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  • Silith's Top 10 of 2007

    16. Dez. 2007, 22:30

    Right, so, you know what to expect here. Obviously, I’m not the final word on anything, but since there are many out there who share my musical tastes, and since it’s fun for dorks like me to write up stuff like this, I thought I’d post it and try to illicit some response. What did I miss this year? What am I wrong about? Definitely let me know what’s on your mind. You don’t have to read the explanations in order to comment; you’d probably think they’re masturbatory anyway. Before asking why I did or did not include certain releases, however, make sure you skim over the list of stuff I’ve included at the bottom, which is essentially every 2007 album I’ve heard this year. They’re roughly in order by how much I liked them. Got any recommendations for me?

    1. BaronessRed Album


    In the same way as Mastodon’s Blood Mountain did last year, everything on the Red Album sounds juuuuust right. It’s heavy in all the right places, pulls its punches at all the places, and just plain grooves in between. In a year filled with amazing releases, only Baroness was instant bliss. Their sound is unique, but has the flavor of many of the bests around right now, like Mastodon and Isis, and when each song lays its ideas in front of you, they make perfect sense, as if you’ve heard the song before in a dream long ago and were just now remembering them. Yeah, that’s how I describe how a good album hits me, but just because my description is cheesy, don’t feel like Baroness will be, too. This music is beyond cool, and a great way to sum up everything that’s great about the current metal scene.

    2. The OceanPrecambrian


    85 minutes of music is hard to sit through, but I’ve done it over and over this month. Two discs, one with five heavy tracks influenced by hardcore and tech metal but belonging only to the overlying realm of all things heavy, one with nine tracks of pure meditative bliss, pummeling through progressive-minded epics that ebb and flow like the best of Isis. Each and every single track on Precambrian has something amazing to bang your head to, something to surprise you and defy expectations, something to drift away to on a cold winter evening. If you were as underwhelmed by this band’s previous output as I was, have no worries: this band’s full potential has been reached, and this is their masterpiece. Easily the best value of the year.

    3. Car BombCentralia


    The most underrated album of the year should be considered the new Calculating Infinity. Actually, I like this better than Calculating Infinity: the vocals are way more diverse and aggressive, there are more surprises, and the recording is a step above. I’m guessing these guys got lost in the shuffle of great high-profile 2007 releases. What a shame, because any band that can pull off the strict technical theatrics on Centralia and keep such a jazzy, playful feel without sounding like a mess – on their first album, no less! – is bound for greatness. I would like to recognize their greatness hear before they hit it big: Centralia is an instant classic that you will hear about again and again in the future; if I had any kind of reputation to risk, I’d risk it right here!

    4. The EndElementary


    Are you kidding me? A talented but derivative tech-core band gives up and goes prog metal, and it actually sounds this good? Lots of bands THINK they can do this, and end up writing the most pathetic album of their meaningless careers. The End showed up this year and shocked everyone, critics especially, with an album filled head to toe with catchy melodies, a perfect crunchy guitar sound, and excellent song structures, the latter of which would be assumed impossible for anyone playing tech-core these days that don’t end in “Plan.” If they had left off the two drifty, ambient songs, this would have been number one this year. This one’s infinitely listenable and highly recommended for all.

    5. Hacride – Amoeba


    I guess it’s really hard for technical metal bands to write music that doesn’t sound like Meshuggah. Few of them even seem to try. French band Hacride decided to try, and they succeeded in spades. They added flamenco to many tracks, even covered a song by a real flamenco band, and poured themselves into some Opeth-like acoustic breaks, all adding depth and originality to their sounds. Even all of that doesn’t explain why I loved Amoeba so much, though. The truth is, I absolutely loved how Hacride built a sound that wasn’t married to the start-stop chugs of this kind of band. “Technical” describes it, but doesn’t define it. I would place them closer to Gojira than Meshuggah, and I mean that as a compliment here. The overall effect was astounding, and worth much more praise than it received this year.

