Wed, 29 March 2017
Fans pick their favorite HEAVY SONG, and detail why.
Russ - Double Edged Sword: Neurosis (CA, 1990) (0:25-4:27)
"A friend in high school told me that if I ever heard of a band and was going to buy a record that I should get the oldest one first. I partied with these dudes in Seattle that were from the Bay like me and were really cool. So next time I was in San Jose I went to Streetlight Records on Bascom and found Neurosis vinyl. I bought the oldest one: The Word as Law. It came out in 1990 and I was buying it in 1995. The first song proved that I had made a lifetime purchase. I had this this thing blasting on a crappy hand-me-down system so much, my little three-year-old niece started headbanging with me and singing the last line in her high chair. These guys are absolutely one of my all-time favorites and this song always gets me."
<Me: Thank gawd someone picked Neurosis, and of course it was Russ. We went to see Neurosis several times together, the first was in 1999 when Times of Grace released. His The Word as Law album started a hundred parties.>
Kate (Squid) - Friends are Evil: Jesu (UK, 2004) (6:47-16:22)
"(This song is) (f)illed with oppressive, flattening doom. It feels like lying on the ground looking straight up into a tornado. There's a tiny bit of mental solace to be found in the center of great sonic destruction."
<Me: Squid is an epically gorgeous strong-as-fuck independent chick that told me she was a little intimidated to do stuff like this. I had to chuckle. She picked songs from Godflesh and Jesu as her heaviest, both featuring Justin Broadrick, I guess her fantasy boyfriend. Justin created Jesu at the (early 2000s) end of Godflesh. Jesu's first release was an EP in 2004, and Broadrick performed all the instruments and vocals. Broadrick describes Jesu: "I really wanted to take that rhythm and weld it to the Godflesh sensibilities of abstract, surreal, mutated metal." Jesu's first full-length album released in December, 2004, and contains Kate's pick for heaviest.>
Jules - Sacrifice: Flipper (CA, 1984) (17:01-21:35)
"Because I love the singer. Also, I just discovered KUSF radio. I had moved to SF from Detroit and I was sitting on the fire escape of my first crappy studio apartment on Bush street. I heard them coming through my crappy transistor radio. Their sound made my chest ache....kinda like falling in love... or using hard drugs....magic!"
<Me: Jules is into that gritty, filthy, raw, heavy eye-makeup, glam sound. Could be because she grew up in the outskirts of Detroit surrounded by nuns. She is one of the most badass women I have ever known, and listening to this song is like drinking a beer with her. Fucking cool.>
Phil: Continental Drift: Virus (Norway, 2011) (22:08-26:38)
"I mean, who sounds like this? The drums are swinging, the guitars make The Jesus Lizard jealous, and I actually really dig the dramatic vocals. Throw in a touch of prog and this is right up my alley."
<Me: Phil and I often have the exact same taste in music, and that means he is extremely intelligent and good-looking. Phil is a fucking hippie (long hair and all) from the mid-west, and you can practically hear the accent. I met him in my first days of SF, falling in love with his band Lower Forty-Eight. He is also the drummer of for Triclops!, Peace Creep, and Pins of Light.)
Chris: Numb: Sleep (CA, 1991) (27:48-31:15)
"Originally from the Volume I LP. I first heard it on the Four Two Pudding compilation CD on Very Small Records back in '93, and it was a pipe to the knees. 'Numb' was like being buried in wet concrete. It wasn't easy to stand out on that compilation, because it remains one of the best ever from that era.
Sleep sounded like nothing else at that time. They turned it up, slowed it down and defined heavy music for me going forward. Neurosis were at their peak as well, but they didn't hit me like Sleep. Certain bands create branches in one's music taste, Sleep did that for me."
<Me: Chris is my Roommate, and we grew up in the same tiny town in Colorado. Before I knew him, I would see his hardcore/punk band play in town, but I don't remember him because he was younger than me and I wasn’t into robbing the cradle until later in my life. Sleep was a no-brainer for him.>
Ted - Frankenstein: The New York Dolls (uh NYC bro, 1973) (32:09-38:04)
"A lot gets said about these guys, but when you listen to them the shit really unravels your mind. It takes some time to get over the crappy production value of their records but when you get over that and listen to the songs, David Johansen's singing, delivery and lyrics, and the rest of the band's wild and searing music really gets to you. I consider this song the Everest of rock and roll songs, the way it winds up is fucking the shit. Make sure you listen to the 1973 album version if you do, the demo versions fucking SUCK."
<Me: I saw Ted for the first on stage in Boulder around 1993, for his punk/noise/performance art band Baldo Rex. It must have been fate because I randomly moved next door to him a year later. And then years after that, I met him again in San Francisco. I adore this musician to death, and his other bands Veronica and The Red Tack. He is also into making film (does that sound dirty?), so I await his infamous destiny.>
Alex - Captor of Sin: Slayer (CA, 1984) (38:53-42:20)
"(Captor of Sin) is off the EP 'Haunting the Chapel'. This is a phase where Slayer is finding their voice. It took another album before they became the Slayer everyone knows but this was an important move away from the early 80s thrash. This song rips from the devastating opening solo to the double bass attack. Plus Satan and sex...........winning. "I will take you down into the fire." That says it all. Lastly, the not so perfect 80s production puts the finishing touches on my pick for favorite heavy song."
<Me: Alex loves headbanging to energetic, crazy-ass metal; he's got long fucking headbang hair; and is always up front of any show. Alex is fucking raw as fuck, and is possessed by Frank Zappa. He is in multiple bands: Voco, Conquest for Death, and is playing a reunion show of Say Bok Gwai on Wednesday, March 29 at the Knockout.>
Meg – Fear Merchant: House of Lightning (FL, December 2016) (42:52-47:33)
"One of my new fav bands, the closest to touch what Bad Brains did. Listen to Fear Merchant and Rapture off their latest release. Henry, the drummer from Floor plays guitar and sings in this band."
<Me: Meg is an earth goddess and the hot-as-fuck bassist of Totimoshi and her new band All Souls who are playing at Benders on May 27. Every woman who meets her loves her, and that says it all. Meg picked a new album, House of Lightning's sophomore album because she has her finger on the pulse of stuff.)
