Sargon the Terrible
So another year has flown by, and at last we can put 2009 in our rearview mirror and say adios motherfucker. Every year I do my own personal rundown of what I thought were the best albums of the year that just passed, and this year is no different. This year I really could not come down on an Album of the Year, and I didn't want to order my list from one to whatever, so this year I'm doing it chronologically. My little trip through 2009 in retrospect.
1. The Ruins Of Beverast - Foulest Semen of a Sheltered Elite
A massive album, full of dense, intelligent songwriting and addictive melodies, this is Black Metal so far evolved it has become almost its own genre – something new and malevolent under the sky. Alex Von Meilenwald continues to blaze his own trail across a dark firmament, and I am glad to be here to see it.
1. While Heaven Wept - Vast Oceans Lachrymose
Out of the past comes another great band who I thought were gone, but are not. After six years of waiting we finally get the follow up to Of Empires Forlorn, and it is as good as I hoped and almost nothing like what I expected. Perfectionist Tom Phillips and friends have produced the album they wanted to make, and it is a magnificent work.
2. Autumn - Altitude
I loved the shit out of My New Time, and so I was waiting for this. The addition of the superlative Marjan Welman on vocals just made this an even more amazing album than it would have been anyway. A great band on the way up.
3. Suidakra - Crogacht
This band has been in a bit of a slump since Signs for the Fallen, but this time they roared back with a massive concept album and blazing steel riffs to spare. Easily the best Folk Metal of the year.
4. Blut Aus Nord - Memoria Vetusta II: Dialogue With The Stars
I never liked this band before, but this album caught my attention with big, sweeping riffs and kept it with intelligent songwriting and inventive compositions. This album is like a journey through dark skies and strange places, an excellent work I had not expected.
5. Ea - Ea II
Following up on the grand Ea Tasse, this mysterious band created an even more arcane and enigmatic sequel with Ea II. Two untitled songs, 47 minutes of Funeral Doom crushing. Greatness to spare.
6. Razor Of Occam - Homage to Martyrs
Nothing revolutionary, just pure blistering Death/Thrash that kicks so much ass it will leave boot-prints on your pancreas.
7. Candlemass - Death Magic Doom
I didn’t think they had it in them, and feared the loss of Messiah signaled the beginning of the inevitable decline into irrelevancy. But this is the best Candlemass album since Tales of Creation, and that is no small shit.
8. Arcana Coelestia - Le Mirage de l'idéal
A strange and brilliant album from an obscure Italian band, this dark and unforgiving mix of Black forbidding and Doom melancholy was one of the works I just could not get away from this year. Inaccessible and brooding, arcane and delightful.
9. God Dethroned - Passiondale
After years of boring me, this sounds like a whole new band. The addition of the epic WWI theme just added an element of meaning and seriousness this band never had before, and lifts this above simply kick-ass and into the realm of something significant, like art.
10. Eternal Tears Of Sorrow - Children of the Dark Waters
Back from the grave, this band produced the so-so Before the Bleeding Sun, and now this: a restatement of purpose, a declaration of a new era in the band's sound and history. Not retreading old works, this sounds like a band that knows where they want to go.
11. Deströyer 666 - Defiance
Yet another band that has been absent the last 6 years, the hell-bastards from Australia finally came roaring back with Defiance. Not just a good album, but one of the best they ever recorded.
12. Fool's Game - Reality Divine
New band, never heard of them, but they put together this great disc and just blew me away. The density of Pharaoh, the complexity of Fate's Warning, searing vocal lines and stellar musicianship. Not a lot of bands have what it takes to come in right at the top, this one does.
13. Scythian - To Those Who Stand Against Us
Another new band, hailing from the UK this time. These guys are following in the footsteps of Celtic Frost and early Sodom, producing regressive, iron-age metal that defies any categorization beyond "Fuck Yeah!"
14. Swallow the Sun - New Moon
Faced with the unenviable task of following up the awesome Hope, Swallow the Sun brought forth a darker, bleaker sister with New Moon, the finest Doom album of 2009.
Any year will have these, but the ones this year were different in that many of them were not bad per se, but were just letdowns from what I hoped for.
1. Nile - Those Whom the Gods Detest
See what I mean? Not a bad album, but the greatest production job they have ever had can't hide the fact that this is the weakest album they have ever recorded.
2. The Chasm - Farseeing the Paranormal Abysm
I'll probably get lynched for this one, but after many, many listens I find this new album too long, too cerebral, unfocused, and weakly produced. Not bad, but not as good as I expected.
3. Battlerage - Blood, Fire, Steel
After so long, my expectations were really high. Too high, I guess. I wanted this to be a True Metal monster for the ages, but instead I got just a good album.
4. Ignitor - The Spider Queen
I've been waiting for this band to return to the great songwriting that made their Take To The Sky disc such a winner. Still waiting….