    6. The Dillinger Escape PlanIre Works


    This band is hemorrhaging fans like crazy. They’re supposed to be the most technical hardcore band alive, and yet they insist on experimenting with electronic sounds and pop structures. Even after switching around band members (again) and writing much of the record with a drum machine (later performed by an actual drummer, thank god), the end result is something of a miracle: it all works, and it’s all amazing. All of it. I suppose my only complaint is that some of the experimental stuff is so good that it tends to overshadow the meat-and-potatoes hardcore stuff. Otherwise, this is everything I look for in my music: fresh, interesting sounds, the wow-factor of good performances, the promise of more to come. Hopefully the lack of DEP fans who accept their changes won’t affect their brilliant style.

    7. Alcest – Souvenirs D’un Autre Monde


    Even though Ulver’s latest almost topped it, it’s Alcest that made the most achingly beautiful record I heard in 2007. Really now, if you had told me that black metal sensibilities could produce something this beautiful, I wouldn’t have believed you. Somehow, though, Alcest redirect screeching guitars and blast beats away from that wall of noise I hear on other highly acclaimed black metal albums and create something more dreamlike and peaceful. I fell asleep at night to the sounds of this album more than any other this year. If you’re not a metal fan, and for some reason you’re reading my list anyway, here’s the first album on my list you might actually connect with. The second one would be the number 8:

    8. Porcupine TreeFear of a Blank Planet


    My listening habits are focused on music, not on lyrics. Still, I was skeptical about this release by one of my favorite bands because the song content is so focused on alienated adolescence, a topic that old fogey progressive rock champs like Porcupine Tree should probably stay away from if they don’t want to sound fake. The music here cannot be denied, however, and after several months of growing, my first Porcupine Tree live experience (one of my favorite 2007 moments), and an incredible EP reinforcing the album material called Nil Recurring, Porcupine Tree have left no doubt in my mind that their latest effort belongs on my list. No matter what you listen to, if you haven’t heard these guys yet, you’re missing out on something huge.

    9. Pig DestroyerPhantom Limb


    It’s a testament to how good this album is that I can put a band named “Pig Destroyer” on my fancy-pants list without feeling embarrassed. Even though this is the “#1 album of the year” according to Decibel Magazine, I picked it up almost regretfully. I just started liking grindcore this year, beginning with See You Next Tuesday’s early 2007 release, which I found myself spinning quite a bit after hearing their live show. When I heard Pig Destroyer, though, it was a real smack in the face. I’ve never heard anything quite this brutal, and they don’t even have a bassist. For someone who thought he would never geek out over sheer aggression again, it was nice to get so fucking excited again over nothing but kick-ass riffs and metallic insanity. I’m addicted.

    10. HORSE the band – A Natural Death


    I’ve heard that Horse is a like ‘em or loathe ‘em type deal, but I just don’t see how anyone can hate these guys. Perhaps they take them to be immature jokesters playing off the cheeky Jackass/YouTube culture of ironic, over-the-top comedy (god, my cultural commentary sucks). I guess they fit that mold. Truth be told, however, they write some damn entertaining metal, and I’m talking about the MUSIC here: it’s catchy, it’s technical, it’s diverse, and most of all, it all fits together perfectly, just like Baroness and Mastodon. Unfortunately, this disc is not as tight as their last one, especially with overly sarcastic nonsense like “Sex Raptor” forcing you to hit the skip button. A disc with songs as good as “Hyperborea,” “Murder,” and “Red Tornado” easily earns it a spot on my list anyway. Why isn’t all metal this fun?

    Honorable Mentions:

    UlverShadows of the Sun


    Let me put it this way: There are moments on Ulver’s new disc that should instantly make it my number one album of the year. However, the album as a whole gets a little aimless, and it’s often without any real substance.

    NeurosisGiven to the Rising


    I’ve tried so hard to get into this band. They’re supposed to be classic, and they’ve influenced a ton of bands I like. Nothing moved me quite like their brand new one, though. It’s massive.