Sean - Blackened: Metallica (CA, 1988) (49:29-55:58)
"Close your eyes, put on the headphones and take a ride with what I consider to be the heaviest song every written. I have listened to that track on a variety of sound systems and I always consider it the most visceral sounding song - a unforgiving and brutal guitar tone, heavy as fuck drums, and James vocals are ferocious. I'll put that song up against anything from Sleep, Meshuggah, Pantera, Melvins, Cannibal Corpse, etc. The middle of the song is easily one of the heaviest riffs ever composed. Kirk Hammett was at the top of his game (and fell off a cliff after this album - no pun intended) and this is one of my favorite solos. This was my first introduction to Metallica (and metal). My mom bought the album for me as a Valentine’s day gift in 1989. I recall being in awe of the crazy sounding guitar intro, never having heard anything like that. There are a lot of Metallica detractors and I was with them when the black album came out, but for me... this is the quintessential metal song. And it's tuned to standard E and still heavy as fuck!"
<Me: Sean and I are on a "metal" email chain with, like, ten other people; and it has been going on for months. Much of this email chain is dedicated to Metallica: some of it ridicule, but a majority is laudatory. Sean picked from a severely underrated album, '...And Justice For All'. Lots of nerdy controversy on the production quality of the album, including the levels of Jason Newsted's bass. I am so glad someone picked Metallica, they are the best road trip band EVER. Fun Fact: Sean is Lars Ulrich's very handsome doppelgänger.>
Ira - The Ballad Of Hollis Brown: Nazareth (Scotland, 1973) (56:39-1:05:38)
"Oof, that's impossible. I think if it wasn't "favorite" it might be a bit easier. I always thought Nazareth doing The Ballad of Hollis Brown was super heavy. There's this ominous droney rhythm/beat for a while and then it opens up heavier but more psychedelic. However, the song is about a guy that is poor and he kills his family, and then himself. It's originally a Bob Dylan song and has definitely been covered before. Never like this. It's just evil. "
<Me: I met Ira almost 13 year ago, while he was touring with a band. At the time, he hadn't heard the new Neurosis ‘The Eye of Every Storm’; and we listened to it over and over and over again. He hails from the east coast, and we make sure to update each other on whatever insane sound we are hearing. He was one of the people who found it difficult to find a "favorite", no surprise to me.>
Casey - Surprise! You're Dead!: Faith No More (CA, 1989) (1:06:18-1:08:43)
"Two songs immediately pop in my mind when I think "heavy": "Surprise! You're Dead" by Faith No More and "Honey Bucket" by the Melvins. Both just fucking drive and don't let up. No Compromise for either, but Faith No More gets the edge because Mike Patton used to telepathically invade my friend Vince's mind, and that's just fucked up."
<Me: Casey is literally my #1 fan, and I hate using the word ‘literally’. He is just like me; he took this assignment very seriously and let me know that it was keeping him awake at nights. Casey and I have drunk an entire keg together, talking about industrial and metal, and then I think he threw up. That is what I expect of anyone in my presence.>
Me – Dig It: Skinny Puppy (Vancouver, 1986) (1:10:04-END)
Of course, it had to be Skinny Puppy. My first dark, evil little love. At the age of 13, I died for Ogre. They are the kings of transitions, the emperors. Highly influenced by Throbbing Gristle, Coil and other noise experimentalists, Ogre started writing music and created the band in 1982. First and foremost, they are vegans and animal rights activists. They engage the audience in blood and dirt-splattered performance art, creating visuals onstage about war and death and the phases of animal experimentation. In the early 80’s, this was met with incredulity and criminal charges. Most recently they found out, horrified, that their music was being used in Guantanamo Bay. Of all things, their anti-war and anti-torture music was being used to torture humans, and it broke their hearts. They created the most heart-wrenching romantic moments of any songs to ever exist. They make you soar.
Tue, 21 March 2017
German transitioning fiends. Psychedelic black doom, flowing from dense to free.
Merging Nebular Drapes: Venenum (Germany)(0:25-9:15)
Mathematical concepts but not contrived. Sharp to beautiful, evolving experiment.
Dodecahedron: Dodecahedron (Netherlands)(10:46-18:03)
Spacy 70’s vintage fun.
High Strangeness: Mothership (TX)(18:36-21:18)
Melodic Satanic black metal, not afraid to be pretty.
He, Who Liveth and Reigneth Forevermore: Sarkrista (Germany)(21:52-28:28)
Female-led folk and doom, catchy doom. This one’s a Cure cover!
A Forest: Alunah (UK)(29:32-35:48)
French Satanic is so much classier.
Wine Of The Beast: Corpus Diavolis (France)(36:28-42:47)
Rockin’ new 10th offering in a three-decade career.
Kneel Before Me: Obituary (Florida)(43:14-46:14)
Stoner duo delving in southern rock.
Electronaut: Telekinetic Yeti (IA)(47:17-52:22)
Turkish death metal is a thing. Mixed with moments of thrash.
Mayhemic Flames Engulfed (Turkey)(53:16-END)
Behind My Vocals: Älgarnas Trädgård, Blues Addicts, Joint, Museo Rosenbach, Bump, Skorpis, Lyd, Suck
Wed, 15 March 2017
Tight and technical, sharp, seething thrash touched with funk and groove and fun.
Hang 'Em High: Havok (Denver)(0:25-4:58)
Distorted and intensity built, parts organic, parts that dive right off a cliff. Surprising at every turn.
Nganda: Svart Crown (French)(6:27-12:12)
NYC distorted noisy hardcore that moshes into thrash.
Narc: Crushed (NYC)(12:35-15:25)
Badass, female-led massive doom album.
Ain Soph: Bathsheba (Belgium)(16:03-21:36)
Oh, my Fade, out with a new industrial album.
Mortuary: Statiqbloom (Brooklyn)(22:02-25:43)
Excellent noise-touched rock that doesn’t become arty. Just good fucking rock, each song is a blast.
Fingers as Arrows: Dead (Australia)(26:36-31:06)
Straight up Swedish melodic metal, i.e. sounds just like early At the Gates.
Survival of the Sickest: Evocation (Sweden)(31:45-34:48)
One-man deathrock-influenced Light of the Morning Star will make you nostalgic.
