December 20, 2011

ANDREW WILHELM'S BEST OF 2011

Breaking Bad - Crawl Space

Time to make the noxious cloud of information smog even thicker! At least I'm telling you about awesome music you should be listening to, instead of giving you false empowerment through hackneyed optimistic sayings or trying to co-opt you into a political movement by saying you are JUST LIKE EVERYONE ELSE. Or worse yet, using the internet to complain about how metal was better back in the 80s and the internet ruined everything. Just fucking stop.

But not before you complain about my list!

Fuck Life, Love Life.

Nothing Passes
10~

Vastum
Carnal Law
(20 Buck Spin)

Without a doubt, my favorite death metal recording this year was Acephalix's Interminable Night, but since it's technically a compilation, I can't put it on this list. But another death metal group with 3/4s of Acephalix's crew? Count me in! Vastum's debut Carnal Law proves that the dudes in Acephalix can spread their talents around. It's a little slower and definitely groovier than Night, but no less filthy. Solos are given more room to breathe, and there are some worthy leads on display. Vocalist Dan is also more upfront on this record than in Acephalix, contributing to the rawness that Vastum is empowered from. The stench of death is strong in the Bay.

Crucial cut: "Primal Seduction" [Stream]

The III Command of the Absolute Chaos
9~

Blasphemophagher
The III Command of the Absolute Chaos
(Nuclear War Now!)

There exists a sizable contingent of bands that nurse from the putrid teat of Blasphemy, but Italy's Blasphemophagher is pushing the limits of the sound the most. Chaos is raw, but it doesn't sound like it was recorded in the fallout shelter of a fallout shelter. The sweet spot of clarity and grit is hammered relentlessly for nearly 34 minutes. While the sound is dense and consistent, the songs are strong enough to avoid the mark of "sameness." And check out that album art! Totally gallery-worthy.

Crucial cut: "Chaostorm of Atomization" [Stream]

Trvth
8~

Servile Sect
Trvth
(Handmade Birds)

His Holiness the Hunter S. Thompson once famously said, "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." While he was talking about journalism, Servile Sect make that their credo for their cosmic style of black metal. The first half of Trvth is not so much music as it is transmissions from aliens trying to understand our music. Long, dark drones pull you into a void, and what exactly is that void? Your guess is as good as mine. Side B reveals sees the duo getting grim, though their spaciness still holds. "Zodiacal Light" has trippy leads that were seemingly found on the intergalactic "Bridge of Sighs." This is my journey to the stars. [Servile Sect will release a companion piece to Trvth, entitled Svrrender, on Thursday, also through Handmade Birds.]

Crucial Cut: "Zodiacal Light" [Stream]

Ride With Death
7~

Speedwolf
Ride With Death
(Hells Headbangers)

LMFAO is brought to trial for the alleged fraud committed by branding their music "Party Rock." Prosecuting are Denver thrashers Speedwolf, and they've got some damning evidence with Ride With Death. Songs like "Up All Night" and hometown anthem "Denver 666," brimming with energy and swagger. LMFAO's defense team can't deny that vocalist Reed Bremmer has that voice by Marlboro that is suited for Speedwolf's tunes. Whiskey flows into the courtroom to a rapture. The jury rules unanimously in favor of the prosecution. LMFAO are sentenced to watching Berry Gordy headbang furiously to Speedwolf - for life.

Crucial cut: "Up All Night" [Stream]


Sjukdom
6~

Lifelover
Sjukdom
(Prophecy Productions)

On Lifelover's final release, the blackened deathrockers plunge to their darkest depths. As its cover suggests, the grays are stained by the reds. While the goth-rock angle is still prominent, the hooks are buried deeper in angst and depression. The raging tracks, like "Led By Misfortune" and "Homicidal Tendencies," sound even more violent this time around, boiling over in hatred. And per Lifelover's standards, there's always moments that throw you off base. Witness the unusually bright drone break in the middle of "Doften Av Tomhet" or the reversed guitar that drives "Bitterljuv Kakofoni." With the death of guitarist and key songwriter B., we'll never see anything from Lifelover again. It was a tortuously great ride, guys.

