Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Year End Best - The Kiddies in the Pool Weigh In

The Swedebeast's top eleven list of 2013

1. Black Star Riders - All Hell Breaks Loose
2. Beelzefuzz - Beelzefuzz
3. Admiral Browning - Give No Quarter
4. Iron Man - South Of The Earth
5. Samsara Blues Experiment - Waiting For The Flood
6. Argus - Beyond The Martyrs
7. Ihsahn - Das Seelenbrechen
8. Devil To Pay - Fate Is Your Muse
9. Monster Magnet - Last Patrol
10. Trilogy - Burned Alive
11. Kimi Kärki - The Bone Of My Bones

There could have been so many more but I have to draw the line somewhere. 2013 has been such a great year for heavy music.

Odin's Top Ten List for 2013

1.    Carcass – Surgical Steel  When a band goes 16 years between releases, you really hope that they don't embarrass themselves and tarnish their legacy.  Mission accomplished, and then some.
2.    Skeletonwitch – Serpents Unleashed This band has come so far, and this album is so good
3.    Lux Interna – there is light in the body, there is blood in the sun  Amazing album that showed me a very different side of heavy
4.    Pearl Jam – Lightning Bolt  This veteran band just continues to impress with their growth.  Many gave up on them years ago.  Your loss.
5.    Oranssi Pazuzu – Valonielu  Psychedelic space black metal.  Bet you never thought you'd hear that category. 
6.    Watain – The Wild Hunt  The band that you smell before you see flips the black metal script and does it oh so well.
7.    Satyricon – S/T  What can I say, I just love this album
8.    Batillus – Concrete Sustain  Heavy, droning grooves, pummeling drums, freaky keyboard sounds and samples.  Yes please!!
9.    Call Of The Void – Dragged Down A Dead End Path  Put the band name and album title together and you pretty much know what this sounds like.  Nasty, brutal feel good music.
10.    Cnoc An Tursa – The Giants Of Auld  This release really surprised me.  Some pagan metal that I can actually enjoy.  We want more!!

The Professors Top 10

1.    The Ocean- Pelagial
This album is the run-away winner for me in 2013.  This album is best listened to in one sitting, as the descent from the surface to the depths is mesmerizing.  Incredible vocals surround an amazing metal package.  This is one of my favorite albums of all time.

2.    Protest the Hero-Volition
This is the best album made by this incredible shred band.  Listening to Protest the Hero is a unique experience.   It provides the brutal riffage of a metal band, with the incredible clean singing of a rock band.  Crazy good.  

3.    By the Bull- The Witch

This album has it all.  Incredible depth, amazing vocals, and some of the best drumming I’ve heard all year.  This has “classic” written all over it for my personal library. 

4.    This Town Needs Guns-
A completely unique album, TTNG (as they are now called) has music that is difficult to describe.  It is beautiful and haunting, yet catchy.  This was a fantastic discovery. 
5.    Vorov- Vorov

Brutal.  Destructive.  Primal.  All words that describe Godzilla.  Vorov would be the Soundtrack to Godzilla.  If he was real.  I don’t know.  Great album from some great musicians, and the best “truly heavy” album to come out this year. 

6.    O’Brother- Disillusion
This album’s haunting brilliance will stick with me for a long time.  Heavy, sludgy, yet with a rock sensibility that makes them easily digestible.  One of the most intricate listens of the year. 

7.    Fusebox Poet- Who Are You Now?
This music is high-energy, emotionally charged, well-produced, and completely awesome.  Quick rock with organ?  I’m sold.  Singer Drew Cyphers hard charging and gorgeous vocals make this a one of a kind band.

8.    Death of Paris- Gossip
Jayna Doyal puts on the vocal performance of the year on Death of Paris’s new release.  Slickly written and impressively orchestrated by the instrumentalists, this is a perfect pop-rock package that doesn’t sacrifice musicality and expression for cheesy hooks or dance beats.  This is legitamete musicians making pop… and it is so, so good. 

9.    The Lonely Island- The Wack Album
I  know, I know… this isn’t a very “Ripple Effect” choice.  But hate away… I laughed my ass off. 

10.    Tesseract- Altered State
This album would be higher on my list if so many songs didn’t run together.  However, the vocals are amazing, and the grooves are tight.  It’s wonderfully heavy and dense.  Just a great album. 

