Wednesday, August 27, 2014

On Metal.

Hey bastard sons and daughters, I'm Tanelorn. I think I was the last host for MI, before it died its sorrowful death. I unveil myself today to talk about a topic that has been on my mind.

"What the hell are we going to do after Maiden and Priest hang up leather?"or, more broadly, "where is metal going?"

Now, before the pitchforks come out, let me explain. The bands that formed our illustrious genre, for the most part, are still playing. Ozzy and the boys in Sabbath just released a surprisingly solid record, Priest has been around for ages, Motorhead is still going, these bands that created a sonic wall for our ears are still amongst the recording world. But, as sad it may seem, these bands will not last forever. The last time I forced myself to realize this was when Dio went to the great gig in the sky, but these thoughts aren't really far from my mind. In 2010, Iron Maiden released the record, "The Final Frontier." Now that's ominous as hell, isn't it? Just this year, Judas Priest put out their potential swan song, "Redeemer of Souls." Now, that album titles isn't as foreboding as Maiden's, but let's take a peak at the tracklist. On the single disc, we have "Beginning of the End" tying the album up, but on the double-disc version, we have "Never Forget," which honestly sounds like a band that has come to terms with their mortality.

I hate to bum you out, because much like you, these bands helped form my fandom. Not every metal fan holds these same bands as near to their hearts as I do, for some people that may be Immortal and Mayhem, or Metallica and Kreator, but regardless, the facts are the same. These bands have to stop producing music at some point.

But, not all hope is lost. We have no shortage of bands to listen to, but I ask you, fellow bastards, who will pick up the mantle of these metal gods? Who will we have our kids listen to in 10-20 years and say, "Man, little dude(tte), you missed some killer shows."?

I put forth that we, as fans, have to demand a higher standard from our record labels. To Metal Blade's credit, they tend to have a very strong stable of artists, but Road Runner has been a bit of a joke for a while. SPV and Nuclear Blast are a couple other big ones. But the point is the same. Slipknot has a new album coming out, and for some reason there is excited buzz from the metal scene. Not since "Iowa" is this really acceptable. Now I understand that Slipknot is a bit of low-hanging fruit, but that doesn't change anything. We need to try and scour our scene's label sites and look for new bands. Like reddit, the label sees the world in "upvotes." Except their upvotes decide the careers of young bands. This next point sounds a bit old mannish, but we need to support the scene. That means money changing hands. Now, I'm not advocating going out to Best Buy and buying the newest Five Finger Death Punch album simply because their metalish, but I am getting more at the point that younger bands like Portrait, recent Metal Blade signees Visigoth (shameless name drop), Gypsyhawk, Enforcer,  High Spirits, or any nearly unlimited number of bands need to see support. And when looking through the eyes of a label exec, that means record sales. What does Nuclear Blast think if Sabaton's new record flops? They think they have a band that doesn't really click with "kids these days" and they look to the end of their contract as a light at the end of a tunnel. There is a scene worldwide that every single reader here is a part of. We all listen to the music, we all love to see the shows, and we love to wear our band swag with pride. I personally have enough Maiden shirts to wear a new one every day for nearly two weeks.

This isn't something that's easy to accomplish. Buying records is shitty because we don't all have money, but why should we demand that these younger bands keep making music while they don't see any reward? For me, the answer is Spotify. The bands make money off of plays, sometimes I contemplate playing an entire album just for the sake of them getting plays. Looking at bands like High Spirits or Enforcer and seeing their top played tracks have so few plays is a crime. These bands are killer, and we can buy happiness for like ten bucks a month.

We're at an intriguing crossroads in metal and we need to figure out what to do. We need to sort out which bands are worth supporting, we need to support those bands that are already established, like Amon Amarth or King Diamond, and we need to try and go out of our way to support them. Myself and some friends drove to Chicago from KC to see Iron Maiden. Myself, my girlfriend, and my best friend road tripped to Utah for the same reason. This fall/winter, I will be driving all over the midwest for the amazing shows coming up. King Diamond is finally healthy enough to tour, Sonata Arctica is coming around, Sabaton will be on the road with Amon Amarth. To quote Jasper from the Simpsons, "What a time to be alive." But instead of Moon Pies, we have metal! Seriously, I can't even imagine what to do with so many bands to listen to. But back to Jasper, if you don't listen to new music, that's a paddling. Seriously, we need to carve out legacies for bands just hitting their strides. A popular comic has a butterfly urging us to bring back 80s speed metal. What better way than to listen to KC's own Vanlade or Enforcer? And if you don't dig on the bands in the scene, start a band! If you live in Podunk, WY or Taint Fart, ID, get on the internet and join the discussion boards on Metal Archives, comment on Blabbermouth and tell to stop talking about Slipknot. We have an opportunity that we haven't seen since the Real British Invasion, the NWOBHM, to help decide the future of metal. We need to seize the day and spread the word about rocking new bands. If there's a band in your scene that doesn't have a label deal or a website, get them to throw their tunes up on band camp our YouTube and just share the crap out of their songs. YouTube is basically the tape trading scene from the 80s, but it's on an unimaginable scale. The amount of people that can be reached by posting a demo up on the 'Tube is mind-boggling. If it weren't for some metal brothers, I'd have never discovered how balls to the wall awesome Hibria is. I'd have never found out about the silly-voiced majesty of Manilla Road. If it weren't for the Wikipedia Game, I'd never have listened to Crimson Glory.

So I leave with a few demandments. Share your favorite artists. Support their music monetarily. Be loud and proud about new bands that rock. Just support the worldwide metal scene. What we take for granted in the states or Europe is a HUGE deal to new metalheads in Iran or Saudi Arabia. Like Sam Dunn showed, metal is global, and we live in a time period that is unlike any other.

To quote Vanlade, "Stay heavy or die."

PS: I hope you guy at least enjoyed my rambling. My next post won't be such a bummer or suck so hard.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Interview with Kwan Yong-man of Christfuck!!

Interview conducted between May-July 2014 via email.
Special thanks to Kim Ye-ji for working so hard on the translations!!

WULF: Your band name could be really shocking to a lot of people, especially Christians.  Is it because you guys are anti-Christian, or do you just want to be shocking with your name?  What's the reaction when people hear about your band or your music?  Also, there's not much information about your band, at least in English.  Please tell me about the history of your band.