Grey Carriages: Light of the Morning Star (London)(35:10-39:17)
The other spectrum of Colorado music is jamming the shit out. I love it when this band lets loose.
Beyond the Electric Sun: Cloud Catcher (Denver)(39:50-46:52)
Meditative funeral doom that calls into mind hot black-cloaked angels of doom that will burn you alive with their sexy eyes. I’m reading YA right now.
Nocturnal Void: Frowning (Germany)(47:57-57:29)
Arizona desert stoner.
Disease: Goya (Phoenix)(57:59-END)
Behind My Vocals: Nexus, BHW, Paul Paul, Manuel, Expansives, Coda, Material, Moral Support, John Ozila, Automat
Wed, 8 March 2017
Detroit’s Fell Ruin sounds like the city: destroyed, raw, distorted, stormy doom. Vocalist sounds hot.
Spy Fiction Folds In Ready Streets: Fell Ruin (Detroit)(0:25-8:11)
Brooklyn black metal, a bit of sludge and groove and riff. Another debut with a very strong vocalist. Love these vocalists. Free download: https://floodsbk.bandcamp.com/releases
Coercive: Floods (Brooklyn)(9:38-16:50)
Death-infused core. I heard California Uber Alles.
Broken Oath: Ancst (Berlin)(17:16-21:07)
Hella strong album from Fen, each song is a journey. Be patient, this is one of the best atmospheric albums.
Winter III (Fear): Fen (London)(21:51-31:24)
Stomping good old school death. Tons of Blasphemer bands, so here you go: https://blasphemeruk666.bandcamp.com/
Blasphemer: Blasphemer (UK)(32:13-37:37)
Ferociousness from Australia with a wisp of demon.
The Alnwick Apotheosis: Somnium Nox (Australia)(38:00-44:55)
French KLLK is ethereal, but will kill you if necessary.
Celebration II: K.L.L.K. (France)(46:09-53:42)
Werewolf metal, you heard me.
The Dweller Of The Woods: Cult of Eibon (Greece)(54:17-END)
Behind My Vocals: Giöbia, Krautzone, My Brother The Wind, Electric Moon, Sula Bassana, The Cosmic Dead, Interkosmos, Kikagaku Moyo
Wed, 1 March 2017
Brazilian black metal, who knew. Every song on this album is fucking great. Crushing, aggressive, impassioned.
Infidels: Patria (Brazil)(0:25-5:19)
Colorado costumed dark weirdo black metal, on a split with three other excellent bands from Sweden, Austria and Greece.
Nightbringer: Nightbringer (CO)(6:55-15:14)
Ah, finally, Unearthly Trance has reunited after seven years. They’ve been releasing albums for project Serpentine Path, but this is way better. Catchy, heavy, atmospheric fun.
Dream State Arsenal: Unearthly Trance (Brooklyn)(15:51-21:47)
Yet another excellent, beautiful, bubbly, energetic, blues swagger band from Sweden. Love you bros out there.
Denim and Leather: Screamer (Sweden)(22:29-28:16)
Deconstructed death metal. Clear, speedy, weird and full-on prime death metal.
The Distorting Light: Immolation (NY)(29:09-32:23)
Finnish Demonic Death Judge riff-out in a black sludge of psychedelic tar
Saturnday: Demonic Death Judge (Finland)(32:49-39:50)
Painful and explosive, like your butt.
Reptilian: Benighted (France)(40:15-43:29)
Icelandic metal is so image-prone. This is melodic, but dives deep into death in parts.
Bót Eður Viðsjá Við illu Aðkasti: Draugsól (Iceland)(44:23-53:10)
Growling angry power death, because you need that horror.
Dominance By Acquisition: Sinister (Netherlands)(53:38-58:53)
Female occult-led vocalist in fuzzy warm Italian psychedelic.
Godzilla: Psychedelic Witchcraft (Italy)(59:24-END)
Tue, 21 February 2017
Norwegian dark folk, melody, rich instrumentation, wicked vocals.
Enda-dagr: Helheim (Norway)(0:28-8:24)
Brooklyn black metal with emotive vocals.
Abject In Defeat: Woe (Brooklyn)(10:07-17:11)
Solid raspy vocals pairs perfectly with furious death metal.
Genesis To Your Curse: Ritualization (France)(17:46-22:15)
Nidingr has dude who plays with Mayhem. This is a non-traditional black metal album, lots of surprising sounds and tempos.
Gleipnir: Nidingr (Norway)(22:48-27:50)
Oh those Greeks. They are such strange, dreamy, badass weirdos.
Light/Fos: Locust Leaves (Greece)(28:46-36:53)
Lead singer from defunct Agalloch. This is a cleaner, simpler, doom-oriented sound.
Dark is the river of man: Pillorian (Portland)(37:32-46:59)
Witty noise rock from Australia.
Picking Teeth: Dead (AU)(47:50-50:36)
Instrumental band Omega Massif spun out this post-metal, lead-up oriented, composition-heavy band with a duo of strong vocalists.
Lights: Cranial (Germany)(51:22-END)
Tue, 7 February 2017
All proceeds from grind band Anal Trump go to Planned Parenthood. The BEST song titles like ‘Some Mexicans aren't Rapists’ and ‘My Daughter is a Piece of Ass’.
There's My African American!: Anal Trump (San Diego)(0:28-0:41)
Iceland is a country of raw beauty and power, and bring forth Mispyrming.
Hof: Misþyrming (Iceland)(2:07-9:14)
Last album was in 2013. Power Trip was produced by a dude from Sumerlands (a Runner-Up in my Best of 2016) – so I’m not surprised at the strong vocals. Varied tempos, all raw and tight.
If Not Us Then Who: Power Trip (TX)(9:54-14:00)
Nasty, dark Wiegedood that breaks into excellent pummeling. Members of Oathbreaker.
Smeekbede: Wiegedood (Belgium)(14:32-20:41)
Vancouver speed and thrash and complex fun drunk riffage.
Skitzoid Embolism: Terrifier (CAN)(21:12-25:18)
German one-man band comes out with his 7th album. He is incredibly varied: folk black, rock and punk. Vocals are clean, beautiful and growling styles.
Ä(h)renschnitter: Horn (German)(26:13-31:46)
Iron Reagan has fist-pumped out a skateboard thrash and punk album, that you’ll probably love.