    PsyOpus – Our Puzzling Encounters Considered


    More virtuosic than Car Bomb, but not quite as well written, either. Still, it’s a much better listen than their first. PsyOpus have the ability to write a classic with the kind of talent they wield, and on this one you get a strong sense of how close they came.

    Others Considered (Somewhat organized by interest):

    Yakuza - Transmutations
    Riverside – Rapid Eye Movement
    Machine Head - The Blackening
    Akercocke – Antichrist
    See You Next Tuesday - Parasite
    Between the Buried and Me - Colors
    Oceansize – Frames
    Witchcraft – The Alchemist
    Sieges Even - Paramount
    The White Stripes – Icky Thump
    Deathspell Omega – Fas – Ite, Maledicti, In Ignem Aeternum
    Architect – All Is Not Lost
    Hella – There’s No 666 In Outer Space
    Pain of Salvation - Scarsick
    Melt-Banana – Bambi’s Dilemma
    Queens of the Stone Age – Era Vulgaris
    The Number Twelve Looks Like You - Mongrel
    Korpiklaani - Tervaskanto
    Rosetta – Wake/Lift
    Irepress – Samus Octology
    Deftones – Saturday Night Wrist
    Dream Theater – Systematic Chaos
    Nine Inch Nails – Year Zero
    Devin Townsend – Ziltoid the Omnicient
    Behold…the Arctopus – Skullgrid
    Jesu - Conqueror
    Moonsorrow – V: Havitetty
    Electric Wizard – Witchcult Today
    High on Fire – Death Is This Communion
    Dodheimsgard – Supervillain Outcast
    Radiohead – In Rainbows
    Alchemist – Tripsis
    Watain – Sworn to a Great Divide
    Pelican – City of Echoes
    A Life Once Lost – Iron Gag
    Explosions in the Sky – All Of A Sudden I Miss Everyone
    Soilwork – Sworn to a Great Divide
    The Field – From Here We Go Sublime
  • Show: Behold, Dysrhthmia, Yakuza...

    1. Jun. 2006, 18:43

    I went to this show with my lovely girlfriend Laura. It was at the Bourbon Room in Fredericksburg, a minuscule nothing of a venue that was easily the most disappointing element an otherwise entertaining evening. Its only plus I guess would be that the "stage" was really just a tiny section of floor off to one side, and the only thing separating me Dysrythmia's kick-ass bassist was about three or four square inches across of cigarette smoke and pale, sweaty-guy filled air. Really, it's a testament to how much she loves me that Laura, a budding but still-fresh fan of metal, didn't tear out of there and leave me for good.

    Let's see, what's to say about the bands that played? The show actually started on time, which is unusual, isn't it? It's ok, we only missed about ten minutes of a band called Hex Machine, who failed to impress despite the drummer's sweet Don Cabalerro T-shirt and a guest appearance by Yakuza's awesome frontman on his equally awesome saxophone. More on that later.

    Laura and I both agree that the next act was the highlight of our evening. Chicago-based Yakuza were exactly what I like to see in a live metal performance, which is a pretty unqualified statement coming from a guy who's only been going to shows for about nine months now. But who wouldn't be impressed by the flurry of twirling hair, a rapid-fire head-banging drummer, and a singer/screamer who grasps his saxophone in one mighty grip and swallows his microphone with the other? If you haven't heard their albums Samsara and Way of the Dead, you will have once you see them live. It's too bad the place was too tiny for any kind of action, or else I would have been moshing within moments of evening highlight Cancer of Industry's explosive guitar riff. The fact that Yakuza creates kind of mystical presence with their Zorn-like death sax and thoughtful interludes doesn't detract in any slight way from their balls-to-the-wall heavy metal presence. I highly recommend checking these guys out.

