Sunday, November 21, 2010

Top Ten Albums of 2010 Extravaganza

It's been an amazing year for albums, both those that have been released and those that were promised and then put off for another day (I'm looking at you, Necrophagist).  In the spirit of the season, welcome to my highly-touted Top Ten Albums of the Year 2010 List Extravaganza, presented by H.E.B. and Seagram's 7.
I had a difficult time remembering albums that debuted this year; usually it's so simple to just throw something together, because up until just recently, I hoarded back issues of Decibel magazine and made detailed notes about what was coming out at any given time.  My recent work schedule and work-related distractions have secretly conspired against my normally impeccable ability to remember every album I bought/discovered and what my initial impressions of said albums were.  Lame.  This year, there was a lot of really great music that came blasting through my modestly-priced computer speakers, and my blown-out but still usable car stereo system.  Here are my Top Pixxx, in no particular order, other than the order that I gave them to signify how much I liked them from best to worst.  Or best to least best.

1) Cephalic Carnage-Misled by Certainty: Hydro-grinding my face into oblivion, Cephalic Carnage did exactly what I expected them to do with their newest album this year, which is be completely badass and make me wish I had the wherewithall to smoke weed the way they do.  Deathy, doomy, grinding and truly inspired, Cephalic Carnage remind me why I went gay for them four years ago: because they're better than everyone else.
2) Black Breath-Heavy Breathing: I know this one will catch some flak from certain weiners in my life (William Randolph Hubbell), but this album struck me hard.  I had the pleasure of experiencing Black Breath live before listening to their recorded material (I started with the Razor to Oblivion EP), and they impressed me from the beginning with their crusty, D-Beat laden attack. Super angry and able to channel my inner punk rocker while still quenching my thirst for The Heavy, Black Breath wrote a masterwork of an album.
3) The Red Chord-Fed Through the Teeth Machine:  I love the Red Chord; that many critics and fans have slapped them with the perjorative "Deathcore" tag seems unfair, like a well-behaved child at Christmas who receives nothing but socks and novelty underwear.  Their off-kilter approach to the best kind of metal--death metal--never fails to reinvigorate my enthusiasm for the genre, which tends to run amok in the vast, directionless fields of mediocrity if left unchecked.  Great riffs and throat-ripping vocals made this album a heavy contender for my #1 spot; they'll have to settle for #3 on some unknown guy's (formerly) Facebook page top 10 list that maybe 3 people will ever read for any reason.  Sorry, Red Chord.
4) High on Fire-Snakes for the Divine:  I got to play Matt Pike's fabled 9-string guitar during SXSW.  I don't mean I got to play the Matt Pike signature model, either.  Matt Pike himself handed me the guitar that he used to write and perform masterpieces like Bastard Samurai and Fury Whip (which wasn't on this album, but on Death is this Communion, which also ruled hard).  Snakes' production was slammed as spotty and inconsistent in early reviews, but this record grew on me a great deal.  That High on Fire took risks like using riffs that don't sound like High on Fire riffs, and including one especially ill-fated guitar solo (I won't name it, but it's pretty easy to find if you listen to the album) prove that they aren't past their creative peak.  This is great news for us fans, because Death is this Communion was so amazing that I, for one, could understand if they were just plumb out of ideas for any new records and just started recording Lady Gaga covers or exclusively playing wedding receptions.  Thankfully, they've still got something going on upstairs.
5) Bison B.C.-Dark Ages:  Bison B.C. is awesome.  So awesome.  I have had the pleasure of seeing them live no less than five (!) times in 2010; three times during SXSW and twice just generally touring around.  That they are amazing and heavy live is no secret; that they are so nice to their fans is no surprise (they're Canadian).  That the music translates so nicely to the recorded medium is refreshing, and Dark Ages never disappoints.  Running the gamut from sludge to crust, Bison unleash an diverse and never-boring aural assault that nearly knocked me out of my ancient office chair the first (and immediately second) time I listened to it.  I can't wait for them to revisit Austin; I need about 5 Bison B.C. shirts to properly display to the general public how big a fan Bison has gained with Dark Ages.
6) Coffinworm-When All Become None: I don't want to bore you with the specifics, but Coffinworm are dark.  Like, DARK.  Doomy and suffocating, When All Become None won me over from the first spin and accompanied me through some seriously dark times while I was working for the Hospice medical equipment company.  Coffinworm reminded me that, while stuff does indeed suck, hiding from the ugly truth isn't an option.  Coffinworm are a force to be reckoned with, and that I had to miss their performance during SXSW at Hoek's Death Metal Pizza haunts me to this day.  But they'll be back, and I'll be there to buy a shirt covered in siguls and their relatively-legible logo.