Yong-man:  Hi, I'm the drummer of this band, Kwan Yong-man.  Our band was formed by bassist Shim Ji-hoon, guitarist Lee Jae-yeong, and vocalist Jeong Jin-yong, in 2011.  We had no drummer at first, so we just practiced with session drummers, and later on I joined.  There use to be four members in this band, but Ji-hoon quit in order to concentrate on playing black metal.  So we only have three members now.
Also, We are not an anti-Christian band.  However, although we still dislike Christians, the reason why we named our band "Christfuck" was because it was just the most stupid and aggressive name we could think of, so we chose it.
WULF:  What do you hope to ultimately accomplish with this band?  Maybe something like touring Asia or Europe?  
Yong-man:  Grindcore isn't a big deal in Korea.  For now, all of the members of Christfuck are busy with other things so we don't make much of an effort with this band. However, we do still want to make a new album and make connections with other grindcore bands eventually.  We also want to have fun when we perform live, but that's about it.
WULF:  What do you think about the punk/metal scene in Korea?  Is it getting popular along with other Korean popular music due to the Korean Wave (hallyu)?  Where does your band fit within the Korean underground music scene? 
Yong-man:  It's a totally different world with Korean punk/metal bands and KPop/hip-hop groups.  It's not our business at all if K-Pop is popular or not.  There are only a few people (bands, fans) in the Korean punk/metal scene and it's pretty small, but it's run well though.  Of course, it's still not that fun. Anyway, Hallyu (Korean Wave) has nothing to do with us and we don't really have any opinion on it. We're a part of the non-existent Korean grindcore scene.  There are just five or six other bands that know each other.   Grindcore bands usually play when punk or metal bands play.  Punk and metal just isn't popular here and barely any new people ever join in.  But there are a few bands that still continue to play.  I guess it would be similar to punk/metal scenes in other countries as well.   There are a few fans of Christfuck here, but we don't play that often.
WULF:  How can people listen to your music?  Do you have CDs or vinyl, or is it only available on the internet?
Yong-man:  We used to sell our CDs at shows but now they're all sold out.   It could be good if we put our songs or music on the internet but we are too lazy to do that.  We are a really lazy band.   You would know that by our answers to your interview, because it was so delayed.   We're not only lazy, but we also don't play very hard in our band.  
WULF:  Usually, most grindcore bands have political or societal critiques or messages in their music.  What does your band sing about?   Does your band have any specific philosophy or belief that you adhere to?
Yong-man:  Each member has different thoughts and philosophies about music, but we rarely talk about that.   Shim Jihoon usually wrote critical or radical lyrics when he used to be our bassist, but nobody wants to write lyrics now.  Jeong Jinyeong, our vocalist, is too lazy to write.   I'm the drummer, so I just choose some of the titles for the songs.   I don't want to show my personal beliefs or philosophy in this band at all, so I just made the song titles really dumb or stupid without much thought involved.  We actually don't know the lyrics to the songs which we wrote after Shim Jihoon left.   Even Jeong Jinyeong just shouts when he sings.   We just sing about stupid or dumb stuff in this band.
WULF:  Are you inspired by anything outside of music, such as film or literature?
Yong-man:  We are mostly influenced by stupid action or zombie movies.   It seems that they have a religious message or are critical of society, but it actually just doesn't matter, like in Troma movies.

WULF:  What can people expect to see at your shows?  
Yong-man:  You can enjoy our stupid, fun, loud, and smelly band at our shows, although it's not very innovative or smart.   We don't use our brains when we play, just our muscles.   
WULF:  Thanks for the interview!!  Any final comments are yours...
Yong-man:  We are preparing a split album with Cave Have Rod, a Chinese band.   We are just a stupid and dumb band and we have no excuse (for why we are the way we are).   It's not because we are actually stupid in real life, it's just because we don't put much thought in the band.   Enjoy our dumb band in a dumb way.

WULF:  밴드 이름이 많은 사람들에게 충격적일 수 도 있는데, 특히 기독교인들에게요.  멤버들이 반기독교적이기 때문인가요, 아니면 단지 밴드이름을 통해 사람들에게 강한 인상을 주고 싶었던 건가요?
 밴드이름을 듣는 사람들 또는 밴드의 존재에 대한 사람들의 반응은 어떠한가요? 밴드에 대한 정보가 그리 많지 않은 데요(특히 영어로 된), 밴드에 대해 묻고 싶습니다. 밴드의 역사에 대한 간단한 소개 부탁 드려요.
KWAN YONGMAN: 안녕하세요. 밴드 Christfuck의 드러머 Yongman Kwon입니다.  밴드의 역사. 밴드의 정보 Christfuck은 2011년 베이시스트 심지훈을 주축으로 기타 이재영, 보컬 정진용과 함께 결성되었습니다. 처음에는 드러머가 없어서 세션 드러머들을 데려다가 연습하던 중, 그라인드코어 밴드 밤섬해적단의 드러머 권용만을 섭외하여 멤버로 영입하였습니다.  4인조로 활동하던 도중, 베이시스트 심지훈이 블랙메탈을 하고 싶다면서 탈퇴하였고 현재는3인조로 활동중입니다. 밴드 이름에 대해.  저희는 반기독교를 내세우는 밴드는 아닙니다. 물론 멤버들은 기독교를 싫어합니다. 그렇지만 밴드 이름을 Christfuck으로 정한 이유는 그냥 가장 멍청하고 공격적인 이름을 찾다가 아무거나 정한 겁니다.
WULF:  밴드가 궁극적으로 하고 싶은 것은 무엇인가요. 이를테면 아시아투어, 유럽 등으로의 공연 등이요.

