2010 was a year. And like all years, some good shit happened and some bad shit happened.
Some of the bad shit that happened included the breakup of one of my favourite bands, and a favourite of intellectual metal heads worldwide (yes, there is such a thing) – Isis, who played their last ever gig in Montreal in June.
Australia’s Cog broke up too – a band that toured relentlessly and always gave their all whether live or in the studio. Their legacy includes some great albums, beautiful songs (Bitter Pills is my personal favourite) and lasting memories of their live performances.
Ronnie James Dio died in May, and a big chunk of metal died with him. He owned a mighty set of lungs that fella. Maybe they can put them in a display case somewhere (like Phar Lap’s heart) and metal heads can travel from far and wide to see them and marvel at them.
2010 also saw the demise of StonerRock.com – a web site that helped define and promote an entire genre. Thanks go out to all at the site and the contributors who kept it going for so long. There are so many great CDs in my collection that I would never have heard of without it.
January 2010 also saw the closure of the Tote Hotel – the cornerstone of Melbourne’s live music scene for decades. This led to some of the most passionate mass protests we’ve seen in Melbourne for some time as thousands of crusty punters took to the streets to voice their displeasure. It was heartening stuff, and led to a change in the government regulations that had shut the pub in the first place, and a glorious reopening, albeit with new carpet. It’s great to have it back.
But there were plenty of good things too, and to highlight just how good it got, and to clear the decks for what should be a pearler of a 2011, let me take you through my list of favourite musical releases for MMXAD:
5. High On Fire – Snakes For The Divine (E1 Music)
Pike’s muscular riffage and Kensel’s tribal drumming assault are an astonishing combination. They bring a couple of new twists – a touch of Mastodon here, a touch of Slayer there – but High On Fire are essentially an old school metal band, and this album continues the tradition of the grandest old metal bands like Iron Maiden and Motorhead.
4. Torche – Songs For Singles (Hydra Head)
An eight track E.P. from these pop-doomsters from Florida. A further refinement of the innovative sounds we heard on Meanderthal, Torche served us a reminder of why they are one of the most exciting and listenable heavy music prospects on the planet. Hopefully we’ll get a full length from them soon, but this is a great little taster to keep us going until then. A slight muddiness in the production stops it sneaking up higher on the list, but the songwriting is first rate. The droning final song Out Again is a cracker.
3. Entrails – Tales From The Morgue (FDA Rekotz)
It’s amazing that this release ever saw the light of day. I own a magnificent 400+ page tome called ‘Swedish Death Metal’ (great gift, Withers!), and these guys were little more than a footnote to the scene. “They did one demo and a few memorable gigs”.
And now, twenty years later, they’ve got together and re-recorded their old demo songs and a few new ones as well. And hail Satan, it’s fantastic!
That old school Sunlight Studio sound has never sounded better. It’s got that ‘planets crashing together’ guitar sound of Entombed’s Left Hand Path, a kick drum sound that could pound a hole in your chest, and some absolutely rocking riffs. There’s some occasional nods to Metallica in the slower sections and lead breaks too, just in case you needed it.
This album is a testament to all – never let go of your dreams, you’re never too old, and SWEDISH DEATH METAL FUCKING RULES. Good luck tracking it down, but if you liked Swedish death the first time around you owe it to yourself to try.
2. Solace – A.D. (Small Stone)
Look we all wish Black Sabbath stayed together and never stopped releasing great albums, but they didn’t, OK? And while there have been countless imitators over the years (in fact every heavy band that has ever existed was influenced by them), I don’t think any band has gotten this close to recreating their greatness. The lumbering riffs, the soaring vocals, the groove and the outright heaviness are all here. Thank you Solace for keeping the fire alive.
1. Deftones – Diamond Eyes (Reprise)
Arguably the strongest album yet from this world class band. Complexity and simplicity have somehow become two sides of the same coin for these guys, and there is a beauty and sadness at play in these songs – understandable given the tragic 2008 accident of their bass player Chi Cheng, who is still recovering today. It is an outstanding work of art from a great band at their peak.
Gig of The Year – Isis @ The Corner
I’ve seen these guys twice before, but this was the first time I’ve been sober (hey, I was sick, OK?). But this time I actually got to concentrate on what they were DOING, rather than just getting overwhelmed by their wall of noise. The energy and emotion invested in every song left me feeling drained but uplifted. I can understand why they broke up – playing this kind of music would be like performing a complex symphony every night – but they will be sorely missed all the same.
Shout Outs for 2010
And a couple of quick shouts out: Dozer’s stoner rock classics In the Tail of a Comet and Madre de Dios were finally re-released and sounded as good as ever, and the awesome songs on the soundtrack to Hazizi’s computer game of the year, NBA 2K11, rocked my world throughout the second half of 2010.
A shout out too to my favourite online record store AllThatIsHeavy.com. Their service is quick and reliable, they have a great catalogue of new and old releases, and they often chuck in a cool sticker or demo CD with their orders. Chances are if you read about it here, you can get it from there.
I want to leave you with a film clip, and I think it’s only fitting that it’s from one of the bands that called it quits during 2010. So long, Cog, and congratulations on a great career!