This is not a top ten heavy metal albums of 2009 list. This is just my compilation of all the records I feel are worth owning that were released this year. So I don’t pad the lists with records that just aren’t that great to reach perfect list of ten or twenty. This is what I did for my best heavy metal of 2008 list as well. I only had nine on that list. This time I have less. I’m sure if I listened to more stuff I’d have a longer best of, there’s certainly a lot I missed – I’ll have to catch up in 2010. Well here we go.
Portal – Swarth
Here’s an album that definitely is not for everybody! Translation: this is some pretty weird stuff. Portal’s Swarth can be described as noisy, dissonant death metal, but that description doesn’t convey the impact of this music. There is a terrifying otherworldy quality to this album. The band’s moniker fits the music well because listening to this is like being transported to some hellish dark dimension. Every aspect of Swarth’s delivery is directed at making the listener uneasy. The riffs sound like a beast in its death throes, the bass bounds from a droning rumble to a thunderous gong, drums have an urgency verging on chaos, and the vocals are like a zombie trapped between worlds. The lyrics top it off with further weirdness. Many of the words appear to be invented by the band. Example:
Venous stasis fey terminus
Lugubrious everpuce perforate / disseminate
Polymouth clotting foul exsanguinate
Swarth is an experience. It’s dirty, repulsive, atmospheric, scary, chaotic, raw, and unique. It takes time to fully discover and appreciate. To many it will just sound like a sloppy noisy mess, but as you begin to decipher the melodies and feel the affect of the music, you should discover what an artfully bizarre and disturbing experience Portal’s Swarth is.
Voivod – Infini
I consider Voivod to be one of the most innovative and consistent and ultimately best bands the history of metal. The final release with late guitarist/songwriter Piggy (Denis D’Amour) adds yet another fantastic recording to their extensive catalog of superb metal albums. This one is even better than their previous posthumous record Katorz. Piggy’s riffs are raw, glorious, and full of that distinct Piggy character. All the musicians deliver great performances actually. Jason Newstead’s bass is a great addition to Voivod’s ranks reminding me at times of the punishing bass attack of Blacky. My only complaint with latter day Voivod is Snake’s lyrics which are not as interesting as the cool scifi stuff from the 80s and 90s. With me, it’s a given when Voivod puts out an album it will be one of my favorite metal albums of the year. Its tremendously depressing that this will be the last one.
Slough Feg – Ape Uprising
I am so happy to say that Slough Feg’s lastest album Ape Uprising blows away their prior record Hardworlder. I dig everything about this record. I dig the ape theme, I dig the guitar playing, I dig the old school production, I dig the new drummer, I dig the artwork, and I dig Scalzi’s vocal delivery. Slough Feg is such a great band and it’s nice to see them gain a somewhat wider audience. If you don’t know them, check ‘em out. This is classic sounding heavy metal delivered with passion, authenticity and skill. They’ve been at this for years and they show no sign of deteriorating quality.
Vektor – Black Future
Retro thrash, rethrash, the thrash revival whatever you call it, hasn’t produced many bands of note. Unfortunately for me it’s produced only one band that’s worth listening to and that is Vektor. Most of these modern thrash bands, to put it politely, are “very heavily influenced” by Metallica, Exodus, and Slayer. Vektor comes from mix of German thrash legends Destruction and Canadian masters Voivod. Two of my favorite bands, no wonder I like Vektor I guess. These guys are way more than just a rehash of 80s thrash metal with stale lifeless modern production techniques. For one thing you can actually hear the bass guitar on this record. And it’s worth hearing to say the least. The interaction between the bass and guitars on this record is fantastic. The drumming is great too but what I really dig about this record besides all the killer riffs and solos, are the deadly screeching vocals of David Disanto. He sounds like the bastard son of Schmier from Destruction and Kenn Nardi of Anacrusis. The record has a cool sci fi theme and artwork obviously inspired by Voivod but Vektor have their own voice. Not only that, they’ve crafted one the most interesting, coherent, focused heavy metal records of 2009.
Wolves in the Throne Room – Malevolent Grain
I don’t listen to too much black metal but I am growing to like it more and more these days. I really have enjoyed this two song disc from Wolves in the Throne Room. I like the way it’s structured with a mostly slower acoustically driven song with a female vocalist to start the record. Then a more traditional faster black metal tune with harsh male vocals. That’s it, it’s an EP, two songs clocking in at 23 min total. These guys lean toward a more pagan rather than satanic approach to their lyrics. In an interview I read with them, I found their philosophies a bit peculiar. They appear to be very spiritual – you might say they are downright weird. Well, their music fits their attitude because I find this CD to be hypnotic and almost trance-like at times yet vicious as well. It’s quite a feat that they managed to create this almost dichotomous atmosphere not to mention remain melodic as well. Additionally, the production on this recording is fantastic. You can really feel the intensity of the playing, like they’re almost playing dangerously fast yet they maintain it for a long period of time like a runaway train. This ain’t no digitally perfect, safe, overly compressed sounding record.
Motorhead – Motorizer
I am so late to the game with Motorhead it’s not even funny. Rather sad actually. Yeah folks I only learned to appreciate Motorhead this year! No shit – 2009. But at least now I can finally say I love them. I’ve been discovering their catalog and it’s full of gems. Surprisingly one of my favorites they’ve done is their latest record from 2008, Motorizer. So close to 2009 I decided to include it here. It’s full of all the raw piss and vinegar, attitude, and Lemmy-wisdom Motorhead has been known for for the past thirty years. It’s a testament to the band that after such a long career they still have what it takes to put out a fucking ass kicker like Motorizer. No filler – all Lemmy and crew-styled killer! Rock out!
Crescent Shield – The Stars of Never Seen
That’s right — me!!! I am really proud of our 2009 release and we are lucky enough to be on some best metal of 2009 lists: namely Jeremy Morse and John Ray over at metalreview.com