You asked for out Top 10 of the year…tough call there have been some great releases this year and whittling it down to 10 is a real trial but here you go…they’re numbered but I honestly can’t really put them into an order.

Ollie's Top Ten

1)       Clutch – Earth Rocker

2)       Five Horse Johnson – The Taking Of Black Heart

3)       Motorhead – Aftershock

4)       Wild Eyes – Get Into It

5)       Carousel – The Jeweller’s Daughter

6)       Black Spiders – This Savage Land

7)       Black Sabbath – 13

8)       Hot Lunch – S/T

9)       Gonga – Concresence

10)   Carcass – Surgical Steel

Honourable mentions go to Mos Generator, Black Star Riders, Goat Leaf, Ape Machine, Mothership, Devil To pay, Larman Calmor, Luder, Blues Pills.

There you go…if you haven’t already checked out Wild Eyes and Carousel you should!!!!

Penfold's Top Ten Of 2013

In alphabetical order

Corsair - Corsair
dUg Pinnick - Naked
Gogol Bordello - Pura Vida Conspiracy
Greenhouse - Bend But Don't Break
House Harkonnen - Vol. 7
Janelle Monae - Electric Lady
Monsterworks - Album of Man
Russkaja - Energia!
Sgt. Sunshine - III
Zud - The Good, The Bad And The Damned

Honorable Mentions & Albums I Discovered Too Late

All Good Funk Alliance - Jacks of All Trades
Bangladeafy! - The Briefcase
Conny Ochs - Black Happy
deM AtlaS - Charle Brwn EP
Elvis Costello And The Roots - Wise Up Ghost
Moon Tooth - Freaks EP
Random - TRAP / River City Random / Castlevania: The Nocturnal Cantata
Thesis - All Mixed Up

Srikanth Panaman – Bevar Sea

Vhöl – Vhol

Members of Ludicra, Yob, and Agalloch get together for this awesomely fun black/d-beat project. Hope there’s more coming from these chaps.

Hatriot – Heroes Of Origin

Zetro is probably my favourite thrash singer along with Bobbly Blitz, so him making a comeback and with music more rooted in classic thrash than what Exodus has been doing since Zetro’s departure has been very welcome. He thrashes out with two of his kids that too. Talk about proper parenting. Killer thrash, as long as you can look past the corny band name.

Leslie West – Still Climbing

What a fucking monster of an album from the man himself. The only thing I would’ve had it differently would’ve been to not have these guests on his tunes. Leslie is a beast, his guitar tone is roaring and his songs and singing are top notch. This is the best heavy blues can get, but please – we don’t want Tremonti wanking over this.

Iron Man – South of the Earth

Maryland doom represent! This is also their best sounding album to date.

Monster Magnet – Last Patrol

It’s finally hit them that they should be doing the more psychedelic heavy rock instead of trying to capture the QOTSA market with repeated duds. This is a glorious return to form from the band.

Windhand – Soma

One of the best releases this year, plagued only by the over-indulgent last song where a riff keeps looping for over 10 minutes. Amazing doom record.

Church Of Misery – Thy Kingdom Scum

Holy moly. As kick ass as ever, and of course nothing new with the sound, just new serial killers to write songs about. Exactly what you expect from a CoM album.

Age of Taurus – Desperate Souls of Tortured Times

Great Candlemass style classic doom from the UK.

Victor Griffin’s In-Graved

This was a great little new project from one of doom’s legendary guitarists. Always a treat to hear him sing as well.

Entrails – Raging Death

This is the most fun I had listening to a death metal album this year. Lots of bands are now doing the Sunlight Studios thing, but not many are having as much fun as these guys are. Great production, great songs, trippy solos et al.

Spiritual Beggars – Earth Blues

The previous album was their worst yet, but this was a great return to form for the band. If you can imagine Michael Schenker playing for Deep Purple or Rainbow, you’re somewhere in the ballpark. Just a great sounding album all round as well. Appollo on vocals is doing so much better on this one.

Legend – The Dark Place

I don’t even remember much of their classic album from back in the day, at least not as much as I remember the likes of Satan or Pariah or Pagan Altar, but this album was so good.

Dragonauta – Omega Pentagram

Crushing doomy proggy metal from Argentina. One of my earlier favourites this year.

