Monday, December 28, 2009



2009 . . . what a year. It was a year in which Arch Enemy did the unthinkable and butchered many of their timeless classics with pseudo-hardass Angela Gossow. The songs written for the next Fear Factory album ended up on an album with a lousy vocalist and new band!! Exodus wisely re-recorded their debut album for a new generation, and Rammstein's vid/porn took the world by storm.

Let's take a look at some of what 2009 had to offer us in the way of metal.

My Top 10 Metal Albums for 2009

#10 Scar Symmetry - Dark Matter Dimensions

Replacing a talented guy like Christian Alverstam must've been a hefty task. This new line-up includes two new vocalists, one to do the low growls and the other to do the clean singing. Musically, it's Scar Symmetry—sophisticated in nature and catchy by design—but I feel they could've taken more time to help the guitars sound less generic on some of the songs. Don't get me wrong, this is a good album, but some of the music tends to blend, and that is not a good thing for a band as good as this.

#9 Old Man's Child - Slaves of the World

This album is a little faster and bleaker than Vermin. While still using dark melodies and haunting keys, more attention is given to the guitars and drums this time around. Slightly more musical than Vermin, it is also harder and blacker. A style all their own. Another great release.

#8 Tenet - Sovereign

If you’re wondering what Exodus' next album may have sounded like if Steve "Zetro" Souza didn't leave the band, then this album is probably pretty close and the next best thing to an Exodus album. Thrashy but not fiery (like Exodus), they employ Zetro's signature vocals nicely. Apparently the vocals were finished in 3 days. Someone either got shit done quick or had one hell of a sore throat after all was said and done. This is good shit.

#7 Solstice - To Dust

A pleasant surprise! This opus is typical Solstice, but the vocals are improved. However crisp, clean guitar solos are employed. While they are not on every track, when used, they sound as if Joe Satriani himself had stopped by the studio and given some tips to their lead guitarist. The impact helps the overall sound of the album tremendously. Very good work.

#6 Temple Of Baal - Lightslaying Rituals

This little gem was handed to me by Spinal Villain with the "trust me, you'll love it" look in his eyes. He was right. Swaying more into the extreme side without leaving blisters, elements of black and death metal are ever-present. But it's not technical or progressive, just hot and harsh.

#5 Augury - Fragmentary Evidence

These Canadians take their time between albums, and it's a good thing. Smelting extreme metal with progressive, death, technical, and adding elements of black, they seem to do it all while not overwhelming. Their style is one that you can tap your foot to, bang your head, or just sit back and appreciate what they bring to the table. Fantastic song writing and clever use of their instruments. Astonishing.

#4 Hearse - Single Ticket to Paradise

Death N' Roll lives on. This album is fun. There is no other way to say it. These guys have a good time playing, and they put that vibe onto their records. Excellent album.

#3 Goatwhore - Carving Out the Eyes of God

Apparently these guys chose their band name after a "run-in" with a stripper. This must've been quite an experience. =) To me, one of the few things that has been missing in past efforts from these groovy southern black thrashers is the induction of a guitar solo now and again. In this album, Goatwhore finally add the missing ingredient. This is still a trademark Goatwhore album, but the songs finally have what they were missing. They nailed it. A great album.

#2 Nile - Those Whom the Gods Detest

These Egyptian-themed technical titans return to fine form! These guys just slay. No doubt. This album sees them writing a little more in the vein of traditional song structure (keep in mind I said a little) and the vocals are easier to follow this time around. Some of the typical Slower Nile-eque intros are still here, and so are the shredding solos. They decided to use some extra vocals (chanting) in the first song. Takes some getting used to. Even so, this album rips.

#1 Insomnium - Across the Dark

Insomnium is a band that many will probably like for the music, but because the vocals are a little too gruff, they will typically fall into the under-appreciated category. This album is filled with memorable songs which stay in my head long after I am done spinning the disc. It seems the solos are replaced with more melodies that go throughout the song. The bassist is given more room to accentuate on the songs this time around. While the music is less in your face than Above the Weeping World, it's still at times thrashy yet laced with emotion. Another vocalist is heard on three songs, and the effect is profound. Keyboards are added but not over-powering. An amazing accomplishment.

