Friday, December 25, 2009

BEST of 2009!

As the year draws to a close I've been waxing nostalgic and blasting some of my favorite releases of 2009. Which was a fortunate coincidence since my comrades at Left Hand Path recently asked me to write a Top 10 list! Well, mine is obviously not the carefully crafted list of a knowledgeable music journalist and if you're expecting a totally METAL list you'll probably be disappointed. But I'm as self-absorbed and obsessed with lists as the next asshole on the internet so here are a few of the things I enjoyed immensely in 2009:

While not officially on "the list", I did enjoy immensely this Merry Christmas eyewear that Todd DePalma sent all the way from China. "Death might be your Santa Claus!"

Christian Mistress
Demo cassette
"A simple ritual to unleash the soul..." Here is a band so unassuming and sincere they've sprouted virtually unnoticed in the nethershadows of the Northwest- with absolutely no hype and no gimmicks- like a glorious magical mushroom in a compost heap of musical dung! Double lead guitar harmonies, rock steady percussion and a strong female throat conjure the ancient headbanging spirit of Acid, Merciful Fate, Thin Lizzy and Sin After Sin-era Judas Priest. Aside from boasting four of the most unforgettable songs of the year, this modest demo gracefully heralds the arrival of the Mistress without spiraling into a tedious exercise in self-indulgent wankery. Pop this in the tape deck next time you head out to the highway. I guarantee you'll be flipping the bitch until you arrive at your destination. ROCK HARD, RIDE FREE!

You could weave a magic carpet with all those greasy manes! Photo by Christina Gemora.


Seven Chalices
(Norma Evangelium Diaboli/Ajna Offensive/Dauthus)
What can I say about this filthy abomination that hasn't already been boldly declared by the International Bestial Legions? Bolt Thrower's In Battle There Is No Law for the fire & brimstone set, these pestilent hymns writhe and unfurl from the vinyl grooves like some prodigious tentacled monstrosity summoned from putrid leviathan depths! Wait, that's just Ketola's cover art. Ketola has achieved a towering masterpiece of art & design with 'Seven Chalices'. Hands down the best album cover art and packaging of 2009, this savage gesamtkunstwerk is like some sort of personal Necronomicon defaced and defiled with atavistic sigils worthy of Austin Osman Spare and Virgil Finlay. I bought the LP just to have the larger booklet of artwork but really this is something of a concept album that flows much better as one relentless and monumental destruction ritual (so I bought the CD too!). Tietanblood has distilled everything I love about occult Death Metal without any of the boring pretense and false brutality typical of the genre. I like this record so much I drew their logo on the new Darkthrone cover. But you'll have to wait until 2010 for that one. Hail Teitanblood!

The Devils Blood
The Time Of No Time Evermore
(Van Records)
The ambitious debut DLP from Dutch occult-rockers The Devil's Blood arrived on these shores mere days before the end of the year to secure a place of honor among the finest of 2009! Not as immediately enchanting as the brilliant Come, Reap EP (with Roky Erickson tribute!), this strange and poisonous flower is no less intoxicating and once the smoke clears it will stand as a more enduring and fascinating specimen. The Devil's Blood became unlikely (and uncooperative) media darlings in 2009 so I imagine the backlash has already begun and most of the world has probably moved on to the next big trend by now. With any luck, that leaves only the truest disciples to revel in their Satanic Majesties' Steeleye Span meets Iron Maiden harmonies and creepy Goblin-esque experimentalism. May their carnal incantations pull the non-believers into a lake of burning fire FOREVER! This album is perfect for long moonlit jogs through the cemetery and probably the ideal soundtrack for snorting powders in a basement full of blacklight posters. In fact, you'll need a blacklight decoder ring to read the fucking lyrics on this one. I've got enough problems without going blind reading the oxidized-blood-stain font that is frustratingly camouflaged by the bruised-purple booklet pages. Still, Erik Danielsson's vintage design aesthetic is vastly more appropriate than any of their previous packaging, especially the unfortunate graphics that accompanied the EP, as are his musical contributions to one of the album's most potent hymns. The "diehard" version comes in a beautiful sturdy black binder with gold embossed cover, CD, poster, booklet and embroidered patch! In this case, the presentation is as magnificent as the music waiting within...

