Warner):  Diamond Eyes is the first album in the (hopefully temporary) post-Chi Cheng era. I think the idea to forge ahead for Chi was a very good one. It's their best album in a long, long time. Their best since White Pony and maybe even their best since Around The Fur.  Speaking of old school Deftones, that's what this album reminds me of. They've brought back that really aggressive side without losing that inner sensitivity that the ladies seem to like. (I once knew a girl who was totally in love with Chino.)  You really have to admire what Deftones have done here. The bands they came up with (Korn, Limp Bizkit, etc) are jokes now. Totally useless. (Mudvayne and Slipknot too basically) Yet, Deftones created this fantastic album. It's still Deftones too. They haven't changed styles or catered to outside pressures. Sure, it's not Adrenaline but it's still Deftones. Diamond Eyes is who they are. If you've been paying any attention to what kind of vocals I like, you wouldn't think I'd be game for the soft vocals on this. They're soft. I don't have a problem with clean vocals but soft? But, I sing right along! Loud sometimes. But hey, when you're Deftones and Chino Moreno, I cut a lot of slack. Standout track: "Rocket Skates"
#7. Electric Wizard - Black Masses (ENG, Rise Above):  This is the lowest I have ever ranked an Electric Wizard album. I feel kinda bad about it. Trouble is, it didn't come out til November so I haven't had that much time with it. I listened to it last night/this morning and it blew my mind. Again. It does that every time. It's fucking Electric Wizard, man! I bow at the altar of Jus Oborn. Black Masses is a beast of an album. The latest chapter in the EW stoner/doom legacy. The heaviness can't be described in the English language. It's so heavy, that despite the deep sense of foreboding that cuts through the dense fog of (that sweet, sweet) pot smoke, I think my heart actually slows down. It's so heavy, it doesn't just crush bones, or pulverize bones, it vaporizes bones.  I'm actually afraid to get high before listening to this. It might put me into a coma. In the decade plus that I've been listening to Electric Wizard (Dopethrone was my intro. I own them all now) I've always said I don't need drugs to listen to EW. Electric Wizard IS a drug. The incredible tone and hypnotic nature of the music takes me to place other bands can't. One of my favourite bands of all time. Standout track: "Scorpio Curse"
#6. High on Fire - Snakes for the Divine (USA, E1):  Like I said for Electric Wizard, it's fucking High on Fire, man! High.On.Fire. I don't need to say more but I will. You and I both know that guitarist/vocalist Matt Pike is a god-like creature. This much is obvious. So I am gonna run with that. The three members of HoF are the three most powerful gods in Greek Mythology. Zeus, Poseidon and Hades. Zeus, the most powerful and the god of the sky and lightning is Matt Pike. His fingers and his guitar make up his lightning rods. Destroying all who dare to question his authority as a guitar god and genius. Poseidon, god of water, is bassist Jeff Matz. His  basslines weave their way into the cracks and crevices of the album like water, giving it depth. And Hades, the god of the underworld, is drummer Des Kensel. His unrelenting drumming pounds humanity into submission and unleashes an earthquake of awesome on every track. Together, they form the near perfection that is High on Fire. Simply divine. And as if the album wasn't great enough, the live show blows that out of the water, earth and sky. Standout track: "Holy Flames of the Firespitter"
#5. Fear Factory - Mechanize (USA, Candlelight):  At the beginning of Part 3 (#20-11) I mentioned comeback/return to form albums. I was specifically referring to Deftones and Fear Factory. Mechanize is a comeback and a return to form. FF was never the same without Dino. Honestly, Archetype and Transgression, for lack of a better word, sucked. The story of how this iteration of Fear Factory came about is a long (and bitter) one but basically Dino's back, (yay!) Ray is out (boo) and Christian is out (yay! I blame him for the suckage.) And in their place are none other than Byron Stroud (!) and the venerable (We're not worthy!) Gene Hoglan. Can't do much better than that. Together, they've made FF into the band I fell in love with back in 1995 again. (Thank you, Mortal Kombat soundtrack.) No seriously. This may even be better than Obsolete. Despite being released early in the year, Mechanize hasn't been overshadowed by later releases or suffered from being overplayed. Stylistically, and thematically, it's classic FF. Machinegun riffing, unreal drumming and Burton's mix of harsh/clean vocals (please don't say good cop/bad cop) are all present. I did notice a little less emphasis on keyboards and synths this go around. That's fine with me. It still kicks ass. They may sing about the future, but this feels like a blast from the past. Fear Factory's back, baby! Standout track: "Christploitaion"