More 2009 Metal Albums Reviewed

The Agonist - Lullabies for the Dormant Mind

This is the second release from these extreme, melodic, metalcore monsters. Musically they are a pretty creative and solid group. Couple that with vocalist Alissa White-Gluz who switches up her clean and clear singing with a rough wail. While this is not for everyone, it's not half bad by any stretch. I think Alissa has more talent than most female singers/vocalists in the scene these days. Somewhere, Angela Gossow is crying.

Lost World OrderMarauders

Speedy and catchy German thrash. They keep an old school edge on their sound and formula. While this is nothing to die for or nothing new, it's a welcomed addition. Dual guitar solos, pounding drums, lyrics on war—it's all good.

Alice in Chains - Black Gives Way to Blue

I'll say it now: I'm disappointed. How long did we have to wait for this? There are fewer solos, less speed, less sing-along parts, and a Layne Staley clone. While a couple songs see the new singer to have some of his own identity, I feel that in most others, he sounds too close to Layne, and I don't like this. Whilst mature and mellow, the songs feel anti-climatic all the way to the anti-climatic final song. Oh well.

Kreator - Hordes of Chaos

I hate it when an album/sound/direction feels forced, and this feels very forced. Mille tries to be brutal, aggressive, and thrashy in his vocals and guitar playing, but the outcome is almost laughable. UGH.

Gorod - Process of a New Decline

The (formerly Gorgasm) guys from France have returned with yet another tech-death release that has a little emphasis on song structure this time around. While the vocalist could vary his style a little more often, it's still befitting of the music and style. This band is impressive.

Amoral - Show Your Colors

I've always thought these guys were a fun-sounding band—thrash, death and rock all mixed into one entity. While this album doesn't really see them breaking their mold, it's still a good one.

The Lucifer Principle - Welcome to Bloodshed

Death thrash with some excellent leads, the vocals are more wet roar, and it works for these guys. I think the drummer could add some extra identity to the songs and step up his game more. Despite this, it's a good second release.

Warbringer - Waking Into Nightmares

No other way to say it: and thrash for all. It's what these guys do best and they are sticking to it. If it works, then there’s nothing wrong with that. The production, the riffs, the bass, the vocals are a little tighter and have more room to breathe, making this album more decisive and fun.

Azarath - Praise the Beast

Extremity and blasphemy seem to go hand in hand. They certainly do with this band. While Praise the Beast seems a bit more mature musically, it's still Azarath. This is the last album with their original vocalist, and that's a shame. It's pretty good.

Behemoth - Evangelion

This should've been the album released after Demigod. The song writing is more complete, the music intense, and Nergal seems to give his voice a little more attention this time around. Some of the intro/fill-space in the beginning gets a little tedious.

Belphegor - Walpurgis Rites - Hexenwahn

If you think these blasphemous metallers can't push the extreme envelope any further, you haven't heard this album yet. These three don't give a damn, and it shows. I think I like Bondage Goat Zombie a little better, but this is a fine release.

Vader - Necropolis

This was basically a one-man recording. While the songs (aside from the silly incantation tracks) are typical Vader and don't really push the envelope, they are still decent. I guess I was expecting something more since the guitarist from Decapitated joined the band. As it turns out he was nothing more than a session solo player. Pity.

Skyfire - Esoteric

A fitting album title to be sure. The sound goes in several directions at once as if they want the listener to get lost in thought. I like that. Classical, progressive, atmospheric, and even black in parts, it just goes wherever it wants. While guitar whiz Johan Reinholdz isn't given a wide berth to do his magic, he does get a few moments to toss out a virtuoso solo now and then. Thinking man’s metal for you.

W.A.S.P. - Babylon

Musically this album follows Helldorado. Babylon is more on the Rocky side of things than most metal, but it's not a bad album. Delving into why one man shouldn't rule the world and other worries on the mind of Blackie Lawless, it's an OK album. But I was hoping they'd go back to the Kill Fuck Die go-for-the-jugular sound.

Immortal - All Shall Fall

To be honest, I really didn't think Immortal's previous Sons of Northern Darkness was all that great. This album, however, is a lot more mature, musically diverse, and shows progression, experimentation, and growth. What's not to like?