Dead With My Friends: Iron Reagan (VA)(32:19-35:54)
Balfor makes Ukranian corpse-painted medieval sword-fighting music that we can all make out to.
Serpents of the Black Sun: Balfor (Ukraine)(36:39-42:37)
Shimmering stoner? Yes, and beautiful psychedelic. All from a cute Polish package.
Navigator: Dopelord (Poland)(43:35-51:39)
Grind and hella dissonant noise bros. Good variation.
Death Erection: WVRM (South Carolina)(52:04-54:42)
Melodic death-rock style metal, with post-metal and prog elements and fully atmospheric at the forefront.
Devoid: Nailed to Obscurity (Germany)(55:37-END)
Wed, 1 February 2017
14th album from Kreator, you wonder if any band with a 14th album can be good. Shit man, this shit is the SHIT. Fun, anthemic, catchy, fist-pumping thrash. Fuck you Metallica for being such assholes.
Totalitarian Terror: Kreator (Germany)(0:28-5:09)
Violent, yet melancholy and plaintive. Music that fits my heart.
Le jour se lève: Au Champ Des Morts (France)(6:47-13:39)
Oh shit, Pallbearer is about to drop their best album soon.
Thorns: Pallbearer (Arkansas)(14:25-19:42)
Plagues knows that black metal that bangs thy head is my religion.
Ascension: Plagues (MA)(20:07-24:32)
Dreamy, simple and elegant post-punk, Chicago-style (so very stylish).
No Game: Silent Age (Chicago)(25:26-28:56)
Chugging gritty dark death industrial.
Kyrios: Luminous Vault (NYC)(29:24-34:10)
Oh holy shit, I didn’t realize Freedom Hawk’s debut album rocked so hard. So glad they rereleased, and are on tour, I will be right up front.
Lightning Charge: Freedom Hawk (VA - rerelease)(34:43-38:30)
Pigs (7X) is noise psychedelic fuzzed out doom.
Sweet Relief: Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs (UK)(39:06-43:39)
Dramatic erupting horror atmosphere.
In screams and flames: The Great Old Ones (France)(44:34-52:20)
Folk and acoustic and bluesy, such a gorgeous combination. These guys are soulful.
Earthen Shroud: The Flight of Sleipnir (Denver)(53:09-END)
Wed, 25 January 2017
Best Viking Metal/Folk-influenced
Enslaved’s Ivar and Wardruna’s Einar put their heads together to compose for the 200th Anniversary of the Norwegian constitution. This is Norweigian folk: beautiful sweeping compositions that you can really melt into. This is the most folksy, ethnic, instrumental of the contenders with fully instrumental songs and choir-sung gorgeous passages dotting the album. Deep, sexy man singing in Norwegian. There is a GORGEOUS trumpet, holy shit, and black metal portions, and a darker, raspy, evil vocalist joining the fun. The album is complexly atmospheric, diverse, lovely and invariably creative.
Skuggsjá (Norway), album - A Piece For Mind & Mirror, song “Kvervandi” (0:28-6:50)
Moonsorrow (Finland), album - Jumalten Aika: Medieval is the atmosphere, where people sit around firepits and thump on drums. Men in animal skins and furs ride glorious horses, fists around spears, hair flowing behind them. This is the imagery created by the softest, romantic acoustic passages erupting in epic black metal.
Sig:ar:tyr (Ontario), album – Northern: Apparently this band started as a one-man band. I assume that any great one-man band will add members to their roster, I mean, who wants to continue doing everything. Of course acoustic folk guitars accompanied by even more guitars, and a hella focus on riffs. The vocalist is a guttural black rasp, with no hint of loveliness. So you know, it’s pretty cool.
Myrkgrav (Norway), album - Takk og farvel; tida er blitt ei annen: Last album from Myrgrav; the album title translates to “Thank you and farewell; Times have changed”. Guy doesn’t mince words. The violinist is a major player in this album; the fiddle is the national instrument of Norway. This is mostly classic folk with a very folk singer, so if that would get on your nerves, than so will this style.
Oh geez, two of my favorite Illinois hardcore bands pitted against each other.
Gawddammit, this is Weekend Nachos’ last album after 12 years together. They infuse hardcore, grind, punk, power metal, dirty crust and extreme wit into their unique sound. They are so punk, fucking punk dude (and other angry things); and hilarious with song titles like “Fake Political Song” (a great grindcore song) and “Dog Shit Slave”. I was like, how long can this feedback go? And it kept going. Assholes. This just felt real.
Weekend Nachos (Dekalb), album – Apology, song “2015” (9:03-14:47)
Oozing Wound (Chicago), album: Whatever Forever: I’m sure Oozing Wound are best friends with Weekend Nachos, right? This is their third album, with thrash, punk, sludge, and everything thrown in, tied in the coolest package. It’s a bit TOO cleanly produced, but that isn’t a terrible thing. Though, if they had a bit more raw ferocity, then they would have come out on top.
Trap Them (Boston/Seattle), album – Crown Feral: Trap Them sounds like Boston, they have that Converge brutalized hardcore sound, plenty of crust and crunch and prolific riffs. The lead singer jumped off a speaker during tour, breaking both feet, continued with the show and tour in casts. F’ing hardcore.
Head Wound City (San Diego), album - A New Wave of Violence: The most punk vocalist style, with a bit of shriek; he even goes a bit post-punk in parts. An angular punk album. Album came out after 11 years of silence; this is a supergroup: Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Locust.
Okus (Ireland), album – Scourge: Coolest album art of the group, a cool bird skull. Crusty, metallic, grind, intense as fuck.
Best Heavy Doom
Oh lord, of course this category had the most contenders. All different styles, so take your pic.
Holy shit, Spirit Adrift is a ONE-MAN doom band, with the guitarist from one of my faves, Take Over and Destroy! His vocals are a bit Pallbearish – huge compliment - emotional, lyric-heavy, full-range. He shines when he brings in a bit of joy into the melody, but I also liked that he wasn’t in a rush to fill in every second with density. Maybe because it was one person laying all the tracks, each instrument is given its due. So much patience. So be patient. This is just, delicious.
