CHRISTOPHER RODDY’S TOP TEN ALBUMS OF 2008
I loathe having to pare down every album I’ve listened to over the course of the year into a list of the “best 10.” I find it exceedingly difficult because there’s just no way to prevent great albums from being squeezed out. And while my list excludes phenomenal efforts by Meshuggah, Boris, Testament, Arsis and all the neo-Thrash acts who put out quality material in 2008, bear in mind that as a reviewer I’m always having to move on to the next writing deadline and don’t often get to revisit albums purely out of enjoyment. My ten picks represent the discs I have frequently fallen back on in those all too rare, carefree moments. Each of these inspired me to pull them back out for repeated spins when I should have been getting work done.
10. Hail Of Bullets – Of Frost And War (Metal Blade)
I think this one hit me hard because I lost my Grandfather at the beginning of 2008. He was a soldier during WWII and stormed Omaha Beach during the Normandy invasion. He was a defining personality in my life and a character of great strength. I enjoy all the literature, movies and programs about his era and for a (somewhat) “supergroup” with such a great handle on the classic Death Metal sound to be willing to tackle the battle of the Eastern Front between Germany and the Soviet Union, which encompassed much of central and eastern Europe, was inspirational to hear. Maybe it had a lot to do with the timing, but the music truly is fantastic.
9. Gojira – The Way Of All Flesh (Prosthetic/Listenable)
This one may have beat out Meshuggah because it was a more recent release but The Way Of The Flesh has such a crushingly reptilian groove throughout and every listen sheds light on nuance missed during earlier spins. The more I experience it the more I appreciate it and this CD has surpassed all their other releases in my mind. The production is ominously efficient and the sound direction is definitely more intriguing than Meshuggah’s more-of-the-same approach on obZen, and I don’t necessarily mean that as a criticism against one of my all-time favorites.
8. Enslaved – Vertebrae (Candlelight)
I’m really digging the direction in which this band is going. Every album gets better, embracing more depth and inner strength. The level of creativity is stunning and the stirring dynamism on each song is nothing short of mesmerizing.
7. Eluveitie – Slania (Nuclear Blast)
So my pasty white, Irish-American ass really loves folk music, particularly the Celtic variety. When I’m not going to Metal shows you can find me at the local Irish Pub. Pick up a fiddle and some pipes and you’ve got my rapt attention. Play them rather well and include them within the context of engaging Melodic Death Metal and you can consider me a huge fan. If you get a chance to see this band play live don’t miss out on the opportunity. One of the best of the current crop of pagan metal acts.
6. Opeth – Watershed (Roadrunner)
Gorgeous. I’ve loved this band from the beginning so this is a no-brainer. I’m not sure Mikael Åkerfeldt can do any wrong in my eyes (or ears). I don’t mind that there’s less growling on Watershed or that the jazz elements have been pushed a little more to the forefront. This is still some of the best songwriting and most inspirational output in all of Metal.
5. Nachtmystium – Assassins: Black Meddle Part 1 (Century)
I tend to like bands that push boundaries and meld styles. Six months after the release of this album I’m still trying to figure out exactly why it works so damn well. Psychedelic black metal with progressive elements and plenty of atmospheric electronic wizardry. Assassins is the sound of creative brilliance in motion. This act is dangerously good.
4. Daylight Dies – Lost To The Living (Candlelight)
Devastating. That pretty much sums up Lost To The Living. I love every aching melody in this collection and they all improve with age. This is a must-own album.
3. Rotten Sound – Cycles (Spinefarm)
This was released the first week of January and I’ve been trying to turn people on to it ever since even though my strains tend to fall on deaf ears for some reason. Those ears would be a hell of a lot more deaf if they gave this brutal beast a spin or two. At its center it’s a Grindcore record but with some incredibly savage downtempo sludge riffing thrown in that makes it more infectious than your standard Grind offering. Even though they lost drummer Kai Hahto they still keep improving their game musically. I will admit that Hahto is missed on this one but even that doesn’t diminish the awesome quality of this record.
2. Protest The Hero – Fortress (Vagrant)
I still love picking this one apart note for note and often wonder just how much practice it took to get it all down. Fortress is endless fun. Beyond the level of musicianship displayed it’s cleverly arranged and melodically appealing on a variety of levels. I guess I can’t understand why there are some people left who don’t own this album. Apparently there are many who are turned off by Rody Walker’s distinctive voice. Go figure.
1. Genghis Tron – Board Up The House (Relapse)
I write a lot of reviews for Electronic acts and I’m often disappointed when Electronic and Metal get mixed together (you got my chocolate in your peanut butter!), the reason being that it usually involves a Metalhead who wants to dabble in programming and has little idea of what he’s doing or it’s some tech geek who can barely play a guitar trying to add weight and volume to his trite, tinka-tinka techno twatfest. But Board Up The House, along with Famine’s Every Mirror Turns Black (Facebooke page – check out “Blood Sacrifice”) have renewed my faith in the marriage of Electro experimentation and organic instrumentation within the context of Metal music. While the vicious scream of Mookie Singerman might not be everybody’s cup of tea this is a musically adventurous work that melds disparate styles beautifully as well as artfully with plenty of endless, razor sharp teeth.