5. Ahab - The Divinity of Oceans
Their debut was huge, sweeping, arresting, and original. This album is…just kind of boring.
I feel like 2009 was a very good year in metal and here is my list of the best (and worst) of the past year. Although it lacked many perfect albums, I really feel that this past year was better one than 2008.
1. Nile - Those Whom the Gods DetestIt was a close call but at the end of the day, I really felt that this was the best album of the year and definitely the best Death Metal record of 2009. Possibly Nile's best work ever.
2. Crystal Viper - Metal Nation
I might be in the minority, but I find this album better than the debut. Songs like "Bringer of Light" and "Anvil of Hate" are just awesome.
3. Slough Feg - Ape Uprising!
To me this is an improvement over Hardworlder, I enjoy it a lot more and while it cannot touch what this band did at the beginning of the decade, it is still a great album.
4. Candlemass - Death Magic Doom
The best Doom Metal album of 2009. After the o.k. King of the Grey Islands, the band comes back with a vengeance, hell they deserve to be here just for "The Bleeding Baroness". Oh and Robert Lowe never sounded better.
5. Deströyer 666 - Defiance
Six years after their last disc, this band released an album that crushes everything in its path and leaves you begging for mercy.
6. Midnight Idöls - Sworn to the Night
– This is just a cool album. From beginning to end, this record made me realize why I love this type of music.
7. Artillery - When Death Comes
These Danish men made what I consider the top thrash album of the year. Every song here is at least very good proving that not all 80's bands that are making a comeback have to make an album that sucks.
8. Megadeth - Endgame
The best album that Megadeth has made since Countdown to Extinction. New member Chris Broderick injects new life to the band and they never sounded better. I only hope that he stays for a couple more records.
9. Herman Frank - Loyal to None
Who knew that any Accept member (past or present) could do such a killer record?
10. The Chasm - Farseeing the Paranormal Abysm
This album took me a while to get used to as I was treated to an overwhelming number of instrumentals. I don’t think it is the best that this band has done, but it is still worth owning.
11. Ravage - The End of Tomorrow
Heavy Metal done right made by an experienced band even though this is only their second album.
12. Wolf - Ravenous
If this isn't one of the best albums of 2009, it is definitely one of the catchiest. Coming from a guy that hadn’t listened to this band before, this record is as fun as any I’ve listened to this year.
13. Witching Hour - Rise of the Desecrated
Out of nowhere this unknown German band comes out with this hellish debut. This is a killer record, setting high my expectations for their follow up.
14. God Dethroned - Passiondale
Never been a fan of this band before but after listening to this I might listen to the rest of their catalogue.
15. Hibria - The Skull Collectors
With this record, the band faced a very difficult task in following a masterpiece. And while this cannot touch Defying the Rules, it is an album worth having and better than most out there.
1. Cage - Science of Annihilation
This is by far the worst album of 2009. I can't believe how bad and faceless the songs here are.
2. Kreator - Hordes of Chaos
After the killer Enemy of God, I was expecting Kreator to follow the same path. Sadly this joke of an album is my year's biggest disappointment.
3. Slayer - World Painted BloodOh how the mighty have fallen. I liked some songs on Christ Illusion but this piece of garbage is just a waste of time. I should have expected this as Slayer hasn't released a good album in almost 20 years.
4. Doomenicus - SacredThis band's debut was just boring and uninspiring. It seems that they confused slow with atmospheric and the result is lackluster at best.
5. Dream Theater - Black Clouds and Silver Linings
It seems like this band wanted to go back to the mid 90's, a time at which they released albums with no substance or purpose in order to prove that they are great musicians.
|I must admit, 2009 was a pretty damn good year for metal. We've seen Megadeth reclaim the throne as masters of their genre (one they'd vacated right after the release of Countdown…). We've seen newcomers to the scene unleash hellish debuts, and previous champions reclaiming their former glory. Disappointments have been at an all time low as far as I'm concerned, with only a handful of offenders. As with every year a few of our brothers in metal were lost, most notably John "Midnight" McDonald, and Mike Alexander - may their legacy live on in the fantastic music they created. So without further ado I'd like to present some of the albums I've really enjoyed over the year, and of course a few that I didn't!||
1. Megadeth - Endgame
There's not much to say about this album, it's been kicking my ass since the day it came out. The addition of Chris Broderick resulted in some of the best guitar work Megadeth have done since Rust in Peace, and easily the best album they've done since Countdown to Extinction. Absolutely essential.
2. Anubis Gate - The Detached
Make no mistake about it, I love these guys. Ever since A Perfect Forever Anubis Gate have been releasing some of the best Progressive Metal albums around - The Detached is no different. Flawless songwriting, arrangements, musicianship, and production helped keep this on rotation throughout the year and no doubt all the way till their next one. Progressive/Power Metal fans need this in their lives.