Crucial cut: "Expandera" [Stream]

Nothing Passes
5~

The Body & Braveyoung
Nothing Passes
(At A Loss)

Greensboro, NC, duo The Body (formerly from Providence) don't seem like the group that can share the spotlight, even if they wanted to. Their ultra-heavy, ultra-weird brand of doom takes up all the air in the room, not allowing others to get a wisp of breath in. Well, fellow Greensboro residents and chamber doom rockers Braveyoung managed to break through the barrier and got The Body to record an album with them. There's no speaking in tongues on this record, but Braveyoung's qualities for delicacy and using space create an fruitful tension with The Body's blunt low-end assault. "Song 2" allows Chip King to really unleash the howl of his throat and his amps, and final track "The Vision" sees the collaboration going with an apocalyptic folk direction. We're ready for Round 2, dudes.

Crucial cut: "Song 2" [Stream]

Orphan
4~

Gridlink
Orphan
(Hydra Head)

Gridlink follow up their excellent debut, Amber Grey, with 12 more minutes of labyrinthine hyper-grind. John Chang and co. pack so many ideas into frenetic bursts of songs, it can be dizzying if you come unprepared. Orphan should serve as a barometer for all bands, new and old. If you can't make a record as awesome in an hour as Gridlink did in 12 minutes, you need to practice. Practice A LOT. Or better yet, quit.

Crucial cut: "I Accept Your Last Wish"


All This Sorrow, All These Knives
3~

Dreamless
All This Sorrow, All These Knives
(Handmade Birds)

For most of 2011, this release did not exist. And now that it's out there, I am astonished to wonder how I lived without it. Not since The Angelic Process' Weighing Souls With Sand has shoegaze been so dreamy (despite that they are named Dreamless), so engrossing, so HEAVY. There's also a overarching sense of melancholy, as if Mark Kozelek was spiritually in the studio when the Minneapolis band was making this. A headphones album in the truest sense of the term. [This album will have a physical release on Thursday.]

Crucial cut: "Discordance" [Stream]


Furnace
2~

Batillus
Furnace
(Seventh Rule)

Yes, Batillus' drummer Geoff Summers gave birth to this very blog you're reading now, and I saw them record part of the album, but even independent of all that, the Brooklyn quartet put out the best debut of the year with Furnace. Batillus knew they had to make a statement, so they recruited Chicago's finest, Sanford Parker, and he invoked more doom than they realized they had in themselves. Vocalist and electronics commander Fade Kainer is a vital addition to the group, with his industrial-wasteland soundscapes and feral vocals adding dimensions of heaviness to the already-searing guitars. Per most competent doom groups, the plod dominates all (especially on closer "Mautaam"), but the upward shift in tempo in "Uncreator" proves Batillus knows how to keep a listener from complacency.

Crucial cut: "Deadweight" [Stream]

Atma
1~

Yob
Atma
(Profound Lore)

Mike Scheidt and crew get rawer on Atma, and the result is their finest near-hour. All the songs - the epic "Before We Dreamed Of Two," the drifting "Adrift In The Ocean" - are top notch, but "Prepare the Ground." Holy shit. Those riffs hit all the points - memorable, heavy, and swingy. Schedit has really worked on his wail too - it's the kind of voice that you'll want to follow along with while your roommates look at you confused. Their loss! "Ground" will one day be recognized as a song that makes metal metal, like "Overkill," "Master of Puppets," or "War Pigs." Speaking of Sabbath, Tony and Geezer need to ditch Ozzy and get Scheidt into a new incarnation of Sabbath. You know I'm right on this.

