Hey everyone, and a big Happy New Year for 2010.
Here’s my summary of the best music of last year, and a cheeky way of reviewing several albums at once. Read on, enjoy, and feel free to leave comments if you think there’s something I’ve missed.
#5: Crack The Skye – Mastodon (Reprise)
Prog metal giants Mastodon make an impressive bid for metal band of the decade with this, the fourth in a series of masterpieces stretching back to 2002.
As usual, its concept is ambitious and obscure – something about the downfall of Tsars, believe it or not.
Impossible time signatures, jarring changes of tempo and rhythm, and a willingness to push themselves to the limits are the hallmarks of this great band, and this is possibly their most accomplished album yet.
#4: Wavering Radiant – Isis (Ipecac)
Reviewed here. An album to approached with mystical reverence from these modern day Sufis of sound. Lose yourself in its beauty and let yourself be lifted to a higher plane. It’s much easier than yoga and much healthier than hashish.
Oh and go see ‘em at the Corner Hotel in Melbourne on February 25, or at a venue near you soon.
#3: Shrinebuilder – Shrinebuilder (Neurot)
This is my pick for best supergroup album of the year. It’s made up of four icons of the stoner/doom movement – demigods Scott Weinrich (The Obsessed, Saint Vitus, et al) and Scott Kelly (Neurosis) on guitars, Al Cisneros (Sleep) on bass, and Dale Crover (The Melvins) on drums. Vocal duties are shared among the band, with Kelly at times channelling Nick Cave as well as the gruff screams we more commonly associate with Neurosis.
Like all great doom albums, the monolithic heaviness of the riffs is complimented by some beautiful guitar sounds and gentler parts. Al Cisneros’ bass playing is dreamy and serene.
Yep, I know, Them Crooked Vultures was pretty good, but it just seemed like a Homme project with guests playing along. Shrinebuilder, on the other hand, is a truly collaborative effort. And it’s DOOM, so it wins.
#2: Using The Useless – House Of Broken Promises (Small Stone)
This is the debut album by the members of Unida not named John Garcia.
What sets this apart from pretty much every stoner rock album that has gone before it is the sterling production job by guitarist and songwriter Arthur Seay. Gone are the “retro ‘cos we have to be” excuses – this is as crisp a sound as you could hope for.
The drums in particular sound superb, and the precise kick work betrays some modern metallic influences in the playing as well as the production.
Bassist Eddie Plascencia takes over the vocal duties held by Garcia in Unida, and his performance is tuneful but suitably gravelly, which suits the mood.
It features some of the biggest stoner riffs heard for years, with a huge, modern sound that finally does them justice. This is my ‘fun’ album of the year – great for driving down the highway or having beers with your mates.
While we’ve heard this kind of thing before, we’ve never heard it sound this good.
#1: What We All Come To Need – Pelican (Southern Lord)
Pelican’s previous release, City of Echoes, showcased a range of influences across different songs, from heavy post-metal bands like Isis and Neurosis, to the country-tinged atmospherics of Neil Young’s Dead Man soundtrack.
What We All Come to Need feels like more of a weaving of these (and other) influences, rather than a separate presentation of each one.
Once again the lack of vocals (apart from the closing track) give the guitarists plenty of room to move, and there are some really intricate, melodic guitar parts all through this album.
It is these moments of beauty, and the band’s newfound focus and single-mindedness of vision, which lifted this album above all others in 2009.
And the heavy, driving riffs are just as compelling and powerful as ever.
A work of great maturity, and a worthy winner of the coveted Three Paper Reviews Album of the Year Award for 2009!
Gig Of The Year: Obituary at the Corner Hotel, Thu 19 Oct 2009
The Kings of Floridian Death Metal laid waste to my eardrums with their dense, plodding riffs, and reminded us all that even though death metal is all but gone, it will never be forgotten.
And as always I’d like to pay tribute to some music that wasn’t released in 2009, but helped make it another enjoyable year: Poison, Bruce Springsteen, Phil Collins, We Are The World and the soundtrack to our Fourth of July party.
Rock on in 2010!