KWAN YONGMAN:  밴드가 궁극적으로 하고 싶은 것. 한국에서는 grindcore밴드를 한다는 것이 거의 아무런 의미가 없습니다. 현재는 Christfuck 멤버들 모두 각자 다른 일로 바쁘기 때문에 밴드에 많은 노력을 쏟지 못하고 있습니다만, 천천히 새로운 앨범도 만들면서 해외의 grindcore 밴드들과 교류하고 싶습니다. 그게 전부입니다. 다른 그라인드코어 밴드들과 교류하고, 재밌게 공연하는 것.
WULF:   밴드가 생각하는 한국의 펑크락 이나 메탈 문화에 대해 말씀해 주세요.
펑크나 메탈락 또한 K팝이나 힙합 등의 한류 열풍처럼 인기를 얻고 있나요?  당신의 밴드는 한국의 언더그라운드뮤직 문화에서 어떠한 위치에 있다고 생각하나요? 예를 들어, 언더락 부분에서 많은 팬이 있다 또는 다른 밴드들에 생각하기에 당신의 밴드가 특이하다고 생각 한다 등등이요.
KWAN YONGMAN: 한국의 펑크/메탈 문화. K팝. 한국의 펑크/메탈과 K팝/힙합은 완전히 다른 세계입니다. K팝이 인기를 끌든 말든 우리와는 아무런 상관이 없습니다. 한국의 펑크/메탈 씬은 작고 사람도 별로 없지만 적당히 잘 돌아가고 있습니다. 물론 별로 재미는 없습니다만.
여튼 한류열풍이니 뭐니 하는 것은 우리와 전혀 상관없는 이야기이며, 이것에 대해 싫다거나 좋다거나 하는 생각조차 없습니다. 당신의 밴드는 한국의 언더그라운드뮤직 문화에서 어떠한 위치에 있다고 생각하나요? Christfuck이 있는 위치는 한국의 그라인드코어씬이라고 부를 수 있을 겁니다. 그렇다면 이 그라인드코어씬은 무엇일까요? 씬이 없습니다. 그저 5~6개의 그라인드코어 밴드들끼리 서로 알고 지내는 것이 다입니다. 그라인드코어 밴드들은 펑크나 메탈 공연에 끼어서 같이 공연하곤 합니다. 그렇다면 펑크나 메탈은 한국의 언더그라운드 뮤직 문화에서 어떠한 위치일까요? 펑크/메탈은 딱히 별로 인기도 없고 새로운 사람이 들어오지 않는 곳입니다. 하지만 소수의 사람들로 꾸준히 명맥을 유지하고 있는 곳이지요. 아마 어느 나라나 마찬가지일 것입니다. Christfuck은 그다지 팬이 많지도 않으며 활동을 활발하게 하지도 않기 때문에 별로 인기가 없습니다.
WULF: 사람들이 어디에서 여러분의 음악을 들을 수 있나요? CD나 기타 구매 가능한 다른 레코드판(vinyl)등이 있나요? 아니면 모든 음악을 인터넷을 통해서만 들을 수 있나요?
KWAN YONGMAN: 공연장에서 CD를 판매했었지만 지금은 절판되었습니다. 저희의 음원을 인터넷에 올리면 좋겠지만 멤버들이 게을러서 아무도 하고 있지 않습니다. 저희는 매우 게으른 사람들입니다.인터뷰에 대한 답변도 이렇게 늦게까지 끌다가 하는 것을 보십시오. 저희는 너무나 게으르고 밴드를 열심히 하지도 않습니다.
WULF:  그라인드코어 (Grindcore Bands) 밴드들은 거의 항상 정치, 종교 또는 현대 사회에 대해 비판적인 노래들을 가지고 있는데요, 여러분  밴드는 무엇에 관한 노래를 하나요? 특별히 옹호하거나 믿고 있는 철학이 있나요?
KWAN YONGMAN: 멤버들마다 서로 생각과 철학이 다릅니다. 하지만 각자 어떤 생각을 하고 있는지에 대해 대화하지 않습니다. 베이시스트 심지훈이 있던 시절에는 급진적이거나 비판적인 가사들을 주로 썼지만 이제는 아무도 딱히 가사를 쓰려고 하지도 않습니다. 보컬리스트 정진용이 가사를 쓰는 것을 귀찮아하고 있습니다. 몇몇 곡 제목은 드럼을 치는 제가 정합니다. 저는 이 밴드에서 저의 철학을 드러내고 싶은 생각이 전혀 없습니다. 그래서 최대한 바보같고 아무런 생각없는 제목을 짓습니다. 베이시스트 심지훈이 탈퇴한 후 만든 곡들에 대해서는, 멤버들 그 누구도 곡의 가사를 모릅니다. 심지어 보컬리스트 정진용 역시 그냥 소리만 지릅니다. 무엇에 대해 노래하는가? 라는 질문에 딱히 대답하라면,우리는 멍청함에 대해 노래합니다. 왜냐하면 적어도 멤버들 모두는 이 밴드 안에서는 굉장히 멍청하기 때문입니다.
WULF:  인터뷰하는 사람들은 항상 밴드에게 그들의 음악적 영향에 대해 묻곤 합니다. 그러나 저는 항상 밴드에게 음악 이외의 영향을 준 것들에 대해 흥미가 있어왔습니다. 당신들에게 영향을 준 어떤 책이나 영화가 있었나요? 당신이 추천하는 어떤 문학작품이 있나요?
KWAN YONGMAN:  영향을 준 책이나 영화. 멍청한 액션영화나 멍청한 좀비영화에서 영향을 받았습니다. 종교적이고 사회적인 메시지가 있는 것 같아 보이지만 사실은 그런 것이 별로 중요하지 않는 Troma의 영화 같은 것들 말입니다.
WULF:  당신의 Live공연을 한번도 본적이 없는 누군가에게 사람들은 Christfuck show에서 무엇을 예상할 수 있을 까요?
KWAN YONGMAN:  Christfuck show에서 기대할 수 있는 것? 참신하지도 똑똑하지도 않지만,바보같고 즐거우며 일단 귀는 시끄럽고 땀냄새 나는 멍청한 공연을 보실 수 있습니다. 저희는 연주할때도 뇌는 사용하지 않습니다. 근육만 사용합니다.
WULF:  여기까지가 마지막 질문이었습니다. 마직막으로 코멘트 부탁드려요 ^^
KWAN YONGMAN:  마지막 코멘트 첫째, 중국의 Cave have rod와 스플릿 앨범을 준비하고 있습니다. 둘째, 우리는 멍청한 밴드입니다. 변명의 여지가 없습니다. 멤버들이 멍청해서 멍청한 밴드가 된 것이 아닙니다. 밴드를 하면서 아무 생각이 없어서 멍청한 밴드가 되었습니다. 멍청한 음악을 멍청하게 즐겨주세요.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Evil Has No Boundaries...Or Maybe It Does?

Does Metal have boundaries?  This is an interesting question implicitly brought up by none other than Dave Lombardo. 

In a recent interview, Lombardo was quoted as saying the following:
"I get the chance to play drums without limits. Believe it or not, metal has a lot of boundaries. When I play with these artists, the intensity and dynamics are so great because we're tapping into so many genres. Quite honestly, most music, in comparison, feels less exciting for me."
He continues:
"I've always been a fan of music that is left of center. It wasn't until I started to work with Patton that I realized I had the instinctual ability to play avant-garde style of music. When Patton introduced me to the first Fantomas demos, I felt very comfortable and connected with the music. When I performed 'Xu Feng' for the first time with John Zorn and his ensemble, I was comfortable and uninhibited. This is the most pure form of musical self expression."
(Note: in the former quote, he is referring to John Zorn and Mike Patton when he says "these artists")

Now, I think it's worth pointing out that he isn't talking about strictly about "improvised music vs. structured music".  Fantomas is highly structured in most of their music.  John Zorn has performed/composed his fair share of completely improvised material in the past, but 'Xu Feng' uses Zorn's game pieces style there is still an element of structure, although that structure is more or less random.

If that ("improvised vs. structured") were his complete argument, then I would say, "Yes, I absolutely agree that improvised music is more freeing and unlimited in possibilities than structured music."  However, he's not saying that.  He is saying that avant-garde, genre-hopping music is the most boundless. 

I will say that probably a good 99% of Metal is structured (Sunn O))) might be a noteworthy example of the 1%, though even they have SOME structure).  But the argument that Metal lacks an avant-garde nature?  C'mooooon, Dave!

OK, I will agree that most Metal bands don't experiment and are chained to the pre-conceived notions of their particular sub-genre (which is not necessarily a bad thing).  Slayer, for example, will never be that experimental.  Neither will Cannibal Corpse.  Or Judas Priest.  That is not what they do, and that would not be appealing to their fanbase.

