MAD DOG WINGERSCHMIDT’S TOP TEN ALBUMS OF 2008
In my admittedly arrogant opinion, this was a year of extremes in the post/prog-rock/metal scene-o-verse. On one hand, there were several technically dazzling, inhumanly sickening feats of musical fury…and chillin’ at other end of the aggro-spectrum, we’ve seen a sizeable chunk of more straightforwardly-structured (as far as can be in the prog-anything world), super-solidly played and recorded achievements in the realm of upper-eschelon songwriting. I have been rather impressed across the board — so many killer bands really stepped it up a notch and made this an amazing year of powerful new music.
BENEA REACH – Alleviat
Holy crap, is this band’s beautifully direct mid-tempo chugga-chug sound thick n fierce or wha?!? What really escalates the music to the next level is the ever-present undercurrent of m-e-l-o-d-y. Benea Reach has it in spades and knows how to fluidly weave it into/in-between the oft-shockingly stark pocket grooves…even when the singer is employing his throaty higher-register scream (as opposed to his very solid clean style, disgustingly awesome monster growl, and combinations therein), it sounds (and feels) in key, an element often missing (or at least hiding) from many similar efforts. These dudes definitely know how (and when) to keep it extreme, but the band truly shines when exemplifying its range. I’d hate to simply refer to the vocal switching style (that doesn’t feel like switching) as “emo-metal” but goddamn, if there truly is such a thing — these guys get it right as acid rain. SKOAL!!
CLOUDS – We Are Above You
Clouds is a strange anomaly — a band that sounds decidedly “classic rock” in songwriting and presentation and yet retains a very strong tone of originality throughout. Great, tumultuous tunes that rock n shuffle n stomp n swing n sway… With the turn of the millenium came a zillion and one groups that *really* want to sound like yesteryear, but very few actually understand how to capitalize on whilst build upon all that we’ve learned from the original masters of rock and metal. Clouds does just that, and pretty much manages to make it feel like now and then simultaneously, which is no small feat. Their secret weapon that they selectively bust out from time to time? A frickin piano that helps to foster their boogie-sludge sound. Who’da thunk it??
BYZANTINE – Oblivion Beckons
Byzantine, much like Benea Reach, tastefully come forth with a straight-to-tha-point chugga-chugga explosion, but the hooks are so f’n buttery and powerful that its pure might is undeniable for any metal fan. One could call this metal-core, but if you take that to symbolize something disparaging, guess again — this album rips a new one from start to finish. I have a sneaking suspicion that this one will be blasting from the sensual Wingerschmidt Wing quite a bit next year when a solid, dependable dose of aggression is needed (much in the way that Unearth’s The Oncoming Storm was a fixture last year). Master Neilstein himself encouraged me to give this one a whirl, and I am undoubtedly for the better as a result. Vince’s mid-year stock tip to buy manure at $1.08? Not so fruitful.
GENGHIS TRON – Board Up The House
I will (reluctantly) admit that the first time I heard GT back in the day, I was somewhat trepidatious. Techno-fire plus grindcore? Yikes-a-rooni!! But then I grew a sizeable set of ballz and decided that I would have to confront head-on the sound that shook me to the core. And so I embarked on a mission to see Genghis Tron, first at a Brooklyn warehouse jam during CMJ a few years ago — sadly, the po-po showed, the party got shut down/moved to another venue, and GT was bumped from the bill. I cursed a leel, but went off that night to see a mindblowing (and secret…shhh) 3am Early Man set, which ultimately enhanced the way I think about thrash. So no biggie; I figured I’d catch the Tron another time soon. Dudes (and dudettes), lemme tell ya: I have had the worst luck imaginable in every subsequent attempt to witness a live set by these guys — GT played early one time, I ran late another, the lineup played out in an unexpected way yet another time…on each of these occasions, I would either just perfectly miss them, or catch the very last song. Apparantly God’s a cock-teaser, the bastard! Nonetheless, I am feeling rather optimistic that 2009 is gonna be my year when I actually get to enjoy a GT set from start to finish. God — bring it.
PROTEST THE HERO – Fortress
It took this Jewish dynamo quite some time to get into this album, and I will come clean in saying that I still have my reservations. PtH slays, no doubt, but they also skate that ultra-fine line between acceptable melodo-core and a pungent slab of gouda. And that’s the thing — there’s almost too many video game riffs/whiney vocal melodies/diddley-diddleys for my taste, but then every time they’re about to lose me in a sea of shred, the band brings it right back with a razor-sharp transition or epic crescendo that rocks my pants off. Needless to say, I am very, very curious to see how this Canucky outfit’s sound will evolve. I may be in the minority on this one, but I feel like if they toned down the anthems a tad and simplified the unbridled awesomeness they already have down pat, Protest the Hero could become a classic group. But — I know, I know…the complexity/anthems are what makes the sound the sound, and of course I love the singer’s pitch-perfect shrieking wail (his growl ain’t half-bad neither…) — Ahh!! So……conflicted… If I’m not me, then who the hell am I??