Satan – Life Sentence

This would be my best album this year as far as guitar playing goes. The rest of the band bring it too. So good to have these guys back.

Hail of Bullets – III The Rommel Chronicles

Goddamn, these guys dropped another new one this year, and have made it into a concept album about one of the most interesting characters from the world wars, Rommel. More punishing Bolt Thrower style death metal from these Dutchies.

Inquisition – Obscure Verses For The Multiverse

I’m not even sure if any of this is black metal, because I get the feeling that Dagon has been listening to a lot of 80s hard rock and metal. The Marshally guitar tone is in full force here with the tasty mid-range, the drums are very natural and heavy sounding, and Dagon’s voice is as mesmerising as ever. Essential album for anyone even remotely interested in black metal.

Beyond – Fatal Power of Death

Ironbonehead productions has been on a roll this year, and this German death metal band produced a true gem. Hard to pin-point the sound but they definitely draw from the classic American death metal bands from Florida and NY, and have a very dirty murky production. If you have to listen to one death metal album this year, let it be this.

New Keepers Of The Water Towers – Cosmic Child

One of my most played albums this year. Imagine Pink Floyd circa Echoes played doom metal, and you’d get something like this. A little heavier second half of the album would’ve make this perfect, but damn, this was one hell of an album nevertheless.

Cathedral – The Last Spire

What a way to bow out! The last album was a bit of a cut+paste referential prog rock endeavour, but they’ve brought the doom back and how! Total madness.

Kongh – Sole Creation

More Swedish goodness. These guys are doing what I wished Mastodon would do after Leviathan came out ten years ago.

Other contenders:

Grave Miasma – Odori Sepulcrorum
Anagnorisis – Beyond All Light
Altar Of Plagues – Teethed Glory & Injury
Raven Black Night – Barbarian Winter
Motörhead – Aftershock
Inter Arma – Sky Burial
Sasquatch – IV
Ulcerate – Vermis
Trouble – The Distortion Field
Autopsy – The Headless Ritual
Uncle Acid And The Deadbeats – Mind Control
Saxon – Sacrifice
Manilla Road – Mysterium
Sgt. Sunshine – III
Voivod – Target Earth
Egypt – Become The Sun

Rhythm Slayer's, in no particular order, a dozen reasons to celebrate a spectacular year in

Most brutally emotional aural experience/Most potent f-bomb: "Nearly Midnight, Honolulu", Neko Case

You better be sitting down when you listen to this one, nestled in the middle of
Neko's latest brilliant full-length offering. A harrowing, minimalist first
person account of her happening onto a mother suddenly and viscerally launching
to a barrage of hateful abuse on her child.  When Neko validates the experience
for the benefit of the unnamed five year old girl, if you don't choke up and
feel the chill in your bones, check into a morgue.


Latest proof that the Clash is the greatest band to ever have walked the earth -
Sound System

Fans of the only band that matters should dig deep and shell out the money for
this comprehensive document of the band's brilliance, not to mention posters,
stickers, and assorted SWAG, if only for spectacular alternate versions of
"Pressure Drop" and "Capital Radio", plus two 'brand new' tracks "Idle in
Kangaroo Court" and "Beautiful People are ugly too",  buried on one of the 3 cds
chock full of extras outtakes and live versions (ok, by the umpteenth iteration
of 1977, I think even I had had enough...).  These two heretofore unknown
nuggets from the Combat Rock era that might not come close to bumping your
favorite Clash song theirs off its perch (actually, it would be fairly
shocking), but they are enjoyable nonetheless.


Best conjuring of the ghost of Sid Vicious:
"Johnny Bagga Donuts", Palma Violets

One of the standout tracks from the immensely promising debut from this
London-based quartet features maniacally peripatetic bass player Chili Jesson on
lead vocals in place of the more sublime crooning of guitarist Samuel Fryer, and
here's one emphatic vote for seeing Chili take on more of a leadership role in
their next project.  Melodic power chords and anthemic harmonies summon up Stiff
Little Fingers but when Chili barks and flails around during his leadership
turn, the lanky bassist is the one who comes to mind first.


Most effective use of profanity:
"Hip Hop Kids", Portugal the Man

Check these lyrics from the strongest track on PtM's Danger Mouse-produced

Yeah the punks are tough
But those rock and rollers...
All the hip hop kids
Think we give a shit well...
We don't, we don't, we don't..


