(mp3) Foo Fighters - In your honor
From In Your Honor (2005)
Saturday, December 29, 2007
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
1. Machine Head - The Blackening
Sample track: Halo
Machine Head's sixth album The Blackening was definitely the biggest triumph of the year. After releasing two impeccable masterpieces (1994's Burn My Eyes and 1997's The More Things Change...) and two rather crap ones (1999's The Burning Red and 2001's Supercharger), the mighty Head returned to form in 2003 with the blistering Through The Ashes Of Empires. That album was their first with guitarist Phil Demmel, who had played with frontman Robb Flynn in Bay Area thrash heroes Vio-Lence back in the day. Phil brought with him a new spark and an energy that the band so badly needed.
This new-found enthusiasm showed a lot of promise for their next album. And what an album it turned out to be. The Blackening is an epic metal masterpiece unlike any other released this year. Hell, there probably hasn't been an album quite like it since the 80's. With Demmel in the band fulltime, the guitar hero aspiration ran wild. Epic songs full of twists and turns that make you dizzy, twin guitar madness, the best metal drumming in ages, godly basslines, even godlier (is that a word?) harmonies, the best lyrics the band has produced this far... I could go on and on about every little detail that makes The Blackening such a milestone. In twenty years time people who talk about this album the way we talk about Reign In Blood and Master Of Puppets today. Mark my words.
2. Big Business - Here Come The Waterworks
Sample track: Just as the day was dawning
Their second album, somehow even better than the first. I didn't think it was possible, since their "gimmick" of being a bass & drums playing duo could get old pretty quickly. Big Business solved this by simply putting guitars all over it. Jared Warren's soaring voice and mighty bass grooves mix perfectly with Coady Willis' Keith Moon-esque mayhem from behind the kit (he's easily the best rock drummer since Dave Grohl). Since 2006 Warren & Willis are members of The Melvins, with whom they released last year's brilliant (A) Senile Animal, but Here Come The Waterworks somehow manages to be even more impressive than that one. Essential listening.
3. Deathspell Omega - Fas - Ite, Maledicti, In Ignem Aeternum
Sample track: Bread of bitterness
Black metal is at an all time high at the moments, bands are putting out great records left and right. Deathspell Omega is easily the best black metal band in the world at the moment. Someone referred to them as "the Isis of black metal", which isn't far off. The mystery surrounding the band (concept albums about metapsysics, no website, hardly any interviews, the fact that no one seems to knows who the members are) only add to the appeal.
4. Disfear - Live The Storm
Sample track: Get it off
Discharge and Motörhead combined? Oh yes. With former At The Gates vocalist Tompa Lindberg and former Entombed guitarist Uffe Cederlund in the band, how can you possibly go wrong? This rock hard slab of rocking crust, or crusty rock, is just about the most energizing album released this year.
5. The Dillinger Escape Plan - Ire Works
Sample track: Party smasher
I'm suprised this one gets as much grief as it does. I for one loved the last album, Miss Machine, and this is the natural continuation of that. I fucking love it, it's brilliant all the way through.
6. Clutch - From Beale Street To Oblivion
Sample track: Electric worry
With their eighth album Clutch ventured full on into a genre they've always dabbled with in the past: southern rock. And of course they did it better than everyone else.
7. Queens Of The Stone Age - Era Vulgaris
Sample track: Sick, sick, sick
Not only The Dillinger Escape Plan gets complaints, but Josh Homme too. I agree that Queens Of The Stone Age does lack a certain something since the firing of Nick Oliveri, but they're still of the best rock bands in the world. Sure, not as good as the first three albums, but still well and beyond most other bands.
8. High On Fire - Death Is This Communion
Sample track: Rumors of war
Although this is a great album, I must admit I was a little disappointed. After 2005's Blessed Black Wings, which was easily the best metal albums of that year, perhaps my expectations were too high. Maybe I just haven't listened to it enough. Who knows, after listening to it for a few more months I might wanna put it in the top 5.
9. Maylene And The Sons Of Disaster - II
Sample track: Dry the river
Southern rock/metal with raspy hardcore vocals screaming on top of it? It shouldn't work, but it totally does. If you think Christian rock means Creed and P.O.D., it's time to rethink. This fucking rocks, and it rocks HARD!
10. Gallhammer - Ill Innocence
Sample track: Killed by the queen
Perhaps Gallhammer belongs in the "novelty" category rather than the "good" category. Three young Japanese girls who dress in black and play crusty old school lo-fi black metal (complete with corpsepaint of course) is hardly something you see everyday, but Ill Innocence has been playing regularly in the Metal Bastard stereo for months. They manage to achieve that raw, punky feel of the black metal classics of the 80's, but without sounding like a rehearsal demo by fifteen year old kids in the parents' garage. Good stuff, can't wait to hear the next album.