Cannibal Corpse - Evisceration Plague

Not sure why Zombies are the new "thing." These songs follow in the same savage and intense vein as Kill. Why there are so many 2-3 minute songs is beyond me. It seems once you get into it, it ends. Title track is the best song on the album, IMO. Nothing new, but hey, it's Cannibal Corpse.

Lion's Share - Dark Hours

I admit, power metal isn't my usual smelt of Metal. This album is the exception. I sometimes feel this is how Iron Maiden may have sounded if they were on steroids. The songs are speedy, short, and the solos are tight. Something different.

Devian - God to the Illfated

I dunno . . . I think these guys are ok, but this album feels mediocre. Legion and Co. have potential, and they should live up to it by taking more time to do things right. Suffice to say, I don't dislike this album, it's just not as good as I'd hoped it would be.

Teitanblood - Seven Chalices

With toned down (almost faded) production, these vile metallers do good work. At first I admit I wasn't sure I liked their style. This is dirty metal. It must've been a pain to record and put together in the studio. I look forward to a next release.

Mastadon - Crack the Skye

These progressive, psychedelic-stoner metallers have come up with yet another concept record. Their style takes a little getting used to, and I like this album more than "Blood Mountain" which felt rushed and lacked focus. The drumming is, as per usual, top-notch. The chemistry between the members makes the music tight and groovy. Some of the songs are a little long-winded, but it still works out fine.

Sacrifice - The Ones I Condemn

Straight up thrash. It's what Sacrifice does best. The vocals are brought up front this time. Intensity is given more room to grow on this record. The vibe is old school, and it feels good.

Goreaphobia - Mortal Repulsion

An old school death metal album with an old school sound but recorded in 2009. Old school fans rejoice. This is a pleasant surprise!

Candlemass - Death Magic Doom

Until this year, I had no idea Robert Lowe (from doom masters: Solitude Aeturnus) had joined this band. There are few, IMHO, who can match Lowe's pipes. Be it a tortured wail or a heartfelt plea, it matters not. This guy can sing. Candlemass seem to stick to a more traditional song writing approach, and Lowe's gifted voice fits right in. A fan of doom metal will be delighted for sure. While Candlemass write slightly better solos, I think overall, I prefer Solitude Aeturnus. But this album (and this band now that they acquired Lowe) is also a keeper.

Samael - Above

Stripped down music, less keyboard, and a blackened production almost makes this feel like it's not even a Samael record. Samael have written some groovy, catchy tunes in their day, but not on this album. The songs on Above are more raw and vicious, less sophisticated and de-evolved. I hope they go back to their experimental cyber-sounds on the next release.

Leaves' Eyes - Njord

Angelic entranchtress Liv-Christine is back with her hubby's band (and a new female bassist) to chant tales of the Nordic fame. More instruments and keys are used for effect. While slower at times than normal, its atmospheric feelings are often reminiscent of their first album Lovelorn. Mrs Sith loves this. =)

Altar Of Plagues - White Tomb

These guys must love Opeth. The songs are long with a black metal vibe tossed into their melodic death overtures. Unfortunately, they put in dead space and filler which is a shame. Still, a thoughtful release with many atmospheric moments.

Ex Deo - Romulus

Katakysm + a keyboardist and we get a new band with a new sound! Enter Ex Deo. An album based on Ancient Rome and history. This is good stuff but not ground-breaking. Marco does less of his screech and more roar but slows it down. Spoken dialect and an overall feeling like an entire Roman Legion is marching behind chanting, ALL HAIL CAESAR! Good times.

Artillery - When Death Comes

German thrash with plenty of hooks to catch you and pull you into the songs. I hear a small element of Death Angel in the vocal style, but it fits and its fun. Less thrashy than some of their previous endeavors but more mature.

Nightrage - Wearing a Martyr's Crown

The return to their melodic-death/Swedish sound . . . at last! The vocalist pays homage to Tomas Lindberg (formerly of Nightrage) but still does his own style. Most of the metalcore vibe is gone but not totally. The stellar guitar work is back. I'm ok with this^^.

General Surgery - Corps in Extremis: Analyzing Necrocriticism

For the most part, this is Death Metal with some Brutal chops put in. The vocals are usually discernable and the music has some sludge. They tend to alternate between fast-paced and sludgy on the songs. It works for me. Death metal fans should take note.

