NICE BOY WINGERSCHMIDT’S “BEST” ALBUMS OF 2009
Despite Axl’s & Vince’s (& the monkeys’) insistence that there were just way too many amazing albums released this year to possibly narrow a best-of list down to ten, I was (initially) only personally blown away by a scant few. Sure, there were plenty of solid offerings, but flailing within the maelstrom of more year/decade-end lists than ever, there oft comes an inevitable formality of having to fill up slots on a list even if such accolades aren’t always ultra-warranted (i.e., if it wasn’t the end of the year, would we be calling all of these albums the “best” of anything? Perhaps, but the pressure of naming names induces a bit of gun-jumping, methinks).
However, the more I listened and re-listened to several of this year’s releases I came to realize just how many great albums surfaced — twas kwite a year indeed. And thus the list of recordings from two-double-ohhhh-niner that did and continue to do something super-special for me grew to a diverse & fiery cannon of seven unique and incredible albums, as well as a few high-praising honorable mentions and one I overlooked last year. I’ve left some of my all-time favorite bands off the list because the records they released this year just weren’t enough of a leap forward enough to justify calling this particular round of work the “best”. However, I strongly believe in the powerful nature of vacillating trajectories of artistic careers, and I expect great things in the future from all of my former boys, even if things no look so good.
Aight — let’s do this shizznikkle.
T H E
M A G N I F I C E N T
S E V E N
REVOCATION – Existence is Futile (Relapse)
This group from Boston fucking slays — neo-thrashy tech-death metal with a sly sense of melody and a capital WHATHEFUCK……I am very far from a thrash-head, but when bands make any sub-genre sound this original and fierce it’s impossible to ignore. The album has umpteen keen upon killer riffs, sandwiched in between several stellar musical storytelling guitar solos, all the while backed by a razor-sharp rhythm section. The band seems earnest at every step and unafraid to brutally rip or bring it on home in a major-key anthemic chord progression. And GMOZ, it’s a fucking trio?? I”m looking extremely forward to seeing this band live in a few weeks — definitely curious how one guy is gonna rock a few of those wailing double-guitar harmonies from the album; I expect not unlike a hurricane.
DYSRHYTHMIA – Psychic Maps (Relapse)
It’s difficult to find an uber-technical, ridiculously skilled proggy band that is able to overcome their desires to simply shred in order to write compelling music that grows and evolves and keeps the listener grounded in the anchor of powerful songwriting. Dysrhythmia (as well as its ostentatious step-cousin Behold…the Arctopus) has always been a purveyor of chops, chops, and more chops, but also somehow able to retain a strong sense of listenability (unlike BtA, imnsho) — and the band has outdone themselves this time around. Psychic Maps sounds like the most purposeful crystallization of this project yet, with a whole lot of power and tact — and that’s a lot to say for amazing technical players of this ilk who are thus capable of lotsa noodles…..thankfully that does not end up being the case here. Yes — it’s undoubtedly challenging, and yes — it’s shreddy as hell in places….but the shred is consistently steeped in song. If Don Cab’s thrash-head children were to start a spastic dissonant prog band, it might sound something like this.
THE BINARY CODE – Suspension of Disbelief (MetalSucks)
I’ve been hearing Vince talk about these guys for quite some time now, but I’ve only just recently got down with their album myself, and I knew within the first thirty seconds of the first song that I was in love. Supra-technical in such a humble way, The Binary Code repeatedly and effortlessly synthesize their massive skill level with an uncanny ability to employ restraint throughout this fantastic record. Song after mindblowing epic song, this is probably the album I liked the most upon first listen all year. And that’s saying a hell of a lot for a band’s debut — I can only imagine how they’ll grow.
DREDG – The Parrot, The Pariah, The Delusion (Ohlone)
Dredg is that odd sort of band that manages to strike an effective balance between volume and delicacy in a way that inspires so many people from both genders. Through tight, catchy songwriting, unique sonic/production choices, harnessed bull-in-a-china-shop heavy-hitting power behind the kit, and an unbridled, lush melodic sense, I literally saw hundreds of young men passionately singing along to the earthy, abstractly introspective lyrics alongside hundreds of young women simultaneously tearing up and eye-fucking the band……this combination is a recipe for success, and thankfully Dredg continually backs up the commercial hype with great songs and an unmistakable balance of four distinct musical voices creating one unit-driven sound together. It’s a courageous and valiant effort to go this far out on a melodic limb (not to mention one so easily and time and time again fucked up by so many), and when it hits like this it kills.
COALESCE – Ox (Relapse)
This one gets the award for most creative heavy album of the year, with loud & quiet songs that pulsate and dance several fine lines, as well as transcend genre. Coalesce has been around forever, but Ox sounds like a seminal masterpiece from a young band at the top of their game, the one that changes it all. I still don’t know what to make of this album entirely — it feels like new layers will unfold upon each listen — but I’m so very ready to keep learning more and more and even more from these fiery statesmen.