#4. Black Anvil - Triumvirate (USA, Relapse): Wait. Wait. Wait. Is this the same Black Anvil that released Time Insults the Mind? What a leap forward! Where Time Insults the Mind, if memory serves me, was pretty much a blackened thrash affair, (albeit a pretty good one) Triumvirate has turned the corner and presented itself as more of a thrashened black beast. I had some high hopes for certain albums in 2010 and was severely disappointed (eg Atheist. Meh, not my thing.) Quite the opposite was the case with Black Anvil. I had little to no expectations whatsoever for Triumvirate but from the moment I heard vocalist/bassist Paul Delaney (with Raeph Glicken - Drums and Gary Bennett - Guitar) scream "What is life, if not now!" on the opening track of the same name, I was abso-fucking-lutely floored. I knew instantly it was Top 5. The vocals on this album are more than adequately "black" yet are coherent enough that had I the time, I could actually make out what he's saying. I just don't the luxury of "music only" time. Always reading or making lunches or whatever. What I would know is that this isn't some caveman sentence fragment repetition bullshit. This is some upper level shit. It's the poetry that music, as an art form, should have. Ya know, that, and huge riffs. breakneck drumming and the Holy Metal Triumvirate of Black, Death and Thrash. Standout track: "Angels to Dust"
#3. Howl - Full of Hell (USA, Relapse):  I'm going to copy an earlier post about this album. Not because I'm lazy. Just because I did a really good job expressing how I feel about the album. And I'm lazy. "Quite often, a great album will conjure images in your mind regardless of lyrical content.  Full of Hell does that very, very well. The following is what my mind sees. The band are actually Cyclopean giants. They are performing the album in a natural amphitheater/cave opening at the top of a flaming mountain range. This provides the soundtrack to an army of beasts laying waste to civilization below. Now that may not sound like Harvard stuff  but I have a feeling if I got my hands on a lyric sheet, there would be some upper-level intelligence going on. (Somewhat unrelated but, RIP Buried Inside) See, to the best of my knowledge the members of Howl are vegan.  And not to stereotype, but I don't know any meathead vegetarians. (See what I did there?) Adjective time: thick, huge, warm, deep, resonant, frightening, destructive, desolate, and as the Cyclops' last notes echo across the mountains, mournful." I've never heard anything quite like it. It steamrolls the eardrums. In a good way. Standout track: "A Day of Rest"
#2. Bison b.c. - Dark Ages (CAN, Metal Blade):  Vancouver's Bison b.c. are quickly making themselves the best metal band in Canada. On Dark Ages, their third album and second for Metal Blade, they've raised the bar yet again. In fact, they are making enough of a name for themselves that a) they should be able to drop the b.c. part now. Everyone knows them and b) They don't need to be referred as "featuring former members of S.T.R.E.E.T.S. I'll never forget the time I missed the chance to see Bison play in Kingston. It was my 30th birthday and they were playing in a converted living room. Can you imagine how insane that was?!  (Stupid surprise party!) This was just after Quiet Earth came out. Their shows have only gotten more legendary and Dark Ages is even better.  Being Canadian, I give Bison a bit of a home court advantage but I really don't have to. Dark Ages is a finely crafted album that would be just as good no matter where they were from. At only 7 songs, that means (to me) that every song is there for a reason. No filler. All killer. From opener "Stressed Elephant" to closer "Wendigo Part 3 (Let Him Burn)" is 46:47 of just plain awesome. It's a different breed of sludge. Sludgecore if you will. Because they bring the urgency and energy of hardcore and punk over to the tone and heft of sludge. What results is every song is an epic. Not IS epic, is AN epic. Such incredible songwriting. And not just for the sake of writing great songs, these are party songs too!! Get your booze on and crank it up! Standout track: "Fear Cave"
