Instead of doing a lengthy top 10 video game list like last year, I thought I'd do three shorter lists for music, games, and movies. So let's start with music. Caveat Blogger: I listen to a lot of heavy stuff that some people consider 'noise'. However, my list is not 100% metal, as you'll see.
10. Converge -- Axe to Fall. It might be their best since Jane Doe. It's at least as good as You Fail Me, and is miles ahead of their last album. Brutal, raw, and uncompromising. FAVORITE TRACK: "Wretched World"
9. Dying Fetus -- Descend Into Depravity. Many fans of this band have been waiting for them to release something that approaches the level of their influential masterpiece, Destroy the Opposition. They've finally done it. I won't say it's better, or even as good, but it's close. Oh, and don't be fooled by the band name. Their lyrics are political, not gory. FAVORITE TRACK -- "Descend into Depravity"
8. The Black Dahlia Murder -- Deflorate. This band is consistent. Not a weak album in the bunch. It's less 'black' than their last one, but not quite as cross-over sounding as Miasma (still my favorite of theirs). The DVD that comes with the album is great too. FAVORITE TRACK -- "I Will Return"
7. Between the Buried and Me -- The Great Misdirect. Part Faith No More, part Dillinger Escape Plan. Just those words alone should tell you that a BTBAM album is never boring. This one is no exception. I'm on the fence as to whether or not it's as good as their last album (Colors), but if not, it's damn close. I still wish the vocalist had more variation in his growls, but the talent on display is undeniable, and they've only become better songwriters as time goes on. FAVORITE TRACK -- "Obfuscation"
6. The Mag Seven -- Cotton Needle Sessions. I wrote about this album a couple of months ago, and it's still getting regular rotation on my MP3 player. Yes, the members of this band are friends of mine, but don't let that stop you from giving it a spin. It's very different from their previous albums, which are punk and surf inspired instrumentals. This one is very laid back, and wouldn't sound out of place in a 50's spy movie. FAVORITE SONG -- "Lahaina"
5. Behemoth -- Evangelion. This album is a return to form after the less-than-stellar The Apostasy. More time changes, more brutal, and probably the best production of their career. Some of their fans think their best albums came before Demigod, but I think they were always trying to define their sound up until that one. Evangelion is probably the purest vision of that definition. FAVORITE SONG -- "Ov Fire and the Void"
4. Silversun Pickups -- Swoon. A Smashing Pumpkins copycat releasing one of my favorite albums of the year? Yeah, I'm just as surprised as you might be. There's just something about this album that pushes all of my right buttons. It's much more influenced by shoegazer groups like My Bloody Valentine, and they're all the better for it. And they can also throw down a great hard rock song, like this one: FAVORITE SONG -- "Panic Switch"
3. Cannibal Corpse -- Evisceration Plague. This band has been the AC/DC of death metal. They put out an album, and it's almost the same as everything else they've done before, but the fans will continue to be happy. However, they hinted at slight changes on their last album (Kill), but then came this one. The title track doesn't have a single blast beat, and yet it's probably the catchiest thing they've ever written. Most of the rest of the album is what you'd expect (fast and brutal), but the hooks in every song are more polished than anything they've done in a long time. Non-fans won't be completely converted, but anyone who likes the harder side of rock music will have trouble not getting into the title track, if not more. It's the best album they've written in over 15 years. FAVORITE SONG -- "Evisceration Plague"
2. The Red Chord -- Fed Through the Teeth Machine. This band has had an interesting history. Their first album was recorded quickly and on the cheap, but ended up being extremely influential in the math-core genre. Second album tightened their sound, and the pharmacy-inspired lyrics are still a high water point. Third album felt rushed, and was extremely disappointing. They took their time on this one, and it shows. They also went from two guitar players to one, but didn't miss a step. Hints of melody exist in some of the riffs, but they never hint at anything mainstream. They've come back and reclaimed their position as one of the top math-core bands, and I couldn't be happier about it. FAVORITE TRACK -- "Embarrassment Legacy"
1. Mastodon - Oblivion. The guitar comes in with three notes, then four. Then the bass guitar follows. Then the drums. Then, 'I flew beyond the sun before it was time...' and HOLY CRAP, did Mastodon get a new vocalist? Nope, that's the drummer. Then the surprises keep coming throughout the rest of the disc. A concept album about Rasputin, an assassination attempt, and a LOT of acid, Crack the Skye reaches for the stars, and grabs them. I rarely use the word 'epic' to describe an album, but this one deserves it on every level. I tried to put the disc away for a while, because I was afraid I would burn it out. I couldn't bring myself to do it. And yet, it's still just as amazing as it was when I first spun it. I've been a fan of this band since their major label debut, and felt their last two were inspired but inconsistent. This album is distinctively 'Mastodon', but it's much more sprawling and vast than anything else they've ever done. I can't imagine them improving upon this, but I can't wait to see them try. FAVORITE TRACK -- "Oblivion"
These albums were good, but not quite good enough to make the top 10. In alphabetical order, by band:
- Cattle Decapitation - The Harvest Floor (favorite song - "Regret and the Grave")
- Devin Townsend Project - Addicted (favorite song - "Supercrush")
- Goatwhore - Carving Out the Eyes of God (favorite song - "Apocalyptic Havoc")
- Living Colour - The Chair in the Doorway (favorite song - "That's What You Taught Me")
- Muse - The Resistance (favorite song - "Undisclosed Desires")
- Pelican - What We Have All Come To Need (favorite song - "Strung Up From The Sky")
- Suicide Silence - No Time To Bleed (favorite song - "Smoke")
- Suffocation - Blood Oath (favorite song - "Dismal Dream")
Movie and video game lists coming sometime in the next week or so. Until then, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Merry Kwanzaa, et.al.