    Next up was instrumental Relapse alums Dysrhythmia, and I was looking forward to this act. Let me just say that it takes an incredible kind of talent, I think, to not just be able to play all those crazy time changes and unconventional guitar, bass, and drum lines, but to simply remember them all! I loved the spontaneous feel and the grass-roots presence of their three-man jamming (you would NEVER guess these guys were major-label), but after five or six songs, I just got tired of them. This kind of act, I guess, is a much better live experience when you have actually heard them before and have some sort of clue where the drummer's next fill is gonna go. I bought a copy of their seminal LP Pretest alongside my copy of Samsara, and after a couple listens through I've come to the same conclusion that I came to with their live show: impressive, but no real soul. Complexity is only impressive when it gets you somewhere, and so far it doesn't seem like Dysrhythmia wants to do anything with their music but show off. I AM still listening though. Maybe their sound will sink in better with time.

    I really wanted to stay for Behold...The Arctopus. Really, I did. Okay, I guess I thought it'd just be more technical wankery like Dysrhythmia, but I couldn't escape the feeling that I'd be kicking myself for missing it in the future. But really, how much could I have enjoyed it with a growing headache and two-in-the-morning two-hour drive ahead of me? So I used my guilt to buy their Nano-Nucleonic Cyborg Summoning EP, which is unfortunately only three songs. It's great, but I have yet to explore it fully. It seems to explore a bit more than Pretest does. If anyone stayed to see them, or saw them at another show on this tour, leave a comment, let me know what I missed.

    Wow, so yeah, Mary Washington friends, look for the Yakuza pin on my backpack next semester, and Last.fm users who got here accidentally, feel free to check my profile to help fill out your prog metal collection and leave me some comments to help me fill out mine. Salut, mon amis.
  • New Forays: Follow-up

    12. Apr. 2006, 18:33

    Here's what I now think of the albums I detailed in my post entitled New Forays:

    R. Borlax

    Fantastic, but hardly as good as The Mechanical Hand. They're far more obnoxious sounding, and the songs are much less infectuous and playful. For a debut album, it's a lot of fun, but it still feels like a debut album. Fave tracks: Bunnies, Seven Tentacles and Eight Flames

    Bergtatt - Et eeventyr i 5 capitler

    Speaking of debuts from my favorite bands.... I do believe this is disappointment #2. It is beautiful at times and gloriously aggressive at other times, but it's hardly the inquisitive, courageous music that I love hearing from them now. You can blame my current lack of appreciation for black metal, I guess. I do love that first track though, I troldskog faren vild

    Mabool

    Being so highly recommended by my friend AjaxHunter, I decided to check them out, and... thanks, dude! They're like a middle-eastern Opeth, a statement which belittles their off-kilter but extrememly originality. I say it anyway though, because I think it will get more people to check them out. Fave Tracks: Halo Dies (the Wrath Of God), Norra El Norra (Entering the Ark)

    Effloresce

    Like King Crimson? No. In fact, Oceansize seem to dabble into the kind of hard rock you could hear on the radio, which is hardly what I call experimental enough to be regarded in the light of the Crimson King. Yet this turned out to be one of my best purchases this year. The reason is that every damn song is good, and feels different from the last. Porcupine Tree fans should take note: this album tickles me in a way that In Absentia tickled me. They use a lot of drifty soundscapes and know how to let a good melody take over a song. The nearly ten-minute long Women Who Love Men Who Love Drugs is so pleasing to the ears that you'd think it was only a few short minutes, and you'll hate for it to end. This is a must-own for fans of tasteful metal who don't mind owning a rock CD now and then. Trust me, you won't mind Oceansize. Another of my faves: One Day All This Could Be Yours

    Suspended Animation Dreams

    Amazing. What a find. There are some doom metal growlings and a lot of female and choral type singing, and some truly bizarre lyrics. There's a whole lot of acoustic guitar; not a lot of distortion, but enough to call this a metal release. There are a ton of other instruments too, like violins, piano, harmonica. The focus is on beauty, the songs are carefully arranged and oddly upbeat, the adventure is welcoming. It definitely passes the Steve Wilson School of soothing aggression. Be sure to check this album out if you haven't already. Fave tracks: No Place Like Home, Awake

