Rant - Top 8
I decided to share a few thoughts about my current heterogeneous top 8 on last.fm. The first thing I should mention is that this is actually my second account (the first one was called Greater_Art), and it currently has less scrobbles than the old one. On the previous account, my top 3 was Lake of Tears, Therion and Celtic Frost (can't remember the precise order). Enough about the past, let's jump into the bands.
1. The Alan Parsons Project (APP)
For a long time I knew of APP only due to the reference in Austin Powers. The spy who shagged me. While listening to some prog rock on Spotify, I saw APP as a related artist, and decided to give it a shot. When I have no prior information about a band, I usually begin either with the first album, or with a best of, or with the album title which seems to be the most interesting. That time I went with what I thought was the first one, I Robot (1977), but as it turns out, the APP début was Tales of Mystery and Imagination (1976), and I Robot was the sophomore effort. Strangely enough, the next albums that have caught my attention were Stereotomy, by chance, and Gaudi, which was recommended by my dad. I say strangely because these are the latest APP albums.
I love APP because although it is very accessible prog rock, it's also interesting and has a peculiar charm. Melancholy and irony, often related to love, blend nicely in the lyrical landscape, and some songs are pure and excellent Pink Floyd worship (e.g. Time). The cultural references to Poe, Asimov, Gaudi and others are definitely a form of captatio benevolentiae in my case.
2. Jex Thoth
Jex Thoth belong to a relatively new metal subgenre blending elements of doom with psychedelic/progressive/occult rock (e.g. Coven, Black Widow). The solid riffs, the delicious keyboards, the ominous drums and the perfect vocals create a vivid portrait of spiritual despair. The songs develop as a trial of conscience, as a hanging of yourself, an ever-increasing sea of pain seeking relief and release from the pulsating destructive waves. Ethereal poisoned blades pierce your mind and heart like the shirt of Nessus, and you are left powerless in the musical hurricane that engulfs everything, breaking bone, muscle and will. It is a bittersweet testament, a crisis against the immuable. Defeat is a cosmic tragedy (Obsidian Night) and victory is laced with resentment, venom and revenge (Warrior Woman). I love every song that this band has crafted, and own all their material except the Pagan Altar split and the Circles single. In my opinion, their work is filled with authentic energy and passion that violently erupt from streams of gloom and melancholy. The lyrics are awesome, conjuring inner struggle and impending misfortune, rather than aiming to shock through cheap and clichéd satanic imagery.
3. Lana Del Rey
This is probably the biggest outlier in my top 8. I have a soft spot for bubblegum pop. Lana is not really bubblegum, but rather a fake spoiled bad girl charming/annoying kitty cat. Like all pop, it's bad, but Lana is bad in a way which I love. There is a partially conscious, partially involuntary (self-)irony in her music that makes it sink its hooks in the unsuspecting victim. The vanity and fake quality that I mentioned, by being partially assumed, create seduction. It's like I know this is cheap, but I'm gonna flaunt it anyway, because I have a nice package. I appreciate her music the same way I enjoy a Joan Miró painting; its virtues are simplicity and immediate aesthetic impression.
4. The Devil's Blood (TDB)
Beloning to the same loved/hated subgenre as Jex Thoth, TDB are not as subtle as the Americans, but they pack sweet riffs and summon a whirlpool of cursed energy. Repetition and progression is a key element in their music, and, in comparison to Jex, their style is cleaner, less drone-y, more rock, less doom, and the vocals are the only elements that evoke damnation, while the instruments bleed uplifting energy.
I didn't instantly fall in love with Absu, and like most newbies in extreme metal, I started to get them through Tara. I was fascinated by the cryptic lyrics, eclectic and obscure references, as well as by the interesting black hybrid style. Now I absolutely love the band and there are few songs that I don't enjoy. Some songs feel like levitation, e.g. on the Absu album, I adore Amy, 13 Globes and Those of the Void will re-enter. The drumming is jaw-dropping in speed and creativity and the guitars just burst out of the rhythmic backbone creating an intense, mystical and epic feel. The songwriting is top notch and, as I mentioned related to Jex Thoth, there is an overwhelming sense of passion and authenticity that draws me to Absu like a moth to the flame.
6. The Meads of Asphodel
The Meads of Asphodel are a band that you either get or you don't. Fortunately I got them, and the process didn't take long. Extreme lyrical sarcasm and (self-)irony mix so well with a black hybrid. The experimental touches flow like milk and honey against shores of corpses - all casualties of petty politics, monstrous human hybris and ego exhibited by corrupted leaders and holier than thou attitudes effused by mainstream religion. The Hawkwind covers are a blast, and even though the production is a little bit dirty, you can hear a thundering bass hammering away at everything.
7. Christian Mistress
I'm afraid this is strike three in the doom metal-occult rock section. Though unlike Jex Thoth and TDB, Christian Mistress bring an awesome old school heavy metal vibe that makes them stand out. Desert Rose and Haunted Hunted are my favorite songs, but the two albums to date are very consistent. Vocals are heaven (or hell if you prefer) and the songs are catchy, heavy and sometimes epic.
Since I'm not a (pure) black metal fan, I enjoy mostly the death and the speed/crust Darkthrone eras. There's not much one can say about such a famous band. Dirty riffs, pissed off vocals, cymbal streaked impeccable drumming, weird/clever/in-your-face-fuck-you lyrics, what's not to love? Have you listened to Venom's Acid Queen yet?