Spirit Adrift (Arizona), album – Chained to Oblivion, song “Hum Of Our Existence” (15:36-26:22)
Khemmis (Denver), album – Hunted: Fuck, these harmonizing guitars, gaining strength and force with every passing second, erupting in fist-pumping riffs, groovy when needed; and slowing down to aching melodies. But there is so much more, the vocalist encompasses a plethora of emotions, some of it funeral somber, a heaviness in lyrics, and still able to lift your soul. Fuck yes dude.
Beastmaker (Fresno), album – Lusus Naturae: This the debut album from Beastmaker, reveling in 70’s psychedelic, the bubbly side of heavy rock. Uplifting, cheery groove. I think these dudes are just going to get better; and excited to see them live.
The Temple (Greece), album – Forevermourn: This is more funeral doom – a very gloomy but fantastically riff-y and bringing forth the headbang. Fuck yeah, Greece. The lead singer is nominated in ‘Best Warm Vocals’.
Messa (Italy), album – Belfry: Led by the most gorgeous female vocalist (also nominated for ‘Best Warm Vocals’. Messa drones into massive leadups to headbanging. It is an investment.
Lord Vicar (Finland), album - Gates of Flesh: With members of Reverend Bizarre and Saint Vitus, this is a super group that doesn't get lazy, which is the fate of most ego-led supergroups. Incredibly underrated, and led by an incredible bluesy vocalist. This album was a close second.
Spiritus Mortis (Finland), album - The Year Is One: The first thing you will notice is the vocalist. He’s cheesy, but in that emotional hair metal way that we love. And he’s Finnish, so everything he does is awesome. I just wanted a few more songs to show their range, so I will wait for their next album. But this is a great gloom and doom, plaintive doom album.
Best Modern Rock/Noise Rock/Alternative
Best part? The vocalist is fucking amazing. She is sexy beyond. Then bring in elements of gloomy Chicago post-punk and disjointed noise, and all of it is romantic as fuck.
Ganser (Chicago), album - This Feels Like Living, song “Strategies For Living” (27:17-32:46)
Ex-Cult (Memphis), album – Negative Growth: Third full-length album. Danceable distortion and defiant pop. Engages in heavy use of drone-y and noisy electronic effects.
Drought Year (NC), album – S/T: Atmospheric-infused industrial groove mixed with the horror of deathrock, and the vocalist of a sludge band.
So Pitted (Seattle), album – neo: On Sub Pop and from Seattle. Thin, gritty, snarling and plaintive. Angry-pacing music - it’s a walking mosh pit sound. There is just so much here, don’t miss this album.
Whether aiming for shimmery or hardened, atmosphere is moody, ambient, emotional, and don’t follow traditional routes. The two top albums are one-person bands, which I am usually wary of, but these dudes created epic compositional albums, and should be celebrated for their genius.
A foot firmly in black metal, however Mizmor bubbles through the surfaces of doom and drone and atmosphere. The album creeps and slithers in a torturous pace, turning into a form of meditation. The sound invokes images of an unrecognizable alien landscape. We need to be pushed to these boundaries.
Mizmor (OR), album – Yodh, song “Bask in the Lingering” (33:14-43:16)
Alcest (France), album – Kodama: OK, this is more Heavy Gaze than atmosphere, but I had to fit Alcest somewhere, and they definitely are mood-making. A gorgeous, shimmering melodic masterpiece.
Old Graves (CAN), album – Long Shadows: One-man mostly instrumental atmospheric-heavy black metal.
Best Heavy Metal/Hard Rock:
Chris Black is a god. He has a modern, groove-tastic take on everything old school. He speeds up the riffs; the guitars provide warm, engaging melodies; and the dude knows how to perk up your soul, making you yearn for a convertible, a warm summer night, and a loud car stereo. An emphasis on catchy lyrics, so you can sing along. “This is the night, this is the night we’ve been waiting for. This is the night, this is the night we go UP.” Nostalgic ear candy. I was reminded of High ‘n’ Dry.
High Spirits (Chicago), album – Motivator, song “Flying High” (43:39-46:56)
Sumerlands (Philly), album – S/T: The vocalist is one with the Force. He echoes emotion throughout, providing depth. Technical and masterful heavy metal guitars and a perfect vocalist, you can’t want for more.
Dawnbringer (Chicago), album – XX: So this is an EP, but I like it so much, I had to include it in one of the categories. It could be Dawnbringer’s last, which would be brutal to my heart. I love Chris Black so much, and I am so glad that he is prolific, because I am one of the cult followers.
Denner-Shermann (Denmark), album – Masters of Evil: Guitar solos were the highlight on this album. The vocalist has that epic, high-pitched style that may annoy you, but give him some room, he will rock it.
Now a duo. Howls of Ebb’s wicked vocalist whispers curses and speaks in tongue, an inhuman demonic growl other times. Galloping, disjointed, dramatic, chomping death and thrash, resting in horror atmospheric when the monster grows tired. The quiet parts were as powerful as the most technical and dense death; it was thoughtful and relentlessly innovative. I felt like I was watching a play.
Howls of Ebb (SF) album - Cursus Impasse: The Pendlomic Vows, song “Cabals of Molder” (47:48-53:52)
Mithras, album - On Strange Loops: Yet another duo concerned about creating unique compositions, each song so wildly different from each other. Yes, they are chaotic and technical as fuck, but I feel they aren’t in it to jack each other off. I fucking hate self-congratulating technical shit.
Ulcerate (New Zealand), album - Shrines of Paralysis: Maybe someone told the vocalist he needed to fucking shake it up, because it sounds way better on this album. Way more variation. Geezus, this is the heaviest, relentless shit, beating your ears into bloody pulp. They stand a head taller than any other band in technical prowess, oh fuck the density. This is a toxic, chaotic, incomprehensibly massive wall; yet each instrument breaks a path clearly.
Altarage (Spain), album – NIHL: Anonymous band. The vocalist growls melt over the dense, mostly fast and sometimes lumbering, atmospheric, technical wall of sound. It feels like drone, swarming all the instruments into one thick sound that is strangely meditative.
Witherscape (Sweden), album - The Northern Sanctuary: Hella proggy death with actual clean and very emotional singing mixed with growls; slowed-down, sparse, ballad-y passages; guitar solos, piano and melodic keyboard.