Lifecode of Decadence
(Nuclear War Now!)
The latest offence from Villains is nothing short of a FULL METAL masterpiece! A considerable step up from 2006's Drenched In The Poisons (which ain't no easy task), Lifecode blasts, shreds and fucks like a beast! Villains is to modern music what Bill Lustig's Maniac was to 80's horror flicks. In a word: POLARIZING. Metal was never meant to be lukewarm, palatable or popular. It is a fist in the face of all that is sacred! And when metal itself becomes the hollow idol we must return to the trenches for new viral strains that will subvert, deconstruct and totally raze the temple to the ground! Like a fast fuck in some peeling red bathroom, Villains get in and get out without throwing every trick on the goddamn table like a masturbating chimp at the Extreme Metal Circus (the only reason Mitochondrion's Archaeaeon didn't make my list this year is that the fucking thing is ENDLESS- even great music has a saturation point and you gotta know when to fold). Lifecode is kinky, violent, uncompromising, and ultimately one of the most satisfying 37 minutes of 2009. If you can't dig Villains you can't dig real metal, motherfucker. CRAWL TO THE CAVE!

Villains portrait by Pat Delaney, a man of distinguished taste who not only shares my deep reverence for John Brannon but also exposed me to the magic of Death (see below)!

Abner Jay
True Story of Abner Jay
(Mississippi Records)
I don't know what it says about me or the state of the world but some of my favorite releases of 2009 were recorded a loooong time ago. Like this perfectly soulful middle finger of a release by Portland's own Mississippi Records. The one-man-band known as Abner Jay gets down to business with porch slouch stompers such as 'I'm So Depressed', 'Cocaine', 'Vietnam', and 'The Reason Young People Use Drugs', testifying like a hellbound beast of burden with a mouthful of marbles and an ass flask full o' fuck-you. If you think Hellhammer was primitive, consider the fact that Abner Jay was the child of Georgia sharecroppers circa 1930 and made music with an electric banjo and a ham bone! A HAM BONE! These so-black-they're-blue folk ballads (FYI = that's NOT metal), recorded during the 60's & 70's, have been lovingly dusted off and re-mastered for limited vinyl release but it hardly matters since his records are impossible to find and you've never heard these songs before anyway. You like fishing? Women? Whiskey? You'll LOVE the punk-as-fuck TRUE story of Abner Jay (R.I.P.)!

Bobby BeauSoleil
The Lucifer Rising Suite
(Ajna Offensive)
I'm admittedly biased here but, for me, this was the most highly anticipated release of 2009. Four LP's of Bobby's evocative music, the complete Lucifer Rising compositions in chronological order, encased in a beautiful box that sits on the shelf like a jeweled throne. If I never draw another album cover in my life, I'll look back on this project with the satisfied smile of a soldier who returns home from war with an extra limb. FREE BOBBY NOW!

For The Whole World To See
(Drag City)
No, not THAT Death. This jagged Motor City rock was originally recorded in 1975 (before the Bad Brains were even a gleam in Jah's eyes) but languished in obscurity until 2009 when it was finally excavated by Drag City for, well, the whole world to see. I usually don't like angular stop/start tempos and spastic time changes but there's a lot to love about this odd rocker. What's that dude doing in the band photo on the back cover? Rolling a "stick of grass"? Consulting a Magic 8-Ball? Catching a salamander? Songs like 'You're a Prisoner' are damn near perfect in every way but the boys really bring it on home during the soaring final moments of 'Politicians In My Eyes' when they lock into a Parlimentary groove that would've fit perfectly on The Warriors soundtrack. This is the moment at 3am when I realize my eyes are closed and I've traded my drawing pen for an air guitar. Can you count, suckers? I say the future is OURS if you can count!