Honorable mentions (in no particular order): Watain, Municipal Waste, Neurosis, Electric Wizard, Nifelheim, Witchcraft, Porcupine Tree, Down, Kongh, Taint, Tyrant, Behemoth, Today Is The Day, Wolfbrigade, Anaal Nathrakh, Pig Destroyer, The Ocean, Marduk, Coliseum, Primordial, Vicious Art, Skeletonwitch, Dÿse, Oxbow, Wolves In The Throne Room, The Hives, The Accidents, Hardcore Superstar, Sigh, Nine Inch Nails, Naglfar, Brant Bjork And The Bros, Dropkick Murphys, Entombed.
These guys (and gals) also released spectacular albums this year. Go investigate! There's gold in them hills!
Sunday, December 23, 2007
I need to cleanse myself from the "Merry Christmas" post. No better way than with an unholy death metal classic! Entombed's debut album Left Hand Path caused quite a stir upon its release seventeen years ago. Extreme music was nothing new and death metal had been around for years, but no band had made this kind of death metal before. As heavy as anything else, with a thick, masterful production by Tomas Skogsberg in Stockholm's Sunlight Studios (Entombed would use the same producer and studio for the next three albums), Left Hand Path introduced a groove and a catchiness never before heard in the genre.
They didn't shy away from things that conservative headbangers may have seen as "unmetal". Entombed didn't give a fuck and threw in whatever they felt like. They drew just as many influences from punk, hardcore and rock 'n' roll as they did from metal. In Entombed's world Discharge stood side by side with Morbid Angel. The Stooges and Slayer held hands and skipped down to the beach to share a piña colada. On later works Entombed would go full tilt with this rock/metal combo and create what music mags dubbed "death 'n' roll". But back in 1990 Entombed was still 100% death metal, using their diverse influences to channel a mean, snarling riff beast unlike any other. A true trendsetter that made everyone want to record in Sunlight to get that trademark "Entombed sound".
There is not one dud on this album, and picking only three songs from it was a hard task. Drowned and But Life Goes On were candidates for quite some time, as well as Revel In Flesh, but in the end Bitter Loss and The Truth Beyond won out. That the title track would be included was a given from the get go.
I dip my forefinger in the watery blood of your impotent redeemer
And write over his thorn-torn brow: "The true prince of evil"
Fucked up vocals, chainsaw guitars, crazy drumming, a sound and production still unmatched in the world of death metal, and an intensity that just won't let up - Left Hand Path is an album well beyond any other death metal album of its era. And let's not forget the most impressive part of it all: The band members were only 16-17 years old when they recorded it. If that doesn't make you feel like an old fart, I don't know what will.
(mp3) Entombed - Left hand path (highly recommended!)
(mp3) Entombed - Bitter loss
The video for Left Hand Path:
Buy Left Hand Path @ Amazon.com.
No, I'm not gonna do some long-winded Christmas post like all other bloggers. I keep seeing it everywhere:
"Ooooooooooh look at me, look at all the totally obscure Christmas songs I got! I bet you didn't know Pee Wee Herman and Cyndi Lauper recorded a duet of I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus, did you?! Well here it is, along with 80 other shitty fucking Christmas songs you've never heard of either!"
Fuck that. I'm giving you one Christmas song, and that's it. It's taken from the limited edition of Korn's 1999 album Issues, which had a bonus EP entitled All Mixed Up. Yes, I like Korn. Got a problem with that? Huh? Wanna take it outside, bitch? Merry fucking Christmas.
(mp3) Korn - Jingle balls
As if this wasn't enough I'm gonna do another cliche post in a day or two, namely my top 10 favorite albums of the year. God, I'm just a walking stereotype, aren't I? Might as well through these guys in:
Saturday, December 22, 2007
High time for what is quite possibly my favorite album of all time: Opeth's Blackwater Park.
Released in 2001 (and named after an obscure German 70's prog band), this was Opeth's fifth album and their first collaboration with producer Steven Wilson (who later produced Opeth's "twin albums", 2002's Deliverance and 2003's Damnation). Opeth's trademark has always been the combination of heavy-as-a-bastard death metal and beautiful, mellow segments - a result of lead singer, guitarist and main song writer Mikael Åkerfeldt's fascination (fetish, some would say) for death/black metal and 1970's progressive rock. He's also a huge Porcupine Tree fan, so to hire their ringleader Steven Wilson was an obvious choice.