Crucial cut: "Prepare the Ground" [MP3]

Man, I have a lot of consolation prizes to give out:

Deafheaven - Roads to Judah
Villains - Road to Ruin
Heinali and Matt Finney - Ain't No Night
Tree of Sores - S/T
Absu - Abzu
Flourishing - The Sum of All Fossils
Forteresse - Crépuscule d’Octobre
Seidr - For Winter Fire
Avulse - I Am the Liquor
Combat Astronomy - Flak Planet
The Atlas Moth - An Ache for the Distance
The draped up, dripped out versions of Sleep's Holy Mountain, Candlemass' Epicus Doomicus Metallicus and King Diamond's Abigail from Not Heavy Enough

Odds, sods, and hard bods:

No Gang Colors – 666 Mixes For Cash
Acephalix – Interminable Night
Masakari/Aplinist Split
Planning For Burial – Unitled and Late Twenties Blues
Immolation - Providence
Dead Neanderthals - The Saw
Dethroned Emperor - War Grind Hell
Hot Graves - Necros Mixos Sacrificio

My favorite albums and EPs that aren't metal so I can avoid looking like a meathead:

Crooked Necks - Alright Is Exactly What It Isn't
Prurient - Bermuda Drain
Zombi – Escape Velocity
Clams Casino – Instrumental Mixtape
Memoryhouse – The Years
Death Grips - Ex-Military
Burial – Street Halo
Cold Cave - Cherish the Light Years
B L A C K I E - True Spirit and Not Giving a Fuck
Marissa Nadler - S/T
SPACEGHOSTPURRP - Blvcklvnd Rvdix 66.6 (1991)
A$AP Rocky - Live Love A$AP

What I regret missing in 2010:

Knelt Rote – Insignificance
Imperial Triumphant – Obeisance
How to Dress Well – Love Remains
Clinging to the Trees of a Forest Fire – Songs of Ill Hope and Desperation
Pallbearer – 2010 Demo
The Outrunners – Running for Love and Money
Oneohtrix Point Never - Returnal
Undergang - Indhentet af Døden
Airs - Rainclouds Over The Remains Of Hope

Ten live shows that proved life is worth living:

Autopsy @ Emo's, Austin, TX as part of Chaos in Tejas 6/3
Speedwolf @ 1.21 Jigga Watts, Denver, CO 9/4
Down @ Summit Music Hall, Denver, CO 9/6
Slayer @ Auditorium Shores as part of Fun Fun Fun Fest, Austin, TX 11/6
Immolation @ Larimer Lounge, Denver, CO 10/19
Devin Townsend @ Marquis Theater, Denver, CO 10/22
The Atlas Moth and Batillus @ Moe's Original Barbecue, Englewood, CO 11/21
Deafheaven @ Red 7 as part of FFF Nites 11/5
Agalloch @ Barbarella as part of SXSW 3/17
Masakari and Trap Them @ ND at 501 Studios as part of SXSW 3/18

Say, girl from A$AP Rocky's "Purple Swag" video, gimme yo digits (and yo measurements):


8 comments:

Aaron B said...

You listened to Cormorant's new album Dwellings? It's a masterpiece

Andrew Wilhelm said...

I have not, but I've heard many good things. Perhaps it will end up on my "Shit I should have listened to in 2011" list in 2012.

The Path Less Traveled Records said...

Yeah Aaron, I keep hearing about Cormorant as well. I like what I've heard.

Been hearing a lot about Crooked Necks on these year-end lists. I will have to give them a listen.

I have a lot of homework to do!

Mike said...

you guys have to create a radio station that plays all the bands dat on your end of year lists. hahah. so much precious in the office free time during these final dayz before xmas is waisted on clicks. haha. And what the hell is that last video?? hahahahaha. wow

Andrew Wilhelm said...

Sean: Crooked Necks are mad ill, check out the interview I did with them recently: http://www.crustcake.com/2011/12/freshly-baked-crooked-necks.html

Mike: If we could, we would. Also, we fucks with A$AP Rocky.

Mike said...

I also need headphones. Anybody recommend some, caught that comment in the Dreamless excerpt that it was a headphones album. HAHA. love it.

Van Damned said...

"Purple Swag" is my song of the year.

Aaron B said...

Mike - check out the headphones forum on head-fi.org. They have a couple good headphone roundup threads do you can read the reviews and pick one based on the sound signature you are looking for. May have to try out a couple to find the right pair, high fi audio is an art.