I’ll go through other people’s list and probably find a bunch more stuff I love, but for now- this is what I think is the best of the best.
Should be no surprises here for people who know me- I tend toward melancholic ugly music made by ugly people for ugly people.
Except for me. I am pretty.
Albums of the Year:
1. Wolvhammer- The Obsidian Plains
Man, not since the album ‘Summit’ by ‘Thou’ has there been an album that pinned me to my seat from start to finish. Frankly what makes this album so great is how hard it rocks, it just rips into these meaty riffs, blithely switching between sludge, black and ‘post’ metal. My one quibble with the album is that you need to be sure you can handle the intensity before you put it on.
2. SubRosa- No Help for the Mighty Ones
This has been the year of gorgeous metal by ladies. This is some fascinating pagan-stoner-folk. Sounds like something by forest hippies right? Totally wrong bub. This is the sort of heavy pagan music by people who sound like they would feast upon your worthless entrails. Heavy, bleak and thrilling. If you aren’t listening to this album by the end of this paragraph, do not go out into the woods alone. These women will find you.
3. The Wounded Kings- In The Chapel of the Black Hand
This is a close second to SubRosa’s album. The Wounded Kings were a good by same-y sounding Doom metal band. Then they dropped their dude vocalist and brought in a terrifying female vocalist who just murders every single song. She manages to tread the line between creepy and operatic and has one of the most incredible ranges in heavy music. I’d have given this the top spot if there were more than 3 real songs on the album (though each clocks in at roughly 12 minutes).
4. Mantana Roberts- Coin Coin Chapter One
This is a peculiar one. Basically it consists of stream of consciousness vocals in slam poetry form (some in French) over free jazz. Totally fascinating, I can’t say that I come home every day and feel like putting this album on, but when I shop for groceries there is some strange connection between her rants on gender, sexuality, being black, capitalism and my purchase of produce.
5. Loss- Despond
This is one of those albums that might make its way up the list as I listen to it more and more. Bleak and bleaker. This is some grim music. This starts with a the track ‘weathering the blight’ and manages to get MORE alienating and dark as it goes on. Nothing will beat that ‘Golden Palominos’ concept album told from the point of view of a soon to be murdered victim for the most depressing CD ever but this might be a close second.
6. Anaal Nathrakh- Passion
When this album came out, I thought for sure it would be number 1 and yet here it is at number 6. I love Anaal Nathrakh, and this is probably one of their best albums yet, but it is still a bit too similar to the previous ones, particularly ‘In the Constillation of the Black Window’. Despite that, there are some truly deranged tracks here where it feels like they have broken through and discovered new and innovative levels of aggression. I can’t help but imagine V.I.T.R.I.O.L as the angriest person in the world. Part of me likes to imagine that this whole track was written in a blind fury about bread being stuck in his toaster.
7. Tim Hecker- Ravendeath, 1972
I find it hard to measure how good an ambient album is, because when I truly love music like this, it crowds out all my thoughts- all I can think of are beats and fuzz and drone. This is one of those albums. While not Hecker’s best (nothing beats Radio Amor) this will stand tall. This is music to be trapped in a snow storm to.
8. Amon Tobin- ISAM
Montreal’s mad man does it again. After a long time releasing nothing, he puts out this truly bizarre continuation of ‘Foley Room’. Strange noises, crisp production, funky off-kilter beats. Most of the electronic music that came out this year bored me, not this one. Also Amon Tobin pitch shifts his vocals to sound like a girl singing about her ‘kitty cat’. If that doesn’t sell you on the album, I’m not sure what will.
9. Altar of Plagues- Mammal
One of the best ‘post black metal’ groups making music today, this is a towering monument to epic. They aren’t scared to go outside their comfort zone and are considerably less goofy than Agalloch. While Agalloch will still beat these guys any day for me, they didn’t release anything this year, so Altar of Plagues is the closest thing you’ll get.
10. 40 Watt Sun- The Inside Room
This was a strange one for me; gloomy vocals to heavy guitars. Sort of like something 35 year olds would listen to while talking about Tortoise. I can’t abide by clean male vocals. I have argued in the past that you probably should not make music with vocals unless you scream out in utter, soul bearing anguish and despair. 40 Watt Sun caused me to rejig my opinions. There is something to his voice that I can’t get out of my head. While the tracks are all a bit similar, it is a good formula to repeat.