However, on the flipside of the coin, you have bands like the Dillinger Escape Plan, Sigh, Kayo Dot/Maudlin of the Well, Dodheimsgard, Arcturus, Candiria, Locrian, Earth, Ulver, and Fleuerty, among many others, who have all flirted with the experimental/avant-garde.  Each of these bands has either employed a genre-hopping style (Sigh, Candiria), a stretching or pushing of an established genre's style (Dodheimsgard, Fleuerty, Locrian), or a complete abandonment of most if not all "Metal" elements (Ulver, Kayo Dot, Earth). 

I will agree with Lombardo in saying that, even with the more experimental Metal bands, there are often limits to what kind of sounds they will incorporate into their music (perhaps not for a very select few).  In a way, each band dictates the boundaries of their own music.  Some choose to dictate those boundaries by what is acceptable to their particular sub-genre, while others choose to dictate those boundaries completely on their own terms.  A select few probably don't have any boundaries in how their willing to experiment or the type of sounds they're willing to incorporate.

IMHO, I also don't think that most Metal bands are experimental just for the sake of being experimental. I sometimes think of John Zorn's and Mike Patton's projects are experimental just for the sake of being experimental, but that is certainly up for debate.

In any case, I think Lombardo was merely speaking from his own perspective from playing in Metal bands; specifically Slayer.  Slayer is obviously not going to throw in 30 seconds of polka jamming or ballet into one of their songs.  But that is certainly not the case for ALL Metal bands.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Asia Metal Festival 2014 in Seoul!!

Ahhhh!!!  I can't believe I didn't know about this!!  I also can't believe it's already been a year since the last one!!  If you remember, Malicious Intent did a bit of coverage of the show last time around for Asia Metal Festival 2013, but I've been a bit busy and distracted with other shit so this totally snuck up on me!!  Anyway, check it out!!

It looks like it's gonna be a great show, including:
Metamorphosis  (if anyone has a link to this band's official website or Facebook, please let me know!!)
Silent Eye
Earth Rot (Australia!!)
Survive  (Japan!!)

Looks like the show is on March 22 (Saturday) at 4:30 PM at the Alleh Square Dream Hall in Seoul!!

Hopefully I can make it, and if I do I hope to see you there!!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Wulf's Official Response to Decibel Magazine's Top 100 Black Metal Albums (part 5)

60.   "Over Bjoergvin Graater Himmerik" - Taake

I've actually never listened to Taake that much, which is surprising because usually I'm all over bands that are considered somewhat eccentric or have an heir of controversy surrounding them.   I haven't heard this particular album, but I remember listening to the one before it (1999's "Nattestid Ser Porten Vid") and enjoying it, especially the brilliant first track "Vid I", one of my favorite black metal songs of all time!!  Anyway, Hoest seems to have calmed down over the years as far as shock value goes, but that doesn't mean I still shouldn't check out more of his stuff!!

59.   "Enthrone Darkness Triumphant" - Dimmu Borgir

YEAH!!!  Haters gonna hate (it's been said a million times, but Jesus Christ that fucking top hat), but for me this is one of my favorite black metal albums of all time.  Dimmu Borgir, like so many of us who spent most of our teenage years in the early 2000s, was my gateway band into extreme metal.  When I was about 15 I was really into bands like Tool, Incubus, Slipknot, and The Red Hot Chili the time my friend Brad (see Accursed Wound) was really into Cannibal Corpse, and I remember thinking they were the most extreme shit I had ever heard in my life and couldn't understand why anyone would listen to that sort of thing.  Anyway, my metal journey began when I stumbled across an interview with Dimmu Borgir in Revolver...they were promoting their hugely successful "Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia" album at the time, and I remember being intrigued by their image and "black metal" as an actual subgenre of heavy metal.  Really brutal, yet melodic heavy metal with an ORCHESTRA??  I had really enjoyed Metallica's "S&M" album, so I thought this could be really cool.  I downloaded a few Dimmu songs off of Kazaa (lol), and even though I initially started exploring extreme metal as a goof because I thought it was so absurd, it wasn't until I read Lords of Chaos a few months later that I really went off the deep end and never looked back.  
Anyway, though they're ridiculed and mocked by almost everyone nowadays and haven't put out a killer album in awhile, these guys will always have a place in my heart.  As for this album, it's definitely their best, although "Puritanical...", "Death Cult Armageddon", and even the original "Stormblast" are great too!!  What gets me is the sheer evil, ominous atmosphere and beautiful melodies that are completely in your face from the moment you start listening.  It's so completely, unapologetically cheesy and melodramatic, yet infectious and catchy at the same time, that it's easily one of the most fun and accessible albums on this list.  
If you combined the atmospheric keyboards of Emperor, the simplicity of Dark Funeral, and the Gothic imagery and over-the-top theatrics of Cradle of Filth, then you get these bros.  Highly, highly recommended as a good starting point into the genre, even if it isn't the most "kvlt" band in the world.

dat top hat

58.   "Fallen Angel of Doom" - Blasphemy

Before I write about this band, bear with me for a second because I'm still in nostalgia mode after writing about my early days of metal exploration (see above).  Y'see, after checking out Dimmu Borgir I realized that this was the kind of music I had been waiting to hear all my life, and that I was on the verge of something I knew would be a lifelong passion.  However, I didn't know where to start after Dimmu Borgir.  After talking with Judge Dredd (the only guy I knew at the time who was really into this shit) and getting a quick introduction on the different metal subgenres and that sort of thing, I decided to go to the local Hastings and check out some of the metal magazines that I had seen when looking for my shitty rock magazines like Hit Parader, Circus, Revolver, etc. (I also used to be really into Spin haha).  I was staying at my grandma's house that night, and after buying Ill Literature (the last issue too, R.I.P.!!) I stayed up all night, circling with a pen all the bands that seemed cool and that I would want to check out later.  It ended up being a great purchase too in that respect, because it's from that magazine that would influence my first metal CD purchases- Agalloch's "Pale Folklore" and "Of Stone, Wind, and Pillor" EP, Ancient Rites' "Dim Carcosa", and Dimmu Borgir's "Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia".   Anyway, the reason I'm going into all this back story is because one of the bands I read about in the reviews was Conqueror, a side project of one of Blasphemy's guitarists Ryan Förster (DeathLörd of Abomination & War Apocalypse).  In this review it described Conqueror as something like "unholy, devastating, Christ-raping black metal" or something like that, which really blew my mind as a 15 year-old.  Because I was raised Catholic, at the time the anti-Christian and Satanic lyrical themes of extreme metal had always made me a bit uneasy.  Obviously now that kind of thing doesn't bother me at all (as I'm not religious at all and am almost completely desensitized to anything metal can throw at us nowadays), but as I read about Conqueror it really opened my eyes (I hadn't read Lords of Chaos yet).  
Still haven't yet checked out Conqueror or Blasphemy, but I definitely will in the near future!!

