For whatever reason, I’ve been asked to provide lists of my Top 10 records of 2009. When I sit down and try to write these lists, I’m usually in the middle of something else and the effort is divided between something that I feel isn’t really important and something that is so my lists is usually not the “definitive” list. As soon as I send it off I remember a record that I should have included.
Anyway, this isn’t a Top 10 List; it’s more of a riff on some records that I really dug that came out in 2009.
Isis – Wavering Radiant
I met most of these guys during the years of 1995 and 1996. Aaron Harris was playing drums in a band called Loga, who totally blew my mind on winter night in Old Town, ME. There were about 8 people at the show. Mike Gallagher was still playing guitar in Cast Iron Hike; Turner was experiencing the salad days of Hydrahead and putting out records by Six Going on Seven, Drowningman, Cable, etc; Caxide had just moved to Boston and Clifford was this dude from Cleveland that showed up for work one day at the Newbury Comics warehouse where me, Harris and Gallagher were currently working.
I have all of the Isis records; they’re all great in the own way, but Wavering Radiant, in my opinion surpasses them all because when I listen to the record, I hear Isis the Band, but Isis being influenced by Neurosis or Godflesh or whatever. I think all of the songs each make their own statement and the entire record flows nicely. Turner’s vocals are awesome. Some people have made the statement “too much clean vocal”; my response to that is maybe Wavering Radiant isn’t for you There are a myriad of bands out there that Isis have influenced that do the “extreme vocal” trip so listen to one of their records.
I had the opportunity to experience these songs live before sitting with the record and to some extent that colors my appreciation of it. Isis has always been a great live band. Earlier on this year, Tombs toured with Isis and Pelican for most of the US and I watched their set nearly every night from the side of the stage. Some nights were so intense that I found myself smiling as I stood alone in the darkness alone, watching them rock out. It always goes back to the show in Austin for me when everything sort of came together. Austin is a really great town to experience music in and seeing them play outside, under the huge Texas sky was a moving experience.
Burnt by the Sun – Heart of Darkness
You can’t really say anything bad about Burnt by the Sun except that they didn’t tour enough when they were an active band a few years ago. They were always crushing live; I don’t know how many shows I’ve seen them play. The playing and lyrics were always top notch and the dudes in the band were always cool. At this point, Witte and I have been close friends for a lot of years and BBTS was always my favorite band (next to Human Remains of course).
Anyway, this record rules and I listen to it in the gym a lot.
Circle of Ouroborus – Tree of Knowledge
Up until about two weeks ago, I didn’t even know this band existed. Brother Ralph Schmidt from Planks sent the record along with some of their older material to me via a massive mp3 download sendspace link. Ralph always turns me on to the good stuff. The hooks were in my from the opening notes of “Dead Eyes, Dead Soul” but the second song “A Root Casket” was THE SONG.
Initially, I though this was an old band from the 90’s but, much to my chagrin, I discovered that “Tree of Knowledge” came out in 2009. Imagine Ian Curtis fronting Jesu mixed with Scandinavian frostiness. The music sounds really close and creates a mood of depression and soul-crushing heaviness.
Merrimack – “Grey Rigorism”
I was wondering when Merrimack was going to follow up “Of Entropy and Life Denial” and behold, I discovered that “Grey Rigorism” was about to come out. Of late, France has been fielding a respectable number of great black metal bands and Merrimack stands atop the pile of severed heads that is the French Black Metal Scene.
The record has a real somber vibe to it with a lot of atmosphere and gloominess. I recently caught them at the Blender Theater with Marduk. It was a great show, but the sound engineer clearly had no interest in doing his job, because their beautifully orchestrated black metal was turned into a murky puddle of mud with the only the kick drum and the vocals having any real presence.
It was a little anti-climactic.
1349 – Revelations of the Black Flame
Brutality and speed has always been 1340’s forte but “Revelations of the Black Flame” is a bit of a departure for them. There’s a lot more space and atmosphere. In some ways this reminds me of a record that Celtic Frost would have made in an alternate universe. I suppose that the fact that Tom G Warrior helped produce the record plays no small part in that.
Marduk – Wormwood
Similar to 1349, Marduk has always been known for their seer brutality and speed, but Wormwood slows down a bit and allows the band some space to try out some new things. Mortuus’s vocals are out there on this record; most of the chances he takes are spot on, but some of it doesn’t really work. None at that stops me from listening to this record over and over and over again. It reminds me a little of the old German “Dark Metal” band Bethlehem.
Tombs played with Marduk over the summer and they completely dominated the stage; easily one of the more intimidating bands that I’ve seen in many years.
Wolves in the Throne Room – Black Cascade
Yes, a great USBM record, but there is definitely more going on than black metal here. At this point, I look at Wolves and think that they are influenced HEAVILY by black metal but aren’t really a black metal band.
Wino – Punctuated Equilibrium
Apparently all of this material is old but recorded and release this past year with a handpicked lineup. If I could re-score Easy Rider, I would pick this record for the soundtrack. This record sounds best when cranked at maximum volume while driving across the great state of Texas in the middle of the night.
Yeah, I know it’s only eight records but I never said I was going to give a Top 10 of 2009. I’m not even saying that these are the Best Records of 2009; I’m sure you can check out any number of websites or magazine for the Best of 2009.