Like Rats (Chicago), album – II: All right, I have to admit the fact that Weekend Nachos has members in this band, I knew I’d be all over it. It’s way more tough boy, mainly because of the power vocals, not my favorite. They bring in their hardcore influence into the clean, stripped sound. It has that tuff mosh pit-circle stomp.
Best Warm Vocals
Greenleaf has been one of my favorite bands for years, so for them to suddenly change up the VOCALIST, the melodic and emotional leader of the band?! Well, they did it. Of course I should trust these geniuses, with members of Dozer and Truckfighters. The album was in the “Best Jam/Blues/Stoner” category, of course. The singer is soulful, ebullient, and arousing. AROUSING. Warm, honey vocals that make you climb out of your skin in glee, so personal, so expressive, so soulful. He makes you want to know every word.
Greenleaf (Sweden), album - Rise Above The Meadow, song “Howl” (54:24-59:45)
The Temple (Greece), album – Forevermourn: More plaintive and melancholy than the other vocalists, following the funeral doom sound of the band.
Lord Vicar (Finland), album - Gates of Flesh: Blues-driven vocalist on one of the best doom albums of the year.
Dawnbringer (Chicago), album – XX: Look, Chris Black nearly makes me cry when I hear him.
Messa (Italy), album – Belfry: The emotional vocalist is the melody in an otherwise stark, gloomy, drone sound.
Saturday Album and #1 Album of the Year
Saturday album is the record I listened to the most. This shit has to be varied as fuck, the vocalist needs to be my hot mama, and I never get sick of hearing it.
It’s almost unfair to all other bands when Oranssi releases their album. This is so innovative, avant-garde, experimental; and maybe you need to live in the forests of Finland, decompressed from the rest of the world, to allow your brain to go way out into the universe and bring back this nugget of musical truth. It is pure, it is madness, it will bring you religion.
Oranssi Pazuzu (Finland), album- Värähtelijä, song “Saturaatio” (1:00:40-END)
Runners-up (to Saturday Album):
Dawnbringer (Chicago), album – XX: Epic, is the sound of Dawnbringer. Chris Black is effortlessly nostalgic and emotional, but you haven’t heard this sound in those eras of past. He is completely original, and achieves somehow bringing back the rocker aspects of the 70’s and glam of the 80’s in the most excellent, non-contrived way.
Mizmor (OR), album - Yodh: Mizmor won my Best Atmosphere/Drone/Mood category. This album is beyond, it is the darkest album I listen to constantly. It makes me feel evil. You will hear something different every time you listen to this album, which is why it fits so well in this category.
Tue, 17 January 2017
Sludge is the very dark evil cousin of doom; with brutal vocals, a dense wall of sound, and both epically slow AND frenetic tempos. As with most of my categories, the bands dip their toes in multiple genres.
Anciients’ debut album was one of my favorites of 2013. This 2016 album is WAY darker. Dual vocal style: one guttural, one proggy; and none of it is contrived. Shit kicks into the best riffs, so epically headbang-worthy. This is proggy without the cheese; it’s epic and fist-pumping. They shine when the sound cleans up to beautiful, complex, epic, sweeping, emotional, organic compositions. It feels fresh, and that put them over the top.
Anciients (CAN), album – Voice of the Void, song “Pentacle” (0:28-5:57)
Tombs (NYC), album – All Empires Fall: I love the vocalist of Tombs. Fun Fact: he has his own coffee (Savage Gold – named after a Tombs’ album). And then they added Fade (of Batillus fame) to their roster, and I was head over heels. Fade is also a big industrial mastermind, so he brings in the evil electronics here. I feel like Fade has made them way darker, which is awesome.
Wolves Carry My Name (Germany), album – Black Earth Tongue: This was overlooked by everyone, except me, because I rule. This is one of the grooviest metal albums out there. As with all sludge, this is dense as fuck, led by the hottest snarl of a vocalist. Another free album: https://wolvescarrymyname.bandcamp.com/album/black-earth-tongue
Inter Arma (VA), album – Paradise Gallows: I’m wary of super popular (underground) bands. If a ton of people relate to it, then is it truly good underground music (i.e. the suckage of Mastodon)? But this album has so many great things: Sweet acoustic parts, a gorgeous, emotional crooning vocalist who erupts when necessary. These guys are the kings of EPIC, massive sound; sounding like ‘Enemy of the Sun’-era Neurosis.
Cobalt (CO), album – Slow Forever: The original duo of Cobalt ended 2015 in public social media battle, sort of like CNN and Trump. It ended with one of them holding the reins of Cobalt, and adding the vocalist from Lord Mantis. What a boon, the vocalist is expert in intensity, desperate and emotional. For a duo, this strong of a vocal is a must. And holy shit, the original member did all the instrumentation.
Black Tusk (GA), album – Pillars of Ash: Last record with the late Jonathan Athon (original bassist and vocalist). The band took this last year to put this album together. Dudes have an influx of stoner, hardcore and punk energy. These are dirty, fun, southern-rock swampy tunes.
Best Black Metal
SO much excellent black metal to weed through, to distill into these magnificent picks. The top (3) were debut albums!
This is groove and melody-oriented black metal, you’re gonna want to headbang. Shit is so crunchy and dynamic and fist-pumping. Fun. FUN, remember that concept? You fucking cynical bastard. But, don’t get me wrong, this is true black metal – raw, somber, bitter, angry, harsh. The vocalist howls, fucking howls, gave me chills bro. It doesn’t sound like other American black metal bands, with their focus on density. These are simple and raw, technically-perfect, emotionally-laden, furious black metal with an emphasis on melody. I thought it was perfect.
Uada (Portland), album – Devoid of Light, song “Our Pale Departure” (7:47-14:32)
Wode (UK), album - S/T: Wait, this is their debut? Dense as fuck black metal showers relentlessly, both old school and modern, as it stomps around with a bit of death-style. Lots of attention to melodies, which is what this lady needs. When they slowed down, it just became so evil.
Anicon (Brooklyn), album – Exegeses: Debut album with members of Yellow Eyes, Krallice/Geryon, so it is super Brooklyn, and a huge part of the NYBM scene. It leans towards emotional and epic guitar melodies, and when they harmonize, fucking A. The complexities of the arrangements is also where this band shines. These guys are romantic as fuck, but man do they deliver the headbang.