57.   "Below the Lights" - Enslaved

When I first heard this album, I wasn't ready for it.  It was almost 11 years ago and I was still just getting into black metal and discovering bands like Emperor, (early) Ulver, and Immortal, so shit like this was just too weird for me.  I probably would have enjoyed Enslaved's first few albums (of that period, "Eld" is still my favorite), but this was a bit much as far as not quite being aggressive or cheesy for my tastes.  Judge Dredd dug it though!!  I should come back and give this album a listen, as I think Enslaved's later, progressive albums are great!

56.   "In Umbra Malitae Ambulabo, In Aeternum In Triumpho Tenebrarum" - Abruptum  

Ahh Abruptum.  So much mystery surrounding this goofy band and their goofy albums...Did they really record these albums during bouts of self-mutilation and altered consciousness??  What was Tony Särkkä's deal (IT?? C'mon...)??  Were they actually serious (Vondur, anyone??)??
I've never actually given this album a listen, so I probably should before I make fun of them, but we used to play "Evil Genius" and Vondur's "The Galactic Rock'n'Roll Empire" EP on the radio show sometimes for a goof and I remember not being able to take it seriously at all.  
We may never know what they're deal was...I feel like even if Särkkä ever does actually publish that book he's been working on, it will probably just end up raising more questions.  

55.   "Heart of the Ages" - In the Woods...

This is another band I checked out during my early metal exploration Kazaa days.  I remember being interested in them after reading about their connections with Green Carnation (another band I had read about in that last issue of Ill Literature I've been talking about).  At the time, I really dug their weird style and experimental take on black metal, even if I enjoyed Ulver's early stuff a lot more as far as songwriting and quality.   I think it's also the first time I ever heard the high-pitched, "dude screaming" black metal vokills as opposed to the typical rasps or shrieks that usually take place.   If you don't know what I mean, listen to the first track when the metal kicks'll see what I mean.   Interesting stuff, definitely worth revisiting.   

54.   "The Codex Necro" - Anaal Nathrakh  

I haven't listened to this album as much as Anaal Nathrakh's later stuff, but I'll bet it's pretty similar.  Great band, but I gotta be in the mood for it.  Definitely not the kind of thing you want to put on when you're hungover at 10 AM on a sunday.  
Anyway, I got into these guys I used to despise programmed drums.   What was the point, when a real drummer sounded so much better?  I refused to believe that they couldn't find someone to drum on the album, especially if they could get some joker who could somehow pull it off in a live setting (also, this was a few years ago before drum programming really started to sound like the real thing).   However, I realized that the cold, mechanical nature of robot drums really brought something to the band's sound that a human drummer wouldn't be able to replicate.   Coupled with the grim, industrial-esque production and V.I.T.R.I.O.L.'s nihilistic rage, this was something that was new and interesting for its time...the sound of the black metal of tomorrow.

53.   "Nifelheim" - Nifelheim

I've always wanted to check out Nifelheim!!  I've heard their music is killer, and I've always dug their image and enthusiasm, but for whatever reason it's just never worked out.  Sorry guys!!  Very soon!!

52.   "Instinct: Decay" - Nachtmystium

Like most people, I've always thought Nachtmystium sucked up until this album.  In fact, I blew a huge opportunity to see just how good they were at this time when I went to their show when they played with 1349, Goatwhore, Averse Sefira, and Unmerciful in Topeka, Kansas back in 2007 or so (my car got broken that night, fucking sucked haha).  I remember Professor Grindstein and I left the show briefly after watching Unmerficul and Averse Sefira for some reason, probably because I needed to use an ATM and Grindstein wanted to get cigarettes or something.  Yeah, we would miss most of Nachtmystium, but those dudes fucking sucked, right??  When we finally got back, we walked in and I realized that even though we were at the tail end of the set, they sounded A LOT different than what I had was clearly a black metal band on stage, but their style seemed a lot more experimental, melodic, and, dare I say, psychedelic.   I hadn't really heard anything like it before, and then when I finally checked out "Instinct: Decay" I realized what a fool I had been!!  
I still haven't explored this particular album as much as Nachtmystium's later albums (especially the brilliant "Black Meddle" albums that would follow this one), but it's obviously really creative, brilliant stuff that was a breath of fresh air in a stagnating scene; a leader in the renaissance of American black metal.  It's a shame Blake Judd turned out to be such a turd in the end, but at least he's in good company with other BM asshole geniuses (Varg Vikernes, Famine, Rob Darken, etc.).

51.   "Lurker of Chalice" - Lurker of Chalice

I actually listened to Lurker of Chalice before I had ever really given Leviathan a chance, and IIRC I liked this album more than anything Leviathan ever put out.   I should give it another listen, but I remember really digging the atmosphere of this album a was a lot more ominous and subtle than Leviathan's in-your-face tantrums of rage and despair.   I could be wrong, but it reminded me more of Xasthur than Leviathan.   I'm excited to come back to this album, I remember really enjoying it!!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Wulf's Top 10 Metal Albums of 2013 Insanity

So there it is, another year down the drain!! I really wish I had spent more time listening to what came out last year because there seems to have been a lot of good stuff, but unfortunately these days I spend most of my time listening to stupid podcasts and comedians :(
Anyway, that being said, there were still some great albums I did manage to check out, so here's a list of the best music that tortured my eardrums for 2013!!

10.  " Abusing Dismembered Beauties" - Vulvectomy

Yeah, it's a pretty gross first pick to start things off, but I almost had to include this album as a protest to how disappointed I was with the new Devourment album. While this isn't an amazing album by any stretch of the imagination (and even straight up plagiarizes Devourment, see the track "Dirty Rotten Infibulation" (around the 2:25 mark for a complete rip off of a riff from Devourment's classic(k) "Babykiller") but whatever). Also, some of the samples are a bit lame, but besides that this is still a really fun album that brings the brutal vokillz, pummeling drums (even though they're programmed, they sound damn good!!), and, of course, SIKK FUKKING SLAMZ!!!

9.   "Labyrinth" - Fleshgod Apocalypse

While as a whole this album isn't that great (lame cover art too :/), holy shit does it make up for it with energy and enthusiasm.  I guess this is supposed to be some grand concept album about Theseus slaying the Minotaur of Crete, but I didn't dwell too much on this.  Instead, I really just enjoyed this album purely from the music alone-- it's ridiculously over-the-top, bombastic, and fast as fuck!!  It works really great as the soundtrack to something like the God of War series of video games, as the sheer epicness and brutality of the music definitely conjures up images of clashing armies, powerful wizards, impossibly huge structures, and an overall Hollywood-esque aesthetic.
If Rhapsody of Fire (fellow Italians!) ever got bored and decided to be as brutal as possible without kicking out Alex Staropoli, it would probably sound like this.