    The Indian Tower

    Well, I took a chance. I feel as though I came up empty. Pearls and Brass is certainly a cool band, mixing old-school blues into their heavy-handed rock and roll. The album sounds like a Queens of the Stone Age album, but with notes flying all over the place. As a fan of mathematical music and QotSA both, you'd think I'd go nuts for this, but I find myself tired of their sound after two or three tracks of listening. Still, putting this album on when you have visitors is like putting on a sweet pair of shades. If you want a listen, try this song: The Face of God


    And now, the music I've recently purchased:

    Jesu

    I don't know much about doom metal. I'm usually too much of an active listener to enjoy downtempo styles of music. But Jesu has been deified by critics, and I'm a sucker for music with any kind of acclaim (I'm very much a snob). So I purchased this used (my first used purchase) and gave it a listen. So... very... slow... but somehow, it generates a crushing melancholy that hits my musical sweet spot. Getting into bands like ISIS and Pelican were essential for me to enjoy this, I think. You better like distortion if you're looking into Jesu, because they lay it on so thick that there is a speaker crackling that is sure to drive audiophiles absolutely nuts. Like a lot of hard-to-like albums, I discovered my love for Jesu during homework time and while falling asleep. My favorite tracks are Friends Are Evil and Man/Woman.

    Panopticon

    ISIS. That's all that needs to be said. Fans of Tool, you need this album. I haven't been so moved by music in a long, long time. I have their Oceanic album, and I adore it, but this is just too much. I tend to imagine the vastness of the ocean when drifting off to ISIS, or my favorite scenes from movies, or what the creation of the universe must have been like. This is why I listen to music: to be taken away. ISIS are now high on my list of favorite artists. Music fans, buy this. Or, try a track to see if you like it. How about this: So Did We

    Aeolian

    This math-y hardcorish metal band got some comparisons to Mastadon, but I don't think it's fair. Sorry, but they're just not that smart. I haven't listened to this album enough to get a full opinion, but so far I just see it as a fun, ultra aggressive headbanger that I put on occasionally for the company of noise.

    The Silent Circus

    I bought this because I love their latest CD, Alaska. So far, it does nothing for me. But then, neither did Alaska at first.


    Please, please, PLEASE give me recommendations. I'll also take comments and criticisms. Naked photos: also welcome.



    HORSE the bandUlverOrphaned LandOceansizeSubterranean MasqueradePearls and BrassJesuIsisThe OceanBetween the Buried and Me
  • Overview

    2. Mär. 2006, 15:30

    Here are some lists to help you get a better overview of my taste in music. They're not super-refined, so if I feel I made a mistake, I will comment on what I think should be changed. Please feel free to comment yourselves.

    Favorite artists:

    1. Meshuggah
    2. Dream Theater
    3. Opeth
    4. Tool
    5. Mastodon
    6. Cynic
    7. The Dillinger Escape Plan
    8. Porcupine Tree
    9. Mnemic
    10. HORSE the band

    Favorite non-metal artists:

    1. Led Zeppelin
    2. King Crimson
    3. Dave Matthews Band
    4. Pink Floyd
    5. Mr. Bungle (or IS it metal?)

    Favorite albums:

    1. Nothing
    2. Lateralus
    3. Focus
    4. Images and Words
    5. The Fragile (Right) (Of course, I really mean both the right and left sides together)
    6. Blackwater Park
    7. Leviathan
    8. Sol Niger Within
    9. Blood Inside
    10. In Absentia
    11. Mr. Bungle
    12. Chaosphere
    13. Irony Is a Dead Scene
    14. The Mechanical Hand
    15. Obsolete

    Obviously, this list changes every second, but I think it represents me well enough for now. More to come?
  • New forays

    19. Feb. 2006, 23:22

    What else to write about in our journals but music? Here is my latest batch of purchases. Please disect them, leave me your impressions and recommendations, and consolations for my aching bank account.

    R. Borlax

    Their latest album, The Mechanical Hand, is getting more plays in my iPod than any other right now, so I wasted no time in purchasing Horse the Band's first disc. This band is one of few hardcore metal bands that escapes the monotony of the genre, using a sense of humor to justify their incredibly aggressive nature (hear that, Strapping Young Lad fans?) and appealing to my nerdy side by utilizing Nintendo-esque keyboards and references to NES and indie films and such. In my own eyes, their Mr. Bungle-y quirkiness and Dillinger Escape Plan-y randomness are absolutely irresistable. What do you think?