7) Iron Thrones-The Wretched Sun:  Thanks, MetalSucks, for opening my eyes to so much amazing (Iron Thrones, The Armed, et al) and disappointing (The Ocean, I see you over there) music.  Iron Thrones won the No Label Needed contest (or whatever it's actually called), and with good reason.  It's because they take the Between the Buried and Me prog attack and lace it liberally with the shimmering sludge of Isis and fuse it together to create excellent, arresting music.  Iron Thrones are at turns a meandering jazz band and a metal band so heavy that you have to make sure to listen to them with your legs and not your back to make sure you avoid serious injury, and The Wretched Sun ruined my world for several weeks because I couldn't escape the opening track, Like A Moth to Flame, no matter where I went.  And it's a hot buy, too; I think you can even get it for free from their bandcamp page (I threw down eight ducats on it because I liked it so much), so go check it out now.  NOW.
8) The Howling Wind-Into the Cryosphere:  I'm not much for black metal, but The Howling Wind are amazing.  I remember reading on Invisible Oranges, the superlative metal blog run by the inimitable Cosmo Lee, that the guitarist/frontman Ryan Lipynsky, was something of a guitar god.  "My balls! I would know a guitar god from ten miles away!" I thought to myself; after all, I'm highly trained and pretension runs in my veins like the alcohol I make sure to ingest on a nightly basis.  "I'll be the judge of that," I continued in a strange inner monologue seemingly ripped from a Shakespearean tragicometragedy.  Turns out, Cosmo isn't joking.  Lipynsky doesn't shred the way an Yngwe or a Petrucci might.  Instead, he invokes demons and forces the guitar to speak incantations to the listener.  This is American Black Metal at its finest, and I'm looking forward to what the future holds for such a great band.
9) Intronaut-Valley of Smoke: I'm a huge Intronaut fan.  That 2008's Prehistoricisms took my life by storm is no surprise considering the heady thickness of Intronaut's musical textures and my affinity for anything that anyone labels as "proggy."  Augment that sound with the unparalleled bass playing of Joe Lester, whose playing takes Intronaut from "pretty good band" into the coveted realm of "UUUGHHH, SOOO GOOOOD."  And that's a big deal.  Valley of Smoke took me for a ride that was both strange and powerful.  I hope the accolades for this particular band continue to roll in, and not just because I am for some reason Facebook friends with Sacha Dunable (I hope he reads this! [He won't]).  Intronaut are a true powerhouse of a band that consistently make records that draw me in, and Valley of Smoke is just another fantastic chapter in what will one day be their legacy, and I hope it's still an early chapter.
10) Ludicra-The Tenant:  This one was tough.  I actually, if you can imagine, had a surprisingly clear-cut top 9 albums of 2010, but what would triumph as number ten was a mystery to me until just recently.  Indeed, it took a good bit of listening to decide what would complete my list, and upon revisiting Ludicra's The Tenant just today, it became clear: I screwed up.  The mere fact that this album passed by me unnoticed since March 16th (!) makes me sick to my stomach.  This is the other black metal tome in my list, and it's American, so it obviously doesn't play in the normal tr00/kvlt parameters of the European black metal genre.  Ludicra take great pains to deliver a captivating and unpredictable experience in The Tenant.  That I allowed myself to miss out on this album for as long as I did makes me truly terrible; you should also feel this way if you have yet to meet The Tenant.

Notable mentions should go to D.I.S., Cloudkicker, Dillenger Escape Plan, Woe, The Armed, and Tyrant's Blood for making amazing albums that got edged out.  However, if this were a top 20 list, they would all be included, in addition to selected fare by Kylesa and Thou.

The most notable mentions I wanted to make were for the albums that I know I'll love but haven't gotten to hear yet.  Those are as follows: Withered-Dualitas, Arsis-Starve for the Devil, and Complete Failure's newest album, which I can't remember then name of but won't Google for no good reason.  I can say factually that I would love these three albums, but haven't been able to purchase them or borrow/steal them from any of my friends yet.  You may now return to your regularly scheduled life, and make sure you go listen to this awesome music before I physically assault you over it.  And if there's anything I missed, feel free to verbally abuse me, because I have nothing better to do than answer Facebook (now Blogspot) rants.

1 comment:

  1. I am, indeed, a wiener. This is a good list though. That Red Chode album came out last year though. And Intronaut should be higher!