8.   "Sunbather" - Deafheaven

This is another album that's been talked about to death this year so I don't really have much else to offer, other than that it's a great follow-up to 2011's "Roads to Judah", and that it just goes to show that post-black metal is still one of hottest genres in metal right now (the other being, of course, occult rock).  
Is it still black metal if you take away the Satanism, the corpsepaint, the obsession with nature and misanthropy, and instead focus on emotions and feelings?  Does it ruin a band's credibility if the main fanbase draws from both metalheads and NPR/Pitchfork dorks?  If the music is this good, I would say it doesn't matter.   Yeah yeah, it's essentially The Get Up Kids playing black metal, but you can tell it's genuine.  Also, it takes balls to experiment like this and piss off the hordes of black metal basement dwellers, so to do this AND pull it off shows that these dudes know what they're doing.  Anyway, I'm still exploring this album so I don't know really what else to say at the moment since I really need to publish this post and get on with my life.  I will leave you with this:  Don't be turned off by the haters!  Listen to it for yourself!  THIS is something that truly takes black metal to the next level, much more so than whatever the fuck Liturgy have been trying to pull off with their "transcendental black metal" nonsense. 

7.   "Das Tor" - Paysage D'Hiver

I don't know what it is about Paysage that has always attracted me.   Whenever I listen his (Wintherr's) black metal releases, I always feel as if I'm tuning into some kind of obscure frequency on an old radio, with bizarre, abrasive black metal/static emitting from the speakers and drawing me into a strange world of icy landscapes, alien intelligence, and unrelenting, freezing winds.   His ambient stuff, such as "Die Festung", is also excellent, and is awesome as background music for an RPG night (except Professor Grindstein AKA Gorgoroth the Barbarian just felt like we were listening to Hearts of Space on NPR haha).
Anyway, Judge Dredd may have thought it was just raw black metal nonsense, but for me it was one of the best black metal releases of the year!!  When I first heard this I was running some errands on a super gloomy, rainy day, and while it wasn't exactly the most bitter, grim and frostbitten day of the year, it was enough to really feel the music.  My imagination was transported to that bleak, sorrowful world again, where the riffs, like the wind, droned on and on, almost hypnotically.  I'm getting a little melodramatic at this point, but you get the idea of what this album is all about.  I guess if you mixed Burzum's atmosphere and vision with the horror of Xasthur and the rawness of Striborg, you get Paysage D'Hiver.  Enjoy!!

6.   "Halo of Blood" - Children of Bodom

I know I might get made fun of for putting Bodom on here because I'm not 16 anymore, but I'm just happy that they finally picked up where "Hate Crew Deathroll" left off and finally released a quality album, even if it took them 11 fucking years to do it (In Flames, we're still waiting for you to come around)!!  Anyway, there's not really much to say other than it's arguably the closest we're gonna get to the "classic CoB sound", with catchy songs, great performances and production, and an overall fun atmosphere that distinguished the band early on from all the other melodic death metal bands back the early-mid 2000s.   Fucking finally!!!  Welcome back dudes!!

Fun fact:  Children of Bodom actually stayed at the hotel I was working at when I was living in Sydney...not only did I get to meet Jaska Raatikainen (who was pretty quiet, but nice) at like 7AM, but after the band left they accidently left their tour photo album at the hotel (titled "Dirty Laundry" haha).  While I did get a chance to sneak a peak and check out all the behind the scenes shenanigans the band was up to on this tour, unfortunately there wasn't really very much in the way of shocking lewd pics or anything incriminating, so that was kind of disappointing.  Maybe a few years ago when the band was boozing it up a lot more I would have stumbled across something more crazy... :D

5.   "Peste Noire" - Peste Noire

While not as good as 2011's "L'Ordure à l'état Pur", this is still a good album!!  Part of what really does it for me with this band is the hype, controversy, and sheer arrogance that this band brings to the table (to get a taste of what I'm talking about, check out this interview).
Anyway, I'm actually still digesting this album because there's so much crap going on, but overall it retains the core PN sound (messy, sloppy guitars and production, medieval France atmosphere) with catchy riffs and classical guitar accompaniments and interludes (along with a host of other folk instruments as well).   Ardraos is a killer new drummer as well, with a loose, rickety playing technique that really compliments Famine's style)  Also featuring a slew of guests, if you're a fan of the band you'll probably like this release as well.  I wish I could expand more on this right now, but it's already February 2014 and I'm trying to put this out ASAP!!
Anyway, Famine may be nutty as fuck, but unlike Varg Vikernes, his Norwegian counterpart, it appears like he still knows what he's doing when it comes to releasing quality music.

4.   "Colored Sands" - Gorguts

A labyrinthine death metal masterpiece that sounds as if it was recorded underwater is probably the best I can do as far as describing what "Colored Sands" sounds like to me.  Seriously, put on some headphones and listen to some Hour of Penance or Katalepsy, and then immediately afterwards switch to this record and you'll notice the bizarre production.  What's cool though is that it totally works-- I think it was brilliant to leave the vocals kind of buried in the mix and have the guitars and bass dominate...definitely gives it a crushing, suffocating feeling that really gives it adds a lot to its unique atmosphere.  It also doesn't hurt that the riffs and songwriting are unusual as well.  Yeah, we're talking about Gorguts, but you can't forget that besides Luc Lemay it's an all-star virtuoso lineup with Kevin Hufnagel (Dysrhythmia), Colin Marston (Krallice, Behold the Arctopus, Dysrhythmia), and John Longstreth (Origin, a bunch of other brutal DM bands) tearing it up as well.  Anyway, while it may not be for everyone (I wouldn't describe it as a "fun" record like the usual stuff I like), it's definitely worth checking out!!  I really enjoyed it mainly for the production, atmosphere, and individual musicians' performances as a whole rather than the actual songs themselves :)
Great album art, too!!

3.   "Surgical Steel" - Carcass

Every dummy knows that this is one of the best metal albums of 2013.  It was on everyone's "best of the year" lists, and for good reason!!  The songs are catchy, the production is top-notch, and it's pretty much everything you could want in a badass comeback album from one of metal's most cherished bands!!  There's not really much else to say about it, other than it's a lot of fun and is a great addition to the mighty Carcass discography!

2.   "Obscure Verses for the Multiverse" - Inquisition

Another killer release by a killer band (both in the studio and live), while it's not quite as good as their last record, "Ominous Doctrines of the Perpetual Mystical Macrocosm" (in terms of production and songwriting), it's definitely still a masterpiece.  There's already been a ton written about this album, so I'm just going to keep it short and say that this one's got all the trademark Inquisition stuff-- the hypnotic, swirling riffs, Dagon's croak, fresh and organic drumming, occult lyrics and atmospherics, etc.  One of my favorite things about this band is their fixation on the link between Satanism and the cosmos, something I've always found fascinating just because I think outer space is scary as fuck. 
Anyway, while a lot of people are turned off by Dagon's Tuvan throat singing-esque vokillz, there's no denying the power of their deadly combo of catchy riffs, pounding drums, and evil atmosphere.