3. Stratovarius - Polaris
Turns out getting rid of Timo Tolkki was the best thing that could have ever happened to Stratovarius. A real band effort this time around showed Jens Johansson and the gang at their most creative and compelling, and this can only bode well for the future.
4. Cain's Offering - Gather the Faithful
Whilst Sonata Arctica completely lost the plot in 2009, it would be their former shred master Jani Liimatainen who would lynch us with thit slick, icy cool brand of melodic Power Metal Sonata Arctica were so good at once upon a time. With the aid of Timo Kotipelto’s vocal mastery, Gather The Faithful turned out to be one of the best – and as gay as it sounds this turned out as the perfect break up album!
5. Hibria - The Skull Collectors
In all fairness this came out in February in Europe so it's technically 2009. It was surprising to see this go by relatively unnoticed, everyone buzzed like mad about Defying the Rules and things were just as good with The Skull Collectors. Good old balls to the wall Heavy/Power Metal was the order of the day – let's just hope they don’t take another 4-5 years between albums.
6. Vader - Necropolis
This album just full on smokes, any self respecting metalhead can see that.
7. Redemption - Snowfall On Judgment Day
Ranking higher than genre masters Dream Theater, Redemption come out with the best release of their career. Whilst undeniably progressive, Redemption boast a great understanding of how to keep things heavy and most of all metal, Ray Alder delivers one of his finest performances in years and the appearance of James LaBrie should have every prog nut frothing at the mouth.
8. Manimal - The Darkest Room
Cracking debut from Swedish power metallers Manimal. 2009 was the year for powerful Power Metal but this bad boy was certainly the cream of the crop. Great riffage, an absolutely wicked singer and a top notch sensibility for songwriting kept this on regular rotation.
9. Leverage - Circus Colossus
Big hooks and ridiculously catchy choruses are the order of the day on the latest Leverage album. Beyond enjoyable, I must have spun this at least 20 times the weekend I got it. This is the sort of album you'd listen to whilst getting ready for a night on the tiles, good vibes all around it's hard not to beam from ear to ear listening to this.
10. Bloodbound - Tabula Rasa
I didn't expect this one to kick as much backside as it did. The return of vocal god Urban breed is pretty much the entire reason why this is so good. Let's not forget the excellent riffage throughout, really a step up this time around. It's hard not to argue with this album and judging by the waves it made here this year it's clear I’m not the only one who enjoyed it.
1. Sonata Arctica - The Days of Grays
After hearing “Flag In The Ground” I was stoked for this album, standing as one of the best songs these guys ever put down. Sadly the rest of the album sucked balls. There was one other decent song sailing amidst a sea of mediocrity. Beyond fruity and beyond redemption this album is fucking ridiculous, what a shame.
2. Heavenly - Carpe DiemDespite 3 or 4 decent tracks, nothing can excuse how gay this is. I mean it really is very gay, "Farewell" and "A Better Me" should be used for torture, and my ears still haven't recovered from when I reviewed it. Which blows, I mean come on the rest of their discography was such good fun, they surely must have lost the plot – maybe Tony Kakko had something to do with it, he did appear on their last album after all. I can see it now, "power metal's not about the high flying, double kicking, fast guitars these days, no it's about being mature with your piano and pissing off your fan base in hope of a more intellectual audience."
So there we have it, my personal picks for 2009. Already there's some cool stuff going on for 2010: Orden Ogan and Heathen have delivered the first two ass kickers and with albums in the pipeline from Gamma Ray, Nevermore and a host of others I'm sure the times will be good for 2010. Let's just hope Lost Horizon sort a singer and album out – wishful thinking eh!
2009 has been an interesting year for metal, full of surprises and also unfortunately full of been-there-done-that releases. This list may seem schizophrenic, but I stand by my choices, and I hope/expect that there's something here for metal lovers of all kinds.
1. Slough Feg - Ape Uprising!
Always evolving, never stagnating, Slough Feg create an incredibly fun album that matches up well with their best efforts. Scalzi and company are in top form here, as per usual; and as usual, Ape Uprising doesn’t sound quite like anything preceding it.
2. The Chasm - Farseeing the Paranormal Abysm
More than an album, The Chasm's latest is a subtly nuanced journey into the...abysm, a superior dimension indeed. Fans of abstract Death Metal should eat this up; Farseeing…'s biggest problem is that it ends.
3. Scythian - To Those Who Stand Against Us
Mithras fans should have a vested interest in this; produced by Leon Macey and obviously influenced by that affiliation, this album is a thunderous and filthy exercise in Black/Thrash/Death with the kind of transcendent lead work you’d expect from friends of Macey.
4. Portal - Swarth
Portal's music is not for everyone, but the experimental soul will appreciate the artistic decadence of their unique, noisy Death Metal formula. Swarth is a step up from Outre and about as good as Seepia.