Paradise Lost - Faith Divides Us - Death Unites Us

If you're hoping Paradise Lost returns to their Icon or Draconian Times sound, then this new album is ALMOST it. While some of the solos and melodic leads are back, they aren't quite as epic as the aforementioned masterpieces. The vocals are on par if slightly held back. This is a decent album and probably the best they've released since Draconian Times. This should've been the album they released instead of the abysmal One Second. Love the album title.

Epica - Design Your Own Universe

Symphonic metal. A lot of work went into this opus, and the result is, well, EPIC! While the male vocalist adds some duality to the album, the ears remain fixed on Simone Simons. The continuing orchestra arrangements tossed into the metal mix keep it feeling fresh. While I am not familiar with their past works, I plan on looking into this elegant band more.

Slayer - World Painted Blood

These guys need Rick Rubin to produce their sound. Maybe their second-rate production will cease to plague their future albums. Seriously, the sound on the record is trash. While the songs themselves are decent enough and lyrically it's typical Slayer, the overall sound just kills this record. Strike two, guys.

Divine Heresy - Bringer of Plagues

I have a hard time getting over Dino Cazares doing an extreme record after his break-up with Fear Factory. Never-the-less, it's not bad though a little bland. The drumming is exceptional though.

Supreme Pain - Nemesis Enforcer

For the most part old school death metal and gore. Tried and true, it's nothing new, but it's a good album. I enjoyed Cadaver Pleasures more though.

Saviours - Accelerated Living

Stoner-rock anyone? It has its place in metal. Bands like Alchemist, Alice in Chains, Only Living Witness, etc. have all left their taints. Saviors is more along the lines of Only Living Witness in terms of sound, vibe, and even the vocals. Mid-tempo, not quite thrashy or melodic, but definately musical. Something different.

Hypocrisy - A Taste of Extreme Divinity

I hate to say it, but this feels like a typical Swedish death metal album. Not a bad thing. The music is good, the vocals you can go along with, and there are plenty of catchy parts. But this album doesn't stand out. If you like Swedish death metal, then pick this one up.

Suffocation - Blood Oath

These guys actually toned it down on their new album, but it really doesn't show. Finely crafted songs with precision musicianship make for a great album.

Marduk - Wormwood

Unfortunately, Marduk needs to try and re-identify their sound. While they aren't afraid to stick in some slow intros and some subtle sounds into their style, it's just not enough. The meat of their songs tends to just drone on and have little substance. The need to focus more on song-writing next time.

Obituary - Darkest Days

Not straying from a formula long in the making, these old school death metallers know what to do. Slow riffs, crisp solos, and off-beat drumming are only some of the pleasurable experiences on this album. Even though these guys have one of the best-selling death metal records of all time, they just don't seem to get the credit or notoriety they deserve. A classic.

And the biggest shock of 2009 goes to . . .

Otep - Smash the Control Machine

We've become a nation of wolves ruled by sheep
owned by swine, overfed and put to sleep
and while the media elite decrees what to think
I am wide awake, on the edge and on the brink.
So when Atlas shrugs and the fountainhead bleeds
and when Wall Street Apostles preach a gospel of greed
I'll renounce the fame of this gluttonous age
and be a born-again American.

—Otep Shamaya

I'm not a fan. In fact, there are only four songs on this album I enjoyed. However, the title track alone merits a review. While the music is predominantly Nu-Metal (I hate the term), they occasionally go for melodies, thrashy grooves, and a subtle pop sound.

The title track (which was taken from a poem) takes a stab at American mentalities, bail-outs, people, reality TV, politics and our way of life (or lack thereof). Musically it's very catchy, and the lyrics are brilliant. Otep has a gift for writing (notice her anagram in the moniker?), and this song/album is proof of that. Clocking in at just over 3:40 minutes, it's quite a mouthful. It's a shame she doesn't let the musicians do more of the talking. The bassist is exceptional at times.

So that’s it for 2009. With releases from Overkill, Immolation, Arsis, Exodus. Dark Fortress, Fear Factory, (hopefully, but doubtful) Tool, Demonica to name a few, 2010 is shaping up to be a good year as well. I got a chance to sample one album slated for release in 2010, and I must say, I am pleasantly surprised. ‘Til then . . .