1.   "Henbane" - Cultes Des Ghoules

Are CDG the new Watain??  It seems like everyone was pretty disappointed with "The Wild Hunt", and perhaps the whole "evil mystique" shtick with the band is a bit played out due to their relentless touring and appearance on covers of major metal magazines Terrorizer and Decibel, it seems like the doomed masses have found another BM horde to rule for some time as kvlt kings of all things grim and frostbitten.   There was tons of hype surrounding this release among IMNs, which is pretty surprising considering that the band doesn't do too much in the way of interviews or publicity, and has no official website or other social networking platform.   Anyway, as it turns out, unlike Watain's "The Wild Hunt", the hype here was well-deserved.
What I really love about Cultes Des Ghoules' music is a combination of the evil, ritualistic atmosphere they create, coupled with the primitive, vintage, fuzzed-out production...kind of like old-school Bathory jamming with Electric Wizard.  On top of that, the riffs are great too, with some truly brilliant moments (see the second track, "The Passion of a Sorceress", for where this record truly shines), but the real star of the show is Mark of the Devil's insane vocal performance.  He screams and howls like an absolute madman, and really gives off the impression like he's completely fucking possessed by whatever demon or evil spirit he's attempting to invoke.  Sheer "Vintage Black Magic" indeed!!

So there you have it everyone!!  My top 10!!  I was going to do more for this post, like list my favorite songs, favorite videos, disappointing releases, etc. but I'm so fucking sick of laboring over this and thinking about all the metal that came out in 2013 that I just want to finish it.  Anyway, I'm excited to see what 2014 has in store for us, I've already got my Spotify up and am currently exploring some of the stuff that has already come out, so check back again soon for more updates and other tomfoolery!!  Peace!!

Monday, January 27, 2014

The State of Metal 2013: Judge Dredd's Dreaded Top 10 of 2013

Listen, I’m Judge, that’s what you call me - or El Dredderino if you’re not into that whole brevity thing.  I have a very particular, humbug taste in Metal.  If a band is only trying to sound as br00tal or as kvlt as possible, then chances are I will not like said band.  I will also echo Sergeant D in saying that I’m really tired of all of these bands just retreading old ground.  Sure, there are bands like SubRosa who expand and experiment with the worn-out canvas of Proto-Metal.  However, 99% of these bands coming out now doing Old School Death Metal or Proto-Metal I find to be incredibly unnoteworthy (*yaaaawn*).  The proverbial dead horse being beaten.
That said, if a band has a distinct style, writes memorable songs, or has some emotional depth (or any combination thereof); chances are that I will enjoy them a great deal.  If I don’t enjoy them, I will at least have a lot of respect for them.

After 2012’s blowout of amazing albums, I was fairly certain that this year would be a relative letdown.  And…it kind of was, to be perfectly honest.  But I mean, c’mon…almost all of my favorite bands released albums in 2012.  It was almost unfair that 2013 really even existed (maybe it didn’t and we’re all just in the Matrix…?)

Well, enough of the whine fest, here is my Top 10 for 2013:

Best of the Best

10. Glorior Belli - "Gators Rumble, Chaos Unfurls"

Glorior Belli’s 2011 effort, “The Great Southern Darkness” (TGSD), was my second favorite album of that particular year.  Not only were the songs on that album memorable and (gasp!) even relatively catchy at times, but they were able to mix Black Metal and Southern Metal without sounding pastiche. 

For some reason, even after hearing a pre-released track from “Gators Rumble, Chaos Unfurls” (GR, CU), several months ago, I had completely forgotten that they were due to release a new album this year.  Having now listened to it in all of its southern-fried, whiskey-soaked Satanic glory, I can now safely name it as one of my favorite albums this year.

Glorior Belli more or less continued the same sound on "GR, CU" that they had on "TGSD".  However, there are glimpses of a melodicism that was not on "TGSD".  After having listened to both albums more or less back to back, I can safely admit that "GR, CU" has just as good of songs as its predecessor, if not better.

9.  Carcass - "Surgical Steel"

2013 marked the 20th anniversary of the monolithically influential album, "Heartwork".  An album conjured by The Original Gods of Grind and Gore themselves, Carcass.  I think it's safe to say that everyone was waiting with held breaths; expecting a massive letdown with their comeback album.  However, "Surgical Steel" proved to be just the opposite.  There is not much that hasn't already been said about this album, so I will refrain from my typical loquaciousness and merely say this is one of the best Death Metal albums I have heard in a very long time.

Keep on rotting in the free world, Carcass!

8.  Locrian - "Return to Annihilation" 

THIS was the biggest surprise for me this year.  I've only heard some of Locrian's material here and there.  Not being a fan of sparse, minimalistic music in general, I had quite frankly written them off.  It wasn't until "Return to Annihilation" was featured on Invisible Oranges that I decided to give them another shot, and oh my, am I glad I did!  

Tracks like "Two Moons" (a reference to "1Q84", perhaps?) are otherwordly, while tracks like "Return to Annihilation" conjure the anxiety and dread of bands like SWANS.  

An incredibly well done album. 

7.  Dillinger Escape Plan - "One of Us Is the Killer"

While "Calculating Infinity" will always be my favorite DEP album (as well as my top 10 all-time heavy albums), there has not been one year in which DEP have released an album that they have not made my top 10 list for said year.  

Probably not the best explanation for why they made my top 10 list this year, but hey - it's FUCKING DILLINGER.  Expect quality.

6.  Deafheaven - "Sunbather"

When I heard the title track, I knew almost immediately that this would be one of my favorites of 2013.  Loads has been written about this particular Post-Black Metal gem, so I will refrain from echoing what has been said by hundreds of other reviewers.  I just want to say this was a huge step up from 2011's "Roads to Judah" in terms of musicianship, emotiveness, and sound exploration.  For me, they are really expanding on the American Post-Black Metal sound with this album, and I hope other bands will follow suit with their own expansions of the unspoken Post-Black Metal rulebook.
An emotional and epic audio journey. 

5.  Tribulation - "The Formulas of Death"

If someone were to ask me, "Your Exalted Dreddness, which mighty release of 2013 doth thou'st believeth to be hailed as a classic for all time?"  I would most assuredly respond, "Why, 'The Formulas of Death', you fool!  Now, to the guillotine with you for such an insolent question!!!"

Seriously, though.  As soon as I heard the first opening distorted chords after the trippy psychedelic intro, I knew that this wasn't going to be just another mediocre Black Metal release.  Oh no, this was some altogether different monster, my metal brothers and sisters.  
I think "Formulas..." was the biggest surprise for me this year besides "Return to Annihilation" by Locrian.  I had never even heard of Tribulation before I saw them at #10 on Decibel’s Top 40 Albums of 2013 list a month or two ago.  While there are some clear nods to Dissection (and vis-à-vis, Watain) in the songwriting, riffing, and vocals, Tribulation aren't merely rip-offs.  No, not by a long shot. There are influences of psychedelia and rock all over the place.  Not only are there sitar-like, middle eastern sounding passages scattered throughout the release, but there are "loud and soft" dynamics that one does not oft find in generic Black Metal.  