#1. Withered -Dualitas (USA, Prosthetic):  Now, it's been a while since I've heard Memento Mori or Folie Circulaire but I get a different feeling from Dualitas. It could just be my horrible memory, but it seems more spacious than previous releases. While the oppressive parts are just as oppressive, they are interspersed with more, shall we say, reflective passages. After I actually get a chance to read the lyric sheet I may be able to confirm my theory that the theme of this album is duality. Not in a split-personality sense or "good and evil exist in all of us" way, but more of a two sides to every story idea. For example, some parts are loud and fast and powerful and make me think of war and destruction and all the adrenaline and hot blood that goes with that. That will then fall into a slower, more pensive sounding passage which brings to mind the other side of war. The loss and the sadness. But as I think about it more, the mournful side could be the reflection of the "victors" (no one wins in war). The part where the triumphant survey the destruction they have wrought and think, "What have we done?" "What have we become?" Every time I've listened to Dualitas I can't help but think about the two emotions that rise in my heart, triumph and sorrow. The driving black metal aspect conjuring images of militaristic conquest and victory and the slower, doomier aspect revealing the bloody aftermath and an overwhelming sense of loss. "Interlude" is one of the saddest sounding pieces of music I have ever heard while other parts of the record would flay the skin from your bones and laugh with terrible glee.
Withered have really outdone themselves in creating such an enjoyable yet emotionally draining album. Powerful, cerebral music with a soul. I've never listened to an album that has made me feel the way Dualitas does. I feel absorbed by it. It becomes a part of you. Congratulations Withered. You have a created something truly special and I thank you. *most of this is borrowed from an earlier review I wrote.
+1. Now, because I am mentally unable to remove an extreme bias in favour of a couple of my favourite bands I have to mention any albums by those bands separately. I can't possibly place them in the list and be able to find a good spot. The first of those bands is Clutch. They didn't release an album this year. The other bands is...
Soulfly - Omen (USA, Roadrunner):  The last 2 Soulfly albums have been great. They are far different than the nu-metal that Max and crew released back in '98. They still have guests on the album but now they are much better than Fred Durst. Tommy Victor (Prong) and Greg Puciato (DEP) lend their vocals talents to Omen. This album is far thrashier than most of Soulfly's work. Also, they have brought elements of hardcore on board to really diversify. This may be their fastest album yet. I think what really helps is that Max is surrounded by somewhat of a stable lineup now. Super-guitarist Marc Rizzo, drummer Joe Nunez and bassist Bobby Burns are now fairly entrenched as members of the band instead of glorified session musicians. I was a big Sepultura fan before Max left and I kinda followed him. I think it's partly due to his vocals. I don't know what it is but I can get into them alot. Maybe it's because when I scream, it sounds similar so I feel more connected to it. Whatever the case may be, I love Soulfly. And I probably always will. They are finally creating albums that should have the critics more on their side. I don't see that yet but people have long memories and they just can't get over the nu-metal association. I think they forget that when nu-metal was new, they didn't hate it the way they do now. I guess if I have a beef with Omen it's "Soulfly VII". It's a good song, don't get me wrong but it sounds more like a Marc Rizzo solo song than a Soulfly song. Still good, but it doesn't fit the way it should. Standout track: really hard decision but, "Rise of the Fallen"
And so concludes the long and arduous process of naming my Favourite Albums of the Year. But for the last few weeks, all I've listened to are the above 41 amazing albums. Can't knock that. And now I get to dig into 2011!  First up, CROWBAR!!!!!!!!!!!!! And now that I have internet access at work, you can look forward to more posts, and better posts, from Kingdom of Noise.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