DISAPPEARER – Winter Sessions
When the almighty Crustcake tipped us off to these Beantown bandits, I was immediately struck by the sheer force of their harmonically-driven, bare-bones post-post riffage. You know a group has something special when they can tell stories with their chord progressions, and Disappearer manages to innocently pull you in and hold you tightly in a bear hug of comfortable bottom-end thrust…there’s only four songs on this one (it’s what the cool kids call an E – P), but that’s all these guys needed to announce their arrival and set a strong standard for themselves — Disappearer could go in so many directions from here; can’t wait for the full-length journey to come.
TEXTURES – Silhouettes
Wow…where do I even begin on this one? There was a point this year when I considered this technical masterpiece to be my fave release of ’08 (before some other Europeans hit us mega-harrd); and every time I listen to Silhouettes I am again reminded just how sickening Textures really is — what a treat it would be to see them expertly slay these ridiculously complex (and yet mostly accessible) songs in a live setting. Hopefully 2009 will be kind enough to grace our lil’ comeback country with this monstrous presence at some point. Textures definitely earns our coveted “Perpetual Wet Dream” award (which obviously went out to Sikth last year), and it goes without saying that we here at MetalSucks are ready for more more more as soon as they are. C’mon, lads!
THE MARS VOLTA – The Bedlam In Goliath
So I know a bunch of you out there still have your reservations about this cryptic, future-forward band of musical marauders from outer space, but I’ll be damned if one day these merry proggsters aren’t looked back upon as the group that re-started it all…and this album, for those of you who are keeping score here, is the one that reined the madness back in a bit and largely re-introduced the structured sound that initially made The Mars Volta famous. However, when stuffed inside a recognizable framework, lunacy tends to percolate and lash out at unsuspecting ears, and naturally Bedlam has more than a few tricks up its sleeve… An artfully rhythmic trip into groove that really rocks, these are visceral jamz for a psychedelically-minded crowd, listeners who are unafraid of bending common conceptions and stretching them beyond the safe zones. And seriously — who really reaches anymore??? Obviously musical vision this exploratory and free is hard to digest for some, even harder to fathom for others; but don’t ever forget that some of the most rewarding works of creativity are often the most infuriatingly difficult to absorb. Clearly I am a believer in this force, and am full-well prepared to fight in their army if they ever start one.
MESHUGGAH – ObZen
This effort from the undisputed kings of meter-twisting in our proggalicious universe could be their most cohesive and accomplished record to date. ObZen maintains a steady yet deliberate pace throughout, feeling ordered in a very palatable way (which is not the easiest thing to say about all of the band’s older albums), and let’s face it…even in the most extreme of genres, presentation plays a huge role. It’s great to bear witness to the masters refining their sound, and getting it more and more perfect every time. Meshuggah does more rhythmically with the 4/4 construct than anyone I’ve ever heard. And what a bloody treat it was to (finally) see them kill it live — the band’s show simply confirms just how precise those accents really are.
GOJIRA – The Way Of All Flesh
What can I say that hasn’t already been said about this strikingly brutal juggernaut of a powerful prog-metal gem? Similarly to Meshuggah, this band really brought it all together this time around and justifiably earned their long-overdue stripes from the community. The power is undeniable — from the first moment the fluidly syncopated opening sequence transitions into a thunderously shattering verse that pummels you senseless — you’re hooked. And the album pretty much never lets up, destroying every tune and leaving no prisoners behind. Don’t try and fight it, not for a second, ’cause once you’re trapped in these clutches, there – is – no – escape. The Way Of All Flesh evolves Gojira’s already-deafening force into something so, so much more: a leaner, thoroughly yet efficiently-constructed tower of pure artistry and strength.
2008 ALBUM TO GET STONED TO:
SAVIOURS – Into Abaddon
This album, completely overlooked by our illustrious vebsight (sorry, dudes!), is a smart stoner’s delight — enough head-banging to satisfy the riffy purists, plenty of unexpected musically challenging moments for the proggers, and a boatload of ballz for everyone else! It’s a little retro-y, not the newest sound you’ve ever heard, but when the thunder comes, who the F cares? I caught Saviours tear up a San Francisco bar last year, and one of my buddies got so blind-drunk that when I found him outside after the band played, he didn’t even realize who I was. Scary! He should’ve taken it easy on those Jamos and stuck to the hiley-wiley, nawmean? I suggest you get blind-stoned for this one, and take baseball bats to each other’s heads — always a recipe for ROCK.
And sooooo……..many thanks, 2008!! Now get the fuck outta the way, ’cause in 2009 we gots some major, major heaviness coming up in just the first couple of months: God Forbid, Mastodon, Lamb of God — let’s start this bitch off with a BANG.