CONVERGE – Axe to Fall (Epitaph)
From the very first moment right out of the gates, this album comes on as relentlessly strong as a runaway freight train on high-grade crystal meth, and barely lets up until the comedown of the last two unexpected (and most welcome) haunting, mellow tunes…..Converge is most definitely a band that has continually pushed boundaries and evolved with each outing, but this one reins it all in another notch and further refines the bloodcurling screeches and bombastic yet elegantly simple odd time signature progressions. Angular dissonant guitar wizard Kurt Ballou sounds as formidable and creative and yet as straightforward as ever, contributing to another level of accessibility without losing one iota of raw vitality. Like the finest of vintage goatsblood, I can’t wait to see how this band matures even further.
MASTODON – Crack the Skye (Reprise)
You may be hard-pressed to find a 2009 year-end best-of list lacking this expansive, mature, contempo-prog record, and for good reason — the boyz have one-upped themselves yet again, and delivered a deliberately-paced cohesive album much like The Beatles and Yes did way back when. The fact that fans continue to indulge and embrace Mastodon’s adventurous leanings is a testament to how deliciously palatable this already legendary band is able to make their unique (and growing more unique by the album) brand of “metal”, even for the least and most br00tal among us. After releasing the only true masterpiece of the year, where the fuck will Mastodon possibly take us next?
T H R E E
N O T E
GOD FORBID – Earthsblood (Century Media)
Outside of the Dallas debacle, God Forbid came forth with a strong yet unevenly heavy-handed metal album this year. I’m hardly the GF-expert round these parts, but at the most shining moments of Earthsblood I can vaguely start to formulate a vision of these guys overtaking LoG’s recently abdicated metalcore throne, and it makes me amped of what could be to come. Recent rumblings of a new album in the works has me quite curious about what incarnation this dynamic sound will evolve into – I certainly hope that the density of the next one doesn’t drag down the pace as it occasionally does here. But I’m optimistic; in many ways a drama as potentially craysee as one brother leaving another in a band situation can often induce a whole new mindblowing direction for the music – or… well, I’m not gonna mention the alternative, cause that just ain’t gonna happen.
IREPRESS – Sol Eye Sea I (Translation Loss)
One day several years ago in some guy’s basement, a gigantic rhythm section comprised of gigantic Indian brothers teamed up with a few honky massholes, and a resplendent Boston prog-metal band was born. When I first heard of Irepress, I went to their website and it was completely decked out in Goonies regalia — the exact typeface from the logo of The Goonies, thematic similarities……in a way that set the stage for the almost video game-ish sound of their impressive yet sterile first album Samus Octology. But with this new one, the band has matured a bit, and slowly but surely some hooks are starting to come out of the prog-fire…..I expect (hope) that next time around we’ll have even more of a contender in our midst.
DISAPPEARER – The Clearing (Magic Bullet)
I feel slightly conflicted about this one — we clearly have the makings of an extremely poised, proficient sound on our hands, but the best songs on the album are re-recordings from the band’s excellent offering from last year, the Winter Sessions EP (which certainly made my list)…..and although I’m certainly understanding about the need/desire to re-use songs from an earlier demo, hasn’t the EP format become enough of a raging coup thus far that any “short-form” release should be considered official enough to be its own thing? My point is, such a young and mighty band should hopefully be overflowing with tons of great songs that need to be expressed, and thus I find it partially stagnant to “do-over” enough songs to ostensibly be called half your new album. HAVING SAID THAT, Disappearer are carving a new stance on 90s retro-ism, and somehow pulling together the most basic elements of a lost rock sound that translates to a no-bullshit exploration of heavy chord progressions with a plethora of feeling. I prefer the earlier versions of the repeated songs for the sheer ferocity, but the flow is well thought-out overall and stripped-down to the essence of big riff rock in the best possible way.
O N E
L E F T
B E H I N D
BATILLUS – self-titled EP (2008)
I like doom as much as the next guy well enough, but my problem often ends up being that the music sounds stale and stagnant for way-too-long stretches……I know, I know — that’s what it is. But if more doomy bands could just add a few shimmery flourishes, interesting transitions, unique rhythmic patterns, and/or actual jamz, well then of course I could easily dig on the drawn-out, head-down slow chuggin parts. Enter Batillus. These guys may be a little rough around the edges, but that’s also part of their diverse charm…..and this first EP offers a lot of promise towards many new places the band could bring their style in the future. Hopefully they will take it upon themselves to start a whole new revolution of doom and write a full-length that is original enough to change lives.
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A L B U M
G E T
S T O N E D
QUEST FOR FIRE – self-titled (Tee Pee)
If Dead Meadow were a bit dronier, even more psychedelic, and frickin Canadian (ay), you’d have something akin to Toronto’s Quest For Fire. Big, swirly soundscapes accompany ghostly reverb-drenched wailing vocals and a clear affinity for the most classic of rock, and the result is a rather enjoyable and surprisingly focused stony ride.
Speaking of which – where’s my bubbler?
Now let’s bask in the twilight of another decade together, enjoy the drunken holidaze, and gracefully mosey on to aught-ten…