My 40 Favourite Albums of 2010: 20-11

*DISCLAIMER! All rankings are based on 3 major factors. 1. I actually have to like the album. Nothing is included because it's on everyone else's list or because I think it would make my list look better. 2. I can listen to it no matter what I am in the mood for. 3. Overall play count/I actually paid money for it.  Remember, this is my opinion. It's not overly analytical. Most, if not all, rankings are VERY fluid. Don't get your panties in a bunch because your favourite band is lower than "that fucking piece of shit band!"*
As I get in to the Top 20, the reasoning changes slightly. There is usually some element that vaults the album in to this higher ranking. It could be that it's just really, really, really good, or a leap forward, or a comeback/return to form, or there is just something really unique about it. Enjoy the best of 2010.
#20.  Iron Maiden - The Final Frontier (ENG, EMI):  I got in to Iron Maiden in a weird way. It was A Matter of Life and Death that made me appreciate them. Before that, Dickinson's vocal style didn't appeal to me. I had a copy of Number Of The Beast back in high school (got it in a Columbia House metal grab bag with some weird Hendrix disc, The Best of Slaughter, a Varga (!) CD and something else) and sold it to a pawn shop. Then I got a used copy of Piece of Mind on cassette back in '09 and I was hooked. The Final Frontier may not be an all time Maiden classic but it's damn close. Dickinson, Steve Harris and the boys sure know how to write epic songs! There isn't a dud to be found here. I may have listened to this album more than any other last year. Thanks in large part to the fact that I could play it anywhere, in any company and it wouldn't scare anyone. (Unlike #19) It amazes me that a band can still be this good over 30 years into their career. Standout track "Where the Wild Wind Blows"
#19. Unearthly Trance - V (USA, Relapse):  For some reason I had Unearthly Trance confused as far as what style of metal they were. I thought they were operatic like Katatonia or Dark Tranquility or some other band I haven't given the time of day to. Or even the My Dying Bride kind of doom. I don't know where I got that idea from but motherfucker was I wrong! This is fucking DOOOOOOOOM! From the pits of Hell, the world is ending, beasts unleashed upon creation, fucking DOOM! I made a comment before and referred to V as "bowel evacuatingly heavy". I stand by that. They put the power in power trio with their earthquake inducing, thunderous riffs. At times, guitarist/vocalist Ryan Lypinsky reminds me of Floater vocalist Robert Wynia (Glyph remains one of my all time favourite albums). But most of the time his unearthly (hehe) screams sound like his voice is made of pure disgust for the human race. Vocals can make or break an album for me and these beastly bellows are a big reason V landed in my Top 20. Standout track: "Into a Chasm"
#18.  Ludicra - The Tenant (USA, Profound Lore):  This year's list has more black metal on it than ever before. Part of my growing interest in BM is due in large part to Ludicra, among others (as you will see). They opened my eyes to a bigger part of what black metal could be. Before listening to The Tenant I thought all black metal was bleak, monotonous, lo-fi Norwegian BM or keyboard laden, symphonic BM like Dimmu or CoF. (Neither of which you will find on this list) What's more, vocalist
Laurie Sue Shanaman made me reconsider what female vocals in metal were all about. ( I just thought Angela Gossow was a freak) Where traditional black metal (to me) feels like it's being bombarded by the wind, and is forced to endure it, Ludicra embrace the wind and use it to soar above the world full of sorrow and ugliness. The Tenant is an incredibly dynamic album that can go from beautiful to downright nasty on a dime. It earns #18 based largely on The Sickest Riff Of The Year on standout track "In Stable".