The Warwolves/Dishammer
Split 7"
(Parasitic Records)
Someone got 'em wet and fed 'em after midnight! Portland's Warwolves have multiplied into an unholy trinity since the one-man demo tracks I heard a few years ago and their primitive heathen attack has become more hateful and lo-fi than ever. 'Cult of The Ancient Dead' opens with a brief atmospheric intro before unleashing Blasphemy riffs that sound like a screeching biker gang pile-up on the highway to hell. 'Vengeance Riders of Doom' gets the Christ-killing party started with grinding guitar and wolf-vomit reverb ala Von and the ancient South American kult. The whole thing sounds like it was recorded 20,000 leagues under the sea using barnacled conch shells for amplifiers. On the flip side, Dishammer wear their crossover ancestry like a crusty badge of (dis)honor and resurrect the perverse spirit of thrash from the days before critical acceptance and hipster infiltration! Dopi of Machetazo and Deadmask (who's Under Luciferian Wings was one of my favorite EP's of 2008) has returned from the grave to hail the gods rock 'n' roll with equal parts Discharge, Motorhead and Bathory worship. 'Winter Calling' actually comes off sounding like Abigail/Barbatos with more guttural vocals (which is another way of saying it sounds like NME with better musicianship). I'd love to see them perform this live with the whiskey and blood flowing freely!

(Profound Lore)
Possibly the most hyped underground release of 2009, but every time I blast this mechanized assault I am consumed by fever dreams of giant robots endlessly terrorizing some medieval village with molotov cocktails filled with angry hornets! Portal stomps and buzzes in strange symbolic circles, never really getting anywhere with their Metal of Death, but somehow remaining brutally entertaining while I'm barreling down the road on some liquor store mission. I hear they deliver a fantastic theatrical live show and I'm excited to witness that at Maryland Death Fest next year. But it will take more than a cuckoo clock hat to make me forgive their uninspired choice of cover art! This unfocused and hastily thrown together piece of qabalah-crap poses a decent case for illegal downloading. Why clutter the shelf with one more uninspired piece of cardboard when you can have the whole juggernaught tucked neatly and invisibly in an iPod the size of a razor blade? Wership (sic)!

Hellbent For Cooking: The Heavy Metal Cookbook
Annick Giroux
(Bazillion Points Books)
When I was 23 years old, the "World Wide Web" was still a science-fiction conspiracy theory and I definitely wasn't HALF as creative or well-adjusted as the young author of Hellbent For Cooking. Annick, the Morbid Chef, has delivered an idea so simple it's almost stunning that nobody thought of it sooner: a hilarious and fully functional cookbook by and for headbangers! This is exactly what Heavy Metal needs (and Hollywood for that matter). Bold ideas! Passionate delivery! Fearless charting of terra incognita! Annick's friendly enthusiasm is infectious and it's hard not to drool all over these glossy pages. In fact, Annick's easy smile is the perfect antidote for all the scowling Gas Masks and English Dogs that stumble around Portland these days looking for an angry fix of attention. The recipes she's assembled look mostly delicious (even if there's a disproportionate sampling of meat dishes) but this book is really worth the cover price for Julien Nagawika's satirical cartoons which are liberally sprinkled (the correct term is "dash") throughout and which perfectly deconstruct the contents with the scratchy precision of a young Robert Crumb weaned on 'Violence & Force'. Fun reading and, presumably, some damn fine eating too. HAIL & GRILL!!!!

The best SHOWS of 2009 are coming soon...
~Dennis Dread


SEAN said...

Dude, i wanna check out these DEATH guys like NOW!

christforeverdie said...


christforeverdie said...


Michal S. said...

Nice list! I was slightly disappointed with the cover art for "Swarth" (especially since their previous albums have great artwork) but the music is great as always.

NGWK said...

aww thanks for your words Dennis.
have a HM maniacly great year!!

Unknown said...

definitely consulting the magic 8 ball.
barnacled conch shell!

goatovpike said...