That's just about all I can tell you about this album... Without sounding too pathetic or getting too personal, it's kinda hard for me to talk about Blackwater Park simply because I don't think words could ever explain just how much it means to me, how much I love it, and why I love it. It's an album that just transcends everything. Before I bought it I'd been hearing a lot about Opeth, had read many a glowing review, and I didn't really know much about them or what they sounded like except for one or two tracks that I had stumbled upon. It didn't sound bad or anything, it just didn't speak to me. I thought I'd give the band another shot, so I went and bought Blackwater Park, Deliverance and Damnation. Gave it another listen and... Well, it sounded a little better than before, but still nothing earthshattering. Perhaps the three albums didn't do much for me because it was in the middle of summer. Opeth's music is many things, but "summery" isn't one of them.
Months later I went out for a long walk by myself on a beautiful, crisp afternoon in the fall (I even remember the date: October 15th). It wasn't too cold, not too warm - it was just right. The sun was shining, birds were tweeting and all trees and bushes had turned burning red, orange, yellow and pink. Blackwater Park was rumbling in the old headphones and finally I got it. I got it. The penny finally dropped and at last I understood just what Opeth was about.
The opening track, The Leper Affinity, certainly made me pay attention but by the time Bleak, Harvest and, most importantly, The Drapery Falls came along there was no longer any doubt: this is a fucking masterpiece, and that's final. An impeccable piece of work that's so much more than just music on a piece of plastic. I'm a fan of many bands and many types of music, but I don't recall ever being moved fundamentally , right to the core, the way I was on that day. Yes, I know it's getting pathetic but in all honesty Blackwater Park is the closest I've ever come to a spiritual (hell, religious even!) experience. Sure, many things played a major role, such as the place I was at in my life at the time, the mood I was in on that particular day, and of course the perfect autumn setting (Opeth is music for winter and autumn, no doubt about it). But at the heart of it all was the haunted, gorgeous sounds blaring into my impressionable little ears.
I chose to share Bleak and The Drapery Falls with you, but I could have picked any of the album's eight tracks. It wouldn't have mattered, they're all equally essential. If you download them and have a listen (and I strongly suggest you do) your reaction may very well be: "What the fuck is that idiot talking about? It isn't that good. It's death metal with some mellow shit thrown in. Big fucking deal. And spiritual? Religious?! This must be some bad joke. I bet he's on crack."
And that's perfectly fine. I don't expect anyone to feel as strongly as I do about anything, certainly not about something as subjective as music. But give it a try: Blackwater Park may be an eyeopener for you too. If not, maybe you'll appreciate it just for what it is on a more basic, down to earth level: A fucking excellent album.
Just for the record, your honor: Deliverance and Damnation turned out to be great too. I'll write a piece about them too in the future. In fact - being the Opeth nerd that I am, I'll probably write about all their albums eventually.
(mp3) Opeth - Bleak
(mp3) Opeth - The drapery falls (highly recommended!)
Bleak live in 2006 (amazing how they can pull this shit off without a hitch):
Buy Blackwater Park @ Amazon.com.
Friday, December 14, 2007
(mp3) Taint - Corpse of love
From Secrets And Lies (2007)
(mp3) Maylene And The Sons Of Disaster - Memories of the grove
From II (2007)
Alrighty then. It's been a while (over two weeks to be exact), but here's another scorcher from Metal Bastard's impeccable collection: Napalm Death's 1999 covers EP Leaders Not Followers.
Perhaps you know the story of Napalm Death: Grindcore pioneers formed in Birmingham in the early 80's, inspired by noisemakers such as Crass and The Ex they made their debut with Scum in 1987. The only thing consistent since the birth of the band has been a lack of anything consistent. Few, if any bands, have had more line-up changes than Napalm Death (by the time that first album came out there were no original members left!), and their music has changed as well over the years.
From their noisy lo-fi punk/hardcore/grindcore days, via a more death metal tinged sound in the early 90's, to the groovy metal of the mid to late 90's. While Napalm Death had never lost any of their intensity, their 2000 album Enemy Of The Music Business marked a return to their early speed-of-lightning days, which was then fully realised on the follow-up, 2002's Order Of The Leech. Napalm Death has continued on in this same vein on the last few albums, with the breakneck pace of their early work while retaining the crushingly heavy, relentless sound and highly quality production of their late 90's work. The best of two worlds, if you ask me.
1999 saw the release of Leaders Not Followers, on which Napalm Death covers six songs in about 15 minutes: Raw Power's Politicians, Slaughter's Incinerator, Pentagram's Demonic Possessions, Repulsion's Maggots In Your Coffin, Death's Back From The Dead and Dead Kennedys' Nazi Punks Fuck Off.
(mp3) Napalm Death - Maggots in your coffin (highly recommended!)
The video for Incinerator (don't watch if bicycle pants scare you):
Buy Leaders Not Followers @ Amazon.com.