5. Diamanthian - Arcana Doctrina
Arcana Doctrina is pure old-school Death Metal mastery from the guys who brought us 2005's also fantastic The Infinite Descent. The production values have seen some change, but the overall product is as excellent as the band's debut .
6. Isole - Silent Ruins
It takes talent to release two solid albums in consecutive years, but Isole clearly have the wherewithal. Silent Ruins does little different from 2008's Bliss of Solitude, but both albums are magnificent examples of modern traditional Doom with an epic bent.
7. While Heaven Wept - Vast Oceans Lachrymose
Characterized by emotionally-charged vocal lines and an impressive number of satisfyingly crunchy traditional Doom riffs, to speak nothing of the album's commanding lead guitar, this is up there with Isole as one of the year's best.
8. Candlemass - Death Magic Doom
A marked improvement over King of the Grey Islands, Death Magic Doom approaches the classic status of their first four. Rob Lowe puts on a stellar performance; Edling still has it. Marcolin's absence is no longer a distracting factor.
9. Funebrarum - The Sleep of Morbid Dreams
Although I don't think Funebrarum have matched the quality of their 2001 debut, this one is definitely a keeper, with one of the most bludgeoning production jobs I've ever heard and an unrelenting, no compromise approach to Death Metal songwriting.
10. Cobalt - Gin
I feel some regret over only including two Black Metal albums, and one that doesn't adhere strictly to the genre's conventions at that, but Cobalt play an interesting fusion of BM and post-rock. I normally despise the latter when introduced to a metal template, so the fact that I enjoy this so much has got to count for something. The 50 tracks of silence could definitely be cut, however.
11. Ulcerate - Everything is Fire
A comparison between this album and Gorguts' Obscura is inevitable. It's twisted, dissonant, and occasionally painful to listen to, but I can't deny its artistic merit. It should be heard, if not kept in constant rotation .
12. My Own Grave - Necrology
I have no idea who these guys are or where they came from (please, no emails saying “Sweden”), but I can’t argue with this album's endless supply of kickass Death Metal riffs and its slight flirtation with melody (think Dismember in their middle era).
13. Insidious Decrepancy - Extirpating Omniscient Certitude
How in the world did this get here? Listen, even if you hate brutal, technical, sterile Death Metal, there's no guarantee you’ll hate this album. Most bands do not pull this formula off very well, but Insidious Decrepancy brings the metal like very few in the (sub)genre. A James Murphy production adds to the overall goodness and aids in forgetting that there's a drum machine involved.
14. Wolf - Ravenous
Don’t be put off by their notoriously bad album covers (though Ravenous is an improvement); Wolf are a catchy and consistent Heavy Metal band, and this is yet another top-notch album from the Swedes.
15. Malfeitor - Incubus
Italy's Malfeitor play ferocious Black Metal with a Death Metal sense of brutality, rarely letting up from the stream of suffocating riffs and only sometimes halting the great, organic-sounding blast beats of drummer/workhorse Atum. Impressively, atmosphere is not forsaken in this approach. This is not Panzer Division Marduk. Some say their first album is better, but I haven't heard it and can't comment.
1. The Gates of Slumber - Hymns of Blood and Thunder
I should love The Gates of Slumber, being a huge fan of sword and sorcery imagery, and an even bigger fan of riffy mid-paced Heavy/Doom Metal. But I don't. Grand Magus know how it's done; TGoS seem out of their element, and they forget to include music that evolves beyond or improves on what Black Sabbath were doing in the '70s. Generic riffs coupled with uninspired vocals, Hymns... is not as good as they say. The cover art is the best part.
2. Gorod - Process of a New Decline
There's no doubting the instrumental ability of Gorod's members. I do question their songwriting skills, however, on this third album. Is it Gorod or is it Beneath the Massacre? It's got more sweeps than you can count; does it have soul? Does it prefer the song over technical display? I don't believe so. Leading Vision this is not.
3. Bloodbound - Tabula Rasa
Not trying to be a contrarian here, but I have a slight man crush on Urban Breed, and this just doesn't do it for me like Tad Morose did. Decent lead guitar doesn't save it from boring chugging riffs and (guitar-related) Melo-Death trappings. It’s hardly a terrible effort, but I am disappointed.
There you have it. This was no easy task, as 2009 has produced a ridiculous number of very good releases that aren't quite at the top of the heap. Among them: Excoriate, Teitanblood, Grave Digger, Anubis Gate, Criminal, Doomraiser, Beherit, Embrace of Thorns, Nokturnal Mortum, The Ruins of Beverast, Unholy Matrimony, Vreid, Augury, Cormorant, Denial, God Dethroned, They Are They, Tribulation, Unanimated, West Wall, and undoubtedly many more I'm not aware of.
Here's to hoping 2010 is as fruitful.
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