My only complaint is that at 75 minutes, it does drag on a little bit.  I could imagine this release being only 45 minutes, and still feeling like I had just listened to a complete product. 

Despite this feeble complaint, this album MIGHT go down as a classic in the years to come.   

4.  Anciients - "Hearts of Oak"
Well, this band certainly came out of nowhere!  Equal parts Opeth, Mastodon, and Classic/Proto-Metal makes for one fucking incredible album.  These guys are absolutely experts at crafting memorable and dynamic Metal/Rock songs. 

Not much more to say other than that!  Looking forward to hearing more from these guys in the future!

3.  Cult of Luna - "Vertikal"

When this came out at the beginning of the year, I was quick to call “Vertikal” my favorite Cult of Luna release.  After giving it some months’ time, I can still say that it at least rivals my other favorite CoL release, “Somewhere Along the Highway” (2006).  It seems as though the elongated break between “Eternal Kingdom” (2008) and “Vertikal” is just what CoL needed to expand and experiment with their established sound.

While the typical build-ups and climaxes of post-metal's (and CoL's) typical sound are still present, there is a variety of experimentation that CoL has simply not had on their other releases.  For example, intro and interlude ("The One" and "The Sweep", respectively), showcase a heavy use of synthesizers, which to me brings to mind 80s and early 90s Sci-Fi (for some reason 'Terminator' comes to mind).  Another more "out there" track is the drugged-out "Passing Through", which closes the album out simply with some filtered vocals, a single guitar line, a repeating melody on bells, and finally some synthesizer.  Quite different from the maximalist approach that the band usually takes to instrumentation.

The whole album takes on a mechanized, robotic quality, yet still retains very human emotions.  A great release from a band that has finally gone from Post-Metal wannabes to Post-Metal masters.

2.  Castevet - "Obsian"

After enjoying their 2010 debut, “Mounds of Ash”, a great deal, I had high expectations for Castevet’s sophomore effort.  Personally, I think they have far surpassed their debut with the release of "Obsian".

One thing that I’ve noticed about “Obsian” as opposed to “Mounds of Ash” is that while “Mounds of Ash” seemed to have one foot in the transcendental and one in the terrestrial, “Obsian” seems to have both feet firmly planted in the transcendental.  I’m an absolute sucker for ineffable music – music that expresses the inexpressible. "Obsian" most assuredly fits the bill.

Furthermore, "Obsian" seems much more focused as one continuous piece of work, even while the individual songs themselves seem somewhat fluid.  But this quality of fluidity is certainly not equivalent to "meandering".  I guess what I'm saying is that the structures of the song SEEM more open than they were on "Mounds of Ash".

Besides Andrew Hock's mystical and fluid, yet abrasive, guitar playing, Nicholas McMaster (Krallice, et al) adds a punchy, expressive bass that really ties everything together.  Much like Colin Marston did on "Colored Sands", McMaster seems to be keenly aware of the balance between technical prowess and playing in the pocket.
An amazing sophomore effort.

1.  Gorguts – ‘Colored Sands’

And after years of dark tunnels…he came to silence…there was nothing…”

This opening line from Emperor’s swansong describes my feelings towards waiting for the new Gorguts album (but is probably more apt in describing my feelings towards a new Necrophagist album…).

After years of setbacks and unfulfilled promises, my favorite Death Metal band ever released an album that surprisingly fulfilled the years of hype.  From the YouTube rehearsal videos between Luc Lemay and John Longstreth, to the announcement that two of my other favorite Metal musicians, Kevin Hufnagel and Colin Marston, would be joining the newest incarnation, to the two or three pre-released tracks provided by various Metal news outlets; my expectations were at an orgasmic peak.

Nonetheless, I can honestly say that it took me a while to blow my load over "Colored Sands".  However, after I let it sink in, I think it truly measures up to their last two releases, and may even surpass them in certain ways.  It should be made clear that their last two releases ("Obscura" (1998) and "From Wisdom to Hate" (2001)) are two of my favorite Metal releases of all time, so measuring up or surpassing my opinion of these releases is no small feat.  

As mentioned earlier, one element that raised my expectations tenfold for this album was the fact that Kevin Hufnagel and Colin Marston would be in the new lineup.  Hufnagel seems to be following Luc Lemay's lead throughout most of the album, but Marston's bass performance is phenomenal!  While he gets out of the pocket at moments with some tasty technical lines, he comes right back into just laying it down in the pocket.  I think it really adds another dimension to the album.  

I was also impressed with John Longstreth's performance.  While he is a total maniac machine gunner of a drummer in Origin, he totally replicates earlier Gorguts drummers' styles on the new album, while still adding his own unique flair.  Additionally, he adds much more space to the music than he does in Origin.

And, of course, there is Luc Lemay.  From what I remember reading, almost all of the songs and guitar parts were written by Mr. Lemay.  Enough said.

Although I don't think ALL of the songs are as memorable or as incredible as some past Gorguts material, there is no doubt in mind that my favorite Death Metal band has returned with a vengeance.

Best EPs

I generally decline to include EPs in my top albums of the year as just a personal policy.  But this year, there were two EPs that blew me away and left me wanting more.

Fallujah - "Nomadic"

As much as I’ve strayed away from the mundane sensationalism of most Death Metal, there are still a handful of DM bands that continue to inject some emotion into their particular sound (Obscura being another example).  On Fallujah’s EP, they have ditched much of the unnecessary br00tality of their previous album in favor of a more dynamic, melodic, and emotive sound.  A surprisingly quiet ambient track is sandwiched between two great heavier tracks.  This writer, for one, is looking forward to their next full length.

Mutoid Man - "Helium Head"

Stephen Brodsky is one of my favorite musicians, and I tend to get attached to just about anything the man touches.  I know what you're thinking...but my peener is already attached to me, you silly billy!

But seriously, this EP rocks fucking hard.  It's a shame they're a "one-and-done" side project!

Biggest Disappointment:

Beaten to Death - "Dodsfest!"

What the hell happened?!  2011's "Xes and Strokes" is one of my favorite Metal albums of the last few years.  With a angular, yet oddly melodic sound attached to some crushing Grindcore, Beaten to Death are one of a kind!  However, this album just has bad production and unmemorable songs compared to "Xes and Strokes".  I have no idea where they made a wrong turn.  I guess I am the only one who thinks this way, because I've only read good reviews for this album!  To each his own, I suppose.

Honorable Mentions (in no specific order)

Batillus -"Concrete Sustain"
Inquisition - "Obscure Verses for the Multiverse"
Iron Lung - "White Glove Test"
Celeste - "Animale(s)"
Code - "Augur Nox"
Ulcerate - "Vermis"
Nero Di Marte - "Nero Di Marte"
Beastmilk - "Climax"
Nails - "Abandon All Life"