Saturday, December 25, 2010

BEST OF 2010 (part 5)

"A certain tendency to insanity has always attended the opening of the religious sense in men, as if they had been blasted with excess of light." ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Lawless Darkness
(Seasons in Mist)

One of the phenomenons that I struggle with when thinking about the most compelling music of the year is the sheer volume of releases that flood the world these days. I occasionally long for the days when music was a lusty wench worthy of a relationship and I found myself wed to certain records for months and months, imbibing every nuance on a cellular level. When Master of Puppets came out in 1986 it was an event and I spent the rest of the year banging my head in thoughtful introspection, studying the lyrics and contemplating the air brushed cover. Sounds naive now but at the time this was the ambitious crest of a rising force and the tremendous anticipation was part of the thrill. Say what you will about Metallica's colossal wimpery but to this day when I hear a single note from their third LP something deep inside me immediately stirs to attention. That's because I put time in with that record, time I felt it deserved. A decade or so later I did the same with Storm of The Light's Bane. Nowadays it's difficult to get to know music and develop that deeper and ultimately more meaningful connection. A timely example is the new Ghost LP which, after months of excitement, was prematurely ejaculated into existence and unceremoniously sent to me in the body of an e-mail message. I realize I'm an irrelevant dinosaur, but I felt cheated. Lawless Darkness is one of those uncommon records one must devote significant time and energy to properly reckon and romance- perhaps more time and energy than most can afford in their eagerness to make snappy commentary. Despite the band's meticulous attention to detail, this is not tidy or palatable music suitable for the cyber equivalent of fast forwarding. Certainly songs like Wolves' Curse and Reaping Death deliver a swaggering immediacy but Total Funeral and The Waters of Ain demand stamina and focus. Sure, the recording suffers from uncharacteristic overproduction but even as I bang out these words I feel as though I've only just begun to plumb the depths of this collection and suspect it will continue to open itself up to me and inflame my imagination for many years to come. As potent art should. Speaking of which, the staggering presentation of this record is largely the work of previously unknown Polish master Zbigniew M. Bielak, whom Erik Danielsson told me quite literally appeared out of thin air with his classical style perfectly suited to the band's monolithic vision. Artists of this calibre only surface every decade or so and abominations of this far reaching grandeur only manifest under the most spectacular of circumstances. Face the thing that should not be...

God don't like it.

Honorable Mention:
In Putrescence
(Agonia Records)
While we're on the subject of awful smells from Sweden, behold the ferocious gore adorned debut full-length from Stench! Is the Swedish government offering huge grants to see who can come up with the sickest death metal? There seems to be no other explanation for the disproportionate proliferation of ridiculously talented and dedicated musicians spawned in this otherwise orderly and well-to-do little nation. Stench is two of the dudes from Tribulation stepping up their rabid assault with insane hieroglyphic riffs that cast a disorienting spell not entirely unlike Grotesque or early Morbid Angel. But what sets these young necrophiles apart from the trendy "old school death metal" pack is their singular vision and ability to sound unlike all the others. They're definitely doing their own thing and they've got the total aesthetic to transport listeners beyond the grave. Jonathan Hultén is one of the underground's best kept secrets and his visual art is among the very best being produced today. His artwork on the Tribulation LP is what separated that record from the landfill of new wave death metal that emerged in the wake of Repugnant and Hultén's style has developed enormously on this excellent debut. Inhale...THE DARKNESS!!!!!