Entropia (Poland), album – Ufonaut: Drumming stands out here, varied, proggy, tight. Tempo increasing to the frenetic black core. Yet, this album never feels relentless, which I like.
Imperium Infernalis (Greece), album – Imago Dei: Second album from this band. Shit is so tight and angular and fast, felt a bit thrashy.
Forteresse (CAN), album - Thèmes Pour La Rébellion: This is the sweeping, triumphant, riding the dragon, full-production black metal, but without the emotional post-metal side. This is the densest of the bunch, and when you think you can’t handle it anymore, they give you some variation.
The hardest category for me, very year, trying to determine the best blues rock, jamming out, 70’s boogie, rifftastic album. The bands in this category often have multiple, if not all the members singing, as vocals are a big part of the sound. I love every single one of these bands and albums. This was a close competition, so it really came to variation in the album, depth of SOUL, the hotness of the vocalist, and the guitarist(s) grooving way out.
Brimstone’s new (3rd full length) album was profoundly gorgeous. Down and dirty southern style charm, with the warmest whiskey vocals. These guys even harmonize between the three of them on the vocals, hella treat. A huge album that warms up, burns down and makes your head spin. Dudes fucking jam. Ballads make you cry. Shit is magic. Reminds me of Eloy, Paice Ashton Lord and other crooning 70’s psychedelic rockers. These guys really fucking let loose.
Brimstone Coven (WV), album - Black Magic, song “Beyond the Astral” (15:05-21:57)
Asteroid (Sweden), album – III: Your brain is in a bubble floating so high. Swedish psychedelic builds up so deliciously, the jams get intense.
Scorpion Child (Austin), album - Acid Roulette: Everyone knows Scorpion Child right? They are Friday nights, drinking beer against a muscle car, kickin’ it, rockin’ it, groovin’ it. Lyrics stroke your penis. The songwriting is what puts this album over the top. If the radio still played killer rock, this catchy album would be blasted on FM fo SHO.
Greenleaf (Sweden), album - Rise Above The Meadow: 6th album from fuzz jamming rockers Greenleaf, with guitarist from Dozer. Album is more structured, but the guitar solos are excellent when they appear.
Akasava (France), album – Nothing at Dawn: It sounds like the vocalist is hiding something, he is naughty and a bit wicked. Occult mixed with stoner, this sounds is more experimental than the other bands. Dissonant and transcendental, a surprise of an album. It’s Satan worshiping with tons of bong hits.
Spiritual Beggars (Sweden), album - Sunrise to Sundown: Super strutting rocker, the vocalist with a bit of Chris Cornell-style. They excel when they dipped into the soft, the ballads.
Duel (Austin), album - Fears of the Dead: Jean-clad hip swivels, rock groove, 70’s style badass attitude.
My favorite part of this year is that all the finalists are so different from each other.
Proggy, angular thrash with scifi storyline, how can you not love this band. Even better, the band shows their charm in live shows, period. You will be amazed at their ferociously clean twists and turns. If you don’t like the vocal style, which is this insane throaty raspy screech, it may get in our way of enjoying the amazing thrash hooks, but I doubt it. Vektor’s hooks are the best in the industry.
Vektor (Philly), album – Terminal Redux, song “Cygnus Terminal” (22:58-31:12)
Deströyer 666 (AU), album - Wildfire: The standouts here are melody and groove. It is part bar thrash, with choruses to shout out, while sloshing beer on your feet. But then they go darker, deeper, and will make you sneer. The vocalist is versatile, able to sing and add to melody; but also raspy and evil when needed. They don’t fall into the mediocrity of plain old aggression; these are fucking thoughtful songs.
Desaster (Germany), album - The Oath of an Iron Ritual: This is these dudes’ 8th full-length album, and another thrash and black metal combo. Thick, energetic, Satanic sound; and just like Deströyer 666, these dudes want to party. Holy shit though, the riffs have the power of Satan and rip through your neck.
Witchery (Sweden), album - In His Infernal Majesty's Service: Riff-tastic, groove thrash pumped with energy and fucking Swedish soul. Short and sweet songs, stays clean, not over-powering aggression which can get one-note and boring. The guitar solos were old-school heavy metal, ripping into powerful riffs, and a touch of punk, just a tad, making this super fun.
Suicide Angels (Greece), album - In His Infernal Majesty's Service: 6th album, first in 9 years. They live in the land of revitalist thrash, chugging mosh pit style, not super-fast tempo. Heavy metal guitar solos, love it.
Nerd metal is angular, mathematical, and proggy with a hint of middle-age.
The Mass reunited to make one more album in their old age. They are still the abstract, angular, avant-garde weirdos that you know and love. This album brings forth their looser, psychedelic side providing so much vivid texture to an already tight, innovate, experimental sound.
The Mass (Bay Area), album – Ghost Fleet, song “Don't Go Whaling High” (31:49-36:02)
Gojira (NYC), album – Magma: Two brothers make up Gojira, originating in France, now in NYC. During recording they lost their mom, and this in turn they said affected their sound and songwriting. You can hear the thread of melancholy. This is a super melodic album, but still big build-ups to often intense violence and fury.
Car Bomb (NYC), album (Meta): Actually produced by dude from Gojira, small incestuous community. Whip-fast tempo changes, proggy vocals mixed with brutal calculatingly cold vocals, furious speeds.
Frontierer (Scotland), album - Orange Mathematics: This album was completed in late 2015, repressed and released in 2016. Incorporated electronic sounds breaking apart cold technical brutal math beats. The dudes even have math in the name of their album. Lovely fellows even have a free download: https://frontierer.bandcamp.com/album/orange-mathematics.
Ritual Howls’ album is a dark cavern of old school deathrock, old school industrial, electronica and hella goth. When it’s good you want to dance; and shit if this didn’t make me wanna pull up my big black platform boots. You better look good in your black make-up and leather outfit at their show. Oh, my favorite type of bitches.
Ritual Howls (Detroit), album - Into The Water, song “Spirit Murder” (36:34-41:09)
Soft Kill (Portland), album – Choke: Soft Kill is dancing on a stormy night in a trench coat. It is pure emotion and the pain of nostalgia. You want to dream in this sound. NEED I SAY MORE.