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

My 40 Favourite Albums of 2010: 30-21

*DISCLAIMER! All rankings are based on 3 major factors. 1. I actually have to like the album. Nothing is included because it's on everyone else's list or because I think it would make my list look better. 2. I can listen to it no matter what I am in the mood for. 3. Overall play count/I actually paid money for it.  Remember, this is my opinion. It's not overly analytical. Most, if not all, rankings are VERY fluid. Don't get your panties in a bunch because your favourite band is lower than "that fucking piece of shit band!"*
#30.  Misery Index - Heirs to Thievery (USA, Relapse): It's kind of hard to describe Misery Index other than to say it's high-fucking-quality deathgrind. It's a vicious, high intensity aural assault. Wikipedia says "Misery Index's lyrical subject matter is left-wing, often coinciding with radical and anarchic aesthetics and focusing mostly on the ills of modern society." So basically, while having your eardrums pounded with a hammerdrill, the barely intelligible lyrics might actually make you think. How often does that happen? Standout track: "A Carrion Call"
#29.  Early Man - Death Potion (USA, The End): From the moment I heard Early Man back in early '06 I knew I loved this band. They became part of the upper echelon (IMO) of the thrash revival with '05s Closing In. The Beware the Circling Fin EP was a bit disappointing but Death Potion more than makes up for it. It's got loads of catchy riffs, Mike Conte's unique vocal delivery and speed to spare. I'd recommend it for a great driving record but it's way too easy to get really caught up in it and that could be dangerous. It could also make it..... (Standout track) "Someone Else's Nightmare"
#28. Exhale - Blind (SWE, Dark Balance): This Swedish grind outfit is vicious, vicious, vicious! It's like getting peppered with machine gun fire. But it feels good. Every year there is an album that I describe as "sounding like what happens in my head". Usually it's something like Gridlink (New album 2011!) or ASRA. This year it's Exhale. I'm in a massively different head space this past year than I have been in a long time but I still love a record that sounds like all the pent up rage inside me just explodes for about a half hour or less.  Don't forget to Exhale. Standout track: "Sick Addiction"
#27.  Black Breath - Heavy Breathing (USA, Southern Lord):  Southern Lord seems like an odd label for Black Breath to be on. I associate Southern Lord more with stoner/doom bands than bands like Black Breath. What are they like? Well, would D-beat Swe-death Thrashcore be an accurate descriptor?  Hardcore style vocals, thrash speed, D-beat groove, and Swedish Death Metal buzzsaw guitars. If that doesn't sound like a recipe for awesome, nothing does. I think what I like best about Heavy Breathing is that it's intense, high energy and serious fun. Not goofy fun. It's the kind of album that makes me want to stomp around my living room moshing with an imaginary pit. A real pit would be great too but this way I keep all my teeth.  Standout track: "Virus"
#26.  Exodus - Exhibit B: The Human Condition (USA, Nuclear Blast):  Bay Area thrashers Exodus have shown me that I missed a LOT of great music in the last 30 years. My thrash world consisted of the Big 4 and that's it. If any of Exodus' previous 8 albums were any bit as good as 9th effort Exhibit B: The Human Condition, I really missed out. This follow-up to 2007's The Atrocity Exhibition: Exhibit A is so good that it made me question my very existence. Just kidding. But it did reaffirm my conviction that the best music is not always (barely ever) the most popular music. Modern day Metallica and Anthrax have nothing on what I consider 2010's Thrashterpiece. I wonder how many times Kirk Hammet thinks "Would they have taken me back after Metallica?" (as he rolls in money) Standout track: "Beyond the Pale"

Monday, February 7, 2011

My 40 Favourite Albums of 2010: 40-31

*DISCLAIMER! All rankings are based on 3 major factors. 1. I actually have to like the album. Nothing is included because it's on everyone else's list or because I think it would make my list look better. 2. I
can listen to it no matter what I am in the mood for. 3. Overall play count/I actually paid money for it. Remember, this is my opinion. It's not overly analytical. Most, if not all, rankings are VERY fluid.
Don't get your panties in a bunch because your favourite band is lower than "that fucking piece of shit band!"*

#40: haarp - The Filth (USA, Housecore): Filthy, slow and heavy as shit.  A grizzly bear is dragged out of hibernation and forced against his will to  party like Marilyn Manson at Mardi Gras. *The Filth* sounds like the morning  after. The production could use some work but the album leaves me feeling  exhausted and relieved. Just listening to it gets out all the anger and  tension. It very cathartic. Standout track: "Plurimus Humilus, Ciacco"

#39. Cancer Bats - Bears, Mayors, Scraps & Bones (CAN, Distort): The first  Canadian act on the list. These Torontonians continue to deliver their own flavour of Southern-fried hardcore. It's not much different (or better) than previous effort, Hail, Destroyer but why ruin a good thing? B,M,S & B is  loaded with catchy riffs and scream/sing along vocals. This is tonnes of fun to listen to and vocalist Liam Cormier might have the most fuct-up  hair in metal.  Standout track: "Dead Wrong"

#38. Hour of Penance - Paradogma (ITA, Unique Leader): Italy's Hour of  Penance shatter any preconception you may have had that Rome is a nice place. Nice places don't breed the kind of brutality on display here. Thisis fucking death metal the way I like it. Fast, brutal, and played with the kind of skill that lets you know these dudes are pro without being a total wankfest. (I'm looking at you Sumerian Records) If I'm in the right mood, this could rank Top 20 easy. I hear HoP just signed to Prosthetic. Hopefully
that means more people will be exposed to this wicked band. Standout track: "A Thousand Christs"

#37. Melechesh - The Epigenesis (NED, Nuclear Blast): Originally from Israel, Melechesh relocated to the Netherlands and I think the move had some influence on the record. Maybe being in Europe pushed them into a more straight ahead black metal album than Emissaries. Yet it still maintains plenty of Middle Eastern influence. Most notably in the cadence and instrumentation. This album could easily rank much higher but I
haven't had much time with it. Standout track: "Defeating the Giants"