Bam!  Take that, you naysayers who think there's no room on mainstream radio for
glam-rock channeling, P-Funk loving Alaskans...

Best intersection of quality alt music and mass popular culture:
"Trouble Ahead", Little Hurricane

Apple's use of the Fratelli's "Flathead" to hawk its IPod was recently cited in
this space as a positive example of the positive effect that mass marketing
might have on a good band's fortunes.  Well, when the smokin blues licks of this
San Diego duo smoldered in the background in the latest Doritos promotion of its
locos tacos brand, one can only hope that legions of new followers will be
turned on to their White Stripes-influenced stripped down but bodaciously
boisterous jams.


Most deserving of massive mainstream success:
Tie, "Thrift Shop", Maclemore, and "Royals", Lorde

Hard not to root for a stand-up guy who wedded the year's most devastatingly
headnodding beat with quirkily catchy lyrics so accessible that my six year old
daughter raps along, and ditto for the spectacularly promising,
poised-beyond-her-years crooner from New Zealand who recalls the best of Bjork
and Kate Bush while staking out her own niche with her arachnidlike twitchy
dance moves.

Most devastating 1-2 punch to open an album "Do I Wanna Know" and "R U Mine",
Arctic Monkeys

Blistering guitars, sophisticated and nuanced lyrics brimming with psychosexual
tension, scorching rhythm section - all there in buckets.  Too bad the album
falls precipitously off a cliff from there on out, though i realize I'm in the
minority there.  I for one am rooting Alex and the boys cool their jets on the
Memphis Brylcream-soaked honky tonk ethos and stick a little closer to Sheffield
roots on their next release.  Does anyone think Get Happy is Elvis Costello's
greatest work?  Yeah, me neither.

Song that lasts about 4 minutes that one wishes went on for 20 more (and song of
the year for my money):
"Afterlife", Arcade Fire

The band's Reflektor cd blazes a wide swath of ambition, and not everything
works perfectly, but this keyboard-driven jam with the rhapsodic chorus, evoking
memories of Talking Heads' epic "Once in a Lifetime" three decades earlier, was
crafted with such irresistably dynamic energy that you WILL blast it out of your
car window.  And memo to Noel Gallagher, who spewed the hate at the band for
"reverting" to disco - you broke the code - apparently you and Patrick Carney
weren't listening when your moms told you that if you can't say something nice,
be quiet.  You may now go back to rooting for the Clippers of Manchester (recent
thrashing of Arsenal and qualification for the next round of the Euros
notwithstanding), and leave the critique of genre-defying awesome North American
bands to us , thanks very much.


Stellar album that made you yearn that they'd snuck in a cover of "Surfin Bird"
- "Trouble will find me", the National

Brilliant album of the year contender that far eclipses their last offering High
Violet, but my goodness, guys, lighten up a little?  Please?  Thankfully Matt
Berninger peppers his live shows with playfully self-deprecating humor inbetween
songs or we'd be forever drooping our heads in pathos.


Most disappointing collaboration -
"Wise Up Ghost", Elvis Costello and the Roots

Well I guess I just ignored my own rule as soon as I stated it, but I will be
respectful at least. I was salivating when I heard the legendary English
songwriter paired up with the equally legendary Philly hip hop crew but the
resulting album was astonishingly anemic.  Not sure why lead rapper Black
Thought was nowhere to be found, but he appears to have been the smartest in the
room for making himself scarce.  But, still glad to see genre-busting projects
even when they don't quite work.

Most unabashedly pleasant paean to 70s love songs

"A Place to Start", White Denim
Irresistable if a little saccharine closer to another album of the year
candidate.  Seals and Crofts, anyone? And, can we just enshrine this woefully
unknown, infinitely likeable Austin-based quartet a place in the rock n roll
hall of fame yet please?


Best album inspired by another medium:

"Regions of Light and Sound of God". Jim James
One of our most talented bandleaders/jam guitarists threw us a bit of a
curveball on his first fullfledged solo release early this year.  Long on
spirituality, boppity keyboards, and genuinely positive messages, not at all
heavy on the reverb guitars, his interpretation of Lynd Ward's "God's Man"
stands tall as one of the year's most satisfying experiences.


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