Sievehead (UK), album – Buried Within: OK, this is a 7”, but this band seems to just release EP’s and 7” albums. Attitude, man. Good music is fucking attitude, that drenches your brain in imagery. When sound reaches image, you know it’s good.
Maudlin (Atlanta), album – S/T: I love deathrock and darkwave for many reasons, but one big one is that these bands highlight female vocals so well. Maudlin is headed by a top-notch female deathrock/dark punk vocalist. 80’s style shit, which to me, is the top echelon.
Brothers (Nashville), album – S/T: Oh, this album is noise and boys and anger, but in a post-punk way. So frigging good. Free download: https://tapesofaneongod.bandcamp.com/album/brothers
Theologian/Lament Cityscape (NYC/Oakland), album – Soft Tissue: OK, sure, this is a split, bit it’s a hell of an industrial album. Yes, it has some hella noise and drone, but all of that is also. . .industrial.
Masses (AU), album – Moloch: Dual vocals of female and male, poppy, infectious and happy. Reminds me of a darker B-52’s and a touch of Dead Can Dance with some deathrock thrown in.
One of the hardest categories to determine, every album is made up of 234 billion songs, 30 seconds long. Grind expels bursts of violent energy; a great album makes the bursts diverse and memorable. These guys must pack personality and punch into a spoonful measurement of sound. Fucking difficult, and who are these weirdos that wanna do shit like that?
“Shit yeah bro” is what you say when you hear this debut full-length Vermin Womb album. Vocalist from Primitive Man fucking howls perfectly. Fortunately, Vermin Womb is way more dynamic and furious than Primitive Man. Maybe purists will say there is too much sludge and crust to make this truly grind, but fuck that. Shit just makes the album great.
Vermin Womb (Denver), album – Decline, song “Cancer” (41:38-44:31)
Rotten Sound (Finland), album – Abuse to Suffer: These bros growl in fucking the hottest sounding Finnish ever. Pummeling you with a bat. Everything I write is sexual.
Gadget (Sweden), album – The Great Destroyer: The Swedish don’t ever retire. These dudes have been around since the 90’s, and this is their first album in ten years. This is the exhaustive type of grind (is there another kind); relentless with no soft edges. The hardcore thread injects texture.
Neid (Italy), album - Atomoxetine: Neid produces thick grind – the type that totally breaks down into a gripping, gnarly headbang.
Best Evil Vocals
This album is also listed in Best Avant Garde (below!), one of my favorite categories. The vocalist here IS the atmosphere. Raspy perfection in horror hypnosis. One of the best evil sounds I have heard, ever. But of course, the album and band must be as perfect and compelling – this was one of the best albums of the year. A great industrial album, bringing in some great electronic vocal effects.
Terra Tenebrosa (Sweden), album – The Reverses, song “Ghost at the End of the Rope” (45:33-49:41)
Bethlehem (Germany), album – S/T: Bethlehem is led by a raging witch. She screams her rage, and feeds the evil demon living way deep in your soul.
Best Extreme Experimental
This category is the cold, brutal side of the avant-garde spectrum.
First off, you can get the whole Plebeian Grandstand album for free. https://plebeiangrandstand.bandcamp.com/album/false-highs-true-lows. The intensity is meditation, bringing you into what you will believe is cosmic consciousness. The vocalist is a high point, with raspy howling and the screams from hell. He envelopes the entire conceptual brutality to perfection.
Plebeian Grandstand (France), album – False Highs, True Lows, song “Tributes and Oblivions” (50:15-55:29)
Convulsif (Switzerland), album – IV: Hypnotic, menacing, experimental jazz drone and grind, with clarinet and violin. The clarinet screeches and speaks, and your brain is more than happy to follow the sound of its voice.
Gnaw Their Tongues (Netherlands), album - Hymns for the Broken, Swollen And Silent: GTT is really into horror soundtrack. This sound can fit behind any gory, menacing, demon story, and scare the shit out of you. Each song contains its own crazed, swarming, chaotic brutal world. The lead singer speaks in tongue.
Gorguts (CAN), album - Pleiades' Dust: It’s a pet peeve when a band doesn’t break the album into songs. Yes, I get it, it’s one large package. So are all other albums, whose song placement is very meaningful. The EP’s build-ups, the individual instrumentation, the looser, abstract melody, was where I thought they excelled. The other bands in this category had individual songs that stood out, and taken as a whole, this Gorguts’ song is a good fit here.
Balance Interruption (Ukraine), album – Door 218: This is the third full-length from BI. The bass guitar makes an unusual funk appearance, and then the sexy saxophone croons a new age melody. But somehow, it all fits with the guttural, ferocity of the vocalist, riffs and drumming.
Cognizant (TX), album – S/T: What took this out of the grind category? Cognizant is also proggy, angular, and contains underlying melody. They break down into the pace of death at times, and all of it is surprising.
Best Avant-garde and #2 Album of 2016
This Parisian duo delved into spectacular industrial, with hella thick electronic erupting in parts. But above everything, it is a journey. With spectacular riffs, the album spins and reverses to the most satisfying breakdowns, going into gnarly as fuck creep and horror and grit and tension and drone and space and even lounge. Oh the groove in the midst of menacing. It is surprising, electric, eclectic, and lovely. You can even dance to parts. And besides a few shrieks, no vocals, because they are completely unnecessary. When I first heard it almost a year ago, I immediately thought: I think I found my Best Album. I went back and forth with this one, and my # 1 album (announced next week). Sophie’s choice.
Spektr (France), album – The Art to Disappear, song “From the Terrifying to the Fascinating” (56:17-END)
Oranssi Pazuzu (Finland), album- Värähtelijä: Oh these magnificent Finnish beasts. A richly thick album with incredibly original compositions up your butt. Weird Finnish brains. Psychedelic black metal dreamscapers.
Terra Tenebrosa (Sweden), album – The Reverses: Vocalist won the ‘Best Evil Vocals’ category. Terra Tenebrosa is the modern industrial-influenced metal. But it is old school industrial, in that it is truly experimental and demented. Industrial was all about pushing the envelope in musical boundaries.
Hail Spirit Noir (Greece), album – Mayhem in Blue: Ah fuck, I love how Hail is campy carnival horror metal. This is a warmer side to the avant-garde category, with flutes (I think?) and organ. Just, charming.