    Bergtatt - Et eeventyr i 5 capitler

    I've already posted on how much I loved Ulver's Blood Inside from last year, and about how their electonica styled Perdition City caught me by surprise. Well, I decided to look into the Ulver that made them a hit in the first place: black metal Ulver. Apparently, this first album is heavy with a mix of acoustic, the second is an entirely acoustic album, and the third is harsh metal of the worst kind. I'm not much of a fan of black metal, and acoustic albums tend to bore me (even Damnation, folks, although I admit it's some damn fine music), but I decided to put my trust in a band that's done nothing but please me so far, and I opted for the one that mixed the two black stylings from the "trilogy." Bergtatt is highly recommended, too.

    Mabool

    This band makes it very high on the charts of a user named Ajaxhunter, someone I know personally from my school. See his profile for a nearly perfect representation of my taste in music, much better than my own profile, since I'm new here at last.fm. I'm very intrigued by the supposed Middle Eastern influence. They're from... Israel?!

    Effloresce

    I heard through some last.fm users that this album is one of the best of the year so far. They're being compared to King Crimson, a band I've been getting into strongly lately. You could say I took a chance on this one.

    Suspended Animation Dreams

    Apparently, their first release was an EP of doom metal, which is a genre I have yet to break into. This release is supposed to mix that doom metal with some beautiful progressive stylings, which intrigues me. Yes, this was taking a chance too.

    The Indian Tower

    Anyone here get their music news from Entertainment Weekly? Anyone? Didn't think so. I really trust their movie reviews though, so when I flipped through and noticed a good review for a cd that, if I recall right, was supposed to be highly instrumental metal with math metal as a big influence, I decided I should take a chance on that cd one day. Since I've not heard of this band at all besides EW, you could easily say this is the biggest chance I've taken yet. Anyone else hear of 'em?
  • Ulver: Perdition City

    14. Feb. 2006, 17:51

    OHHHH. I finally get it.

    Ulver is my latest adventure into the depths of aggressive music after falling immediately in love their latest album, Blood Inside. So after listening to that one to death, I decided to search out Perdition City, knowing very well that it was much more of an electronica affair (which does bother me, although I'm sure it turned a lot of metal fans off when they did it!). Currently, I have Bergtatt on the way and the William Blake album in my Amazon wish list.

    But I just didn't get Perdition City until now. I've been listening plenty, but it never sunk in until I lifted off that damn "shuffle" button I love so much and listened to it subconsciously while I studied. Every once in a while I would come out the figures and formulas of my Physics homework and remark to myself, Wow, this is incredible, and sink back into my work. And now that the album is over, I have to start it over again, because I loved it so much!

    Now I don't know about you, but when I read about critically acclaimed albums requiring several listens to enjoy, I tend to scoff and think quietly, I'm ABOVE that. I'm sure I'll enjoy this album right away. Then I get it, hate it, and toss it away until it one day resurfaces. Then I think, Hey, the critics were right! I'll know better next time! Then I just do it again: This album sucks! OVER-RATED! *toss*

    Maybe I'll never learn, but hey, that's fine with me. It allows music to sneak up behind me and surprise me again and again, reminding me of why I love the art. Should anyone ever read this entry, why don't you reply with some albums/artists that jumped out and surprised you after having owned it for awhile? Here are some of mine:

    Ulver, Perdition City
    The Perfect Element I
    Oceanic
    Out Of Myself
    The Fire in Our Throats Will Beckon the Thaw
    De-Loused in the Comatorium
    The Perfect Is the Enemy of the Good
    Calculating Infinity

    (I REALLY thought that last one was bad. For a whole year I kept trying it and liking it. Then, on a whim, I bought their latest, Miss Machine, and loved it. So I went back to Calculating Infinity, and sure enough...)