Alec’s Top 10 of 2009
2009, a year I would say was defined by the newcomer; true, most of the releases on this list are follow ups, but the sheer number of surprises that were thrown at our ears from every angle was monumental – to note some freshmen that did not make the list but helped assuage the great missteps of bands we were hoping better of; Ambassador Gun’s When In Hell , The Armed’s These Are Lights, The Binary Code’s Suspension Of Disbelief, Pianos Become The Teeth’s Old Pride, MiRthkon’s Vehicle, Embryonic Depravity’s Constrained By The Miscarriage Of Conquest, just to name a few… And of course, sleeper hits from old favourites like Gaza, Gorod, Ruins Of Beverast, Telefon Tel Aviv, Krallice, Buried Inside… the new efforts of maudlin Of The Well, Do Make Say Think, and Moneen specifically were pieces of fine art that I wish could somehow make a top ten include 13 albums. While 2008 was a better year for music (if not the best of the decade), the top contenders were much easier to choose, a group that raised their hands out of a sea of 8-9 star albums… This year had some crushing failures, and yet the sheer output of new bands to take note of this year made this list very difficult. Even more difficult is the lightweight contender spot of the EP – Cloudkicker, Cave In, and the best metal band making metal; Haunted Shores all released mini epics that would all probably occupy the top five slots of this list if they were applicable. So, here is the list, all selections that honestly represent some of the most touching, expressive, aggressive, terrifying, challenging, ince90272udhsiwklaosuhssoiwkdldmusic I have ever heard:
Whatever connotative genre semantics you want to attach to this, I don’t care; And I love genre. I love shelves. I love compartments. I love mold infested museums… But Fragmentary Evidence, as a singular work of music, is pure quality. You can love Taylor Swift and still recognize an undisputed… eminence present that should scream “objective excellence”!1 Ok, scream is the word we are trying to distance this disc from, right? Arbitraries like death metal and technical should only usher the response “oh, ok?”, from the listener. It may currently be the Sistine Chapel of death metal, but it is also one of this decade’s greatest works of music, blast beats or not. This is the new Focus.
Axe To Fall is music 1940’s Mississippi blues men hoped kids would be making with Flash Gordon in 2009. Like Thursday with Common Existence, here is a prolific band getting long in the tooth, but using that chomper to leave a deeper indent in the listener’s neck. Devastating music for devastated people. Vocalist Jacob Bannon coined the vernacular aggressive music, and here is the pinnacle of high art aggression; except completely unpretentious and haemorrhaging sincerity.
3. Into The Moat – The Campaign
Not what I expected, better than I could have imagined. This is smart music, and decidedly unflashy technical exploration. 2005’s The Design, an album that is only surpassed by Calculating Infinity, drew up mechanical battle plans, examined the mobilization of the troops before the conflict… Leaving with an off time string suite, how could the war itself (The Campaign) be any more chaotic than only the paperwork (The Design)? Answer; it’s dark, ugly, uncompromising, and dismal. This is the most hopeless album of the year, purely intellectual, and too forsaken to be sorrowful. Not since Solace has technical music been so haunting (And staggeringly well written to boot. Kit Wray stepped up his theory game like no other this year)
The most transporting experience I have had this year – my skin can honestly feel a northern breeze hit it and nasally register the musk of pine needles when digging into this opus. This is trance like, choirs from the mouth of some mystic glade’s Old Man Willow, and never cheapening the black metal formula with grim kitschyness. Music to play Magic The Gathering to (because Magic is for gentlemen). Environmental black metal is by far one of the closest experiences an edge kid can come to getting fucked up, so here are some principle saving kicks.
As I mentioned in the review, Marston’s takes on the various canons of metal feel like what Will Eisner and Alan Moore did for mainstream comics… He still worships the format but cannot help but add a masterly touch of class, esteem, and creative lore to his works. His work in Dysrhythmia’s latest effort is no different. I hate to pin Marston as the sole auteur of his band, so I will also note that it is fact the guitar work that shines brightest on this album, followed closely by the Arctopus-trumping rhythm section… Sorry Charlie.
6. Cerebral Turbulency – Segregace k
These psychos, although less experienced, managed to beat Agoraphobic Nosebleed, Brutal Truth, AND Napalm Death out of this slot… And I know how much you all love Time Waits For No Slave. For all the great qualities those new classics possess, they all felt like attempts to gift art to grind. Segregace k is not mature, stable, or esteemed; it’s a dangerous AIDS drenched abomination; grind. This is the most addictive grind of the year, and certainly the album with the most personality.
7. Exivious – Exivious
Lots of Fripp and Holdsworth made its way onto this album, which at all times thankfully feels like homage and interpretation rather than worship… To call this a musician’s album would take away from its unabashed kindliness – all this from an album that was 70% improvised (yes, this is disputable, I know). Instrumental excellence is a given, and comes together as something I can only really describe as Metal Fatigue fused with the crushing introspection of Hard Hat Area. Once again, its aesthetic is dated, but try calling any entry in Holdsworth’s discography any less compelling years after release. It is also worth mentioning that as far as technical proficiency goes, I find far more complex instrumental work on Exivious than the universally toted Bulb and Abasi’s Animals As Leaders (which was also a great release from this year).
It is still hanging in the sky. Even Cthulhu and The Old Ones are intimidated by Everything Is Fire. Each spin requires the listener to wear a HAZMAT suit – Now that is an album.
I could shoulder my cross to bear involving the downward spiral of technical music in the modern age and how Spectrum saves the decade’s winter from being a complete teched up waste of time… But I think we are now used to the fact that there was an album that did tech death really fucking well that came out this year– It is now fair to judge the new found intricacies of the music itself – It really is a fantastically written album, barely restraining the hunger to tear the entire history and form of musical history apart… It will be SJL’s follow up that inspires the 2012 calamity if they use this debut as a springboard.
This band is perhaps the most accessible and simultaneously challenging on the list. Desperate Living is pure refined Horse, and exposes more of that heart on their sleeves, mixing it joyously with their Ionesco approach to heavy music… Horse is a club, for those in the know, and for charter members this album is absolute bliss. For those who are still not sure what it is this band represents, they still have the album’s surface: the best hooks of the year – A band that can jump from death metal slam about Mexico City to a climax that bests Explosions In The Sky.