December 19, 2009

2009 Top Music Countdown and Review, Part 2

Part 2 of my end-of-year review involves a genre-by-genre breakdown of the hard rock and heavy metal scene, covering the best of each area and why one album is better than another. If you would like to know what a particular genre sounds like (or in some cases, should sound like and yet usually doesn't), these are the albums you should check out. Enjoy!

Best Rock Album:
Daylight by West Gate
Really, was there any question about this? This is the best rock album of the decade for me.

Sound Awake by Karnivool
The Incident by Porcupine Tree
Black Gives Way to Blue by Alice in Chains

Best Melodic Death Metal Album:
The Isolation Game by Disarmonia Mundi
This album tells us two things about melodic death metal. One, the Gothenburg sound is far from dead, and can still be executed tastefully without sounding stale and overdone. Two, balance is everything with this genre. Blending the perfect degrees of thrash-infused brutality with beautiful, catchy melodies that stick with you for hours on end, Disarmonia Mundi have succeeded in delivering another masterpiece.

Children of the Dark Waters by Eternal Tears of Sorrow
Sot by The Few Against Many
Across the Dark by Insomnium

Best Metalcore Album:
Lullabies for the Dormant Mind by The Agonist
All three albums listed here are in contention because of how much they don’t sound like typical metalcore. However, The Agonist does it best because they stay true to what they started on their first album. God Forbid and Five Finger Death Punch both venture into new territory sonically, which is good for them, but The Agonist has the most cohesion in their sound, and they’ve put together a solid, complete package.

Earthsblood by God Forbid
War is the Answer by Five Finger Death Punch

Best Black Metal Album:
Slaves of the World by Old Man’s Child
While Gorgoroth were busy finishing their legal battle and Immortal were brushing the dust off their amps, Old Man’s Child were putting together yet another solid, crushing black metal opus. Galder chose the perfect drummer for this album, bringing in Peter Wildoer from Darkane, and the payoff is obvious. One of the best albums of Galder’s career.

Quantos Possunt ad Satanitatem Trahunt by Gorgoroth
All Shall Fall by Immortal

Best Thrash Album:
Hordes of Chaos by Kreator
At this point in time, America’s Big 4 have got nothing on Germany’s Big 3, and if anyone still has lingering doubts about that, Kreator put those doubts to rest with one of the best thrash albums in recent memory. Slayer and Megadeth don’t slouch on their new albums by any sense, but even their renewed metal senses can’t top Kreator’s consistency.

World Painted Blood by Slayer
Endgame by Megadeth
The Slaughter by Incite
Waking Into Nightmares by Warbringer

Best Death Metal Album:
The Mirroring Shadow by Miseration
Behemoth had this spot locked up for quite awhile, but then Miseration decided to release their album a little earlier than previously expected. And thus, everything got thrown into confusion, until Miseration came out on top with one of the most solid straight-up death metal albums of recent memory. Removing much of the melodic influences from their previous album, The Mirroring Shadow sounds like it would fit right into Ceremonial Oath’s discography, with its seamless and brutal death metal sound.

Evangelion by Behemoth
Those Whom the Gods Detest by Nile
A Taste of Extreme Divinity by Hypocrisy

Best Industrial Metal Album:
Vigilance by Threat Signal
Industrial metal is a genre that doesn’t often have a high output of albums from year to year, and thus, the annual output of quality albums is often even smaller. However, this year was an exception, as three excellent industrial metal albums revitalized the genre in many ways. Threat Signal is definitely the best of the group, delivering a brutal onslaught reminiscent of Fear Factory’s glory days. “Through My Eyes” alone is enough to make this album the best of the year for industrial metal.

Daylight Deception by The Bereaved
Urban Being by Destrage

Best Progressive Metal Album:
The Great Misdirect by Between the Buried and Me
This album is ridiculously good in so many ways. As progressive metal bands go, Between the Buried and Me are definitely the most chaotic of the bunch, but this album has a gorgeous flow to it. The song structures are perfect, and all the intricate tidbits taken from music theory make this album a joy for any musically trained person to listen to.

Crack the Skye by Mastodon
Black Clouds & Silver Linings by Dream Theater

Best Groove Metal Album:
The Infection by Chimaira
Chimaira, DevilDriver, and Lamb of God have unknowingly become the chief producers of groove metal on the US scene. All three of their albums this year were good, and none of the bands show any signs of slowing down. However, Chimaira takes the cake here because they delivered an album that none of the fans could have ever anticipated or expected. Their newfound affinity for sludge and grime makes this a totally unique album for them, and it’s a lot of fun to listen to.

Pray for Villains by DevilDriver
Wrath by Lamb of God

Best Gothic Metal Album:
Design Your Universe by Epica
The gothic metal scene may be looking tired and overdone to many, but there are still a plethora of talented bands out there, as well as a ton of new faces showcasing their new style and take on the genre. Epica is part of the former group, and they are miles ahead of the competition in that area. Epica’s releases always deliver something that makes your emotions stir, and on this album, Simone Simons outdoes herself in her vocal performance to deliver the most powerful stirring she can. This album moves in ways previously unseen in the gothic metal scene.

As Shadows Burn by Echoes of Eternity
The 13th Floor by Sirenia

Best Deathcore Album:
When Legends Become Dust by Conducting from the Grave
The deathcore train is starting to run out of gas, but bands are still jumping on like crazy, trying to grab one of those last seats. Conducting from the Grave is a band that managed to snag one, and like many other bands appearing throughout my review of the year, it’s because they did something outside the box. Melding numerous other subgenres into their deathcore foundation, they found a way to not make their music predictable. That puts them miles ahead of most of their peers.

Fed Through the Teeth Machine by The Red Chord
The Great Stone War by Winds of Plague

Best Folk Metal Album:
Esoteric by Skyfire
The only thing that pushes Skyfire ahead of the competition here is the five-year waiting period between Esoteric and its predecessor, Spectral. Were it not for that, this category would be too close to call for me. All three albums are excellent displays of folk metal’s finest characteristics.

From Afar by Ensiferum
By the Light of the Northern Star by Týr

Best Post-Hardcore Album:
A Dialogue by Gwen Stacy
Post-hardcore is, for me, one of the only genres where catchiness can actually turn me off to something. However, Gwen Stacy turned that on its head with this new album. The songs are ridiculously catchy, but the best parts of the songs are the ones that stay with you. Their sense of melody is much more fine-tuned than on their debut, and it shows very clearly.

Old Crows/Young Cardinals by Alexisonfire
The World Outside by Eyes Set to Kill
Sleepwalking by Memphis May Fire

Best Doom Metal Album:
Night is the New Day by Katatonia
Under normal circumstances, doom metal is definitely not my music of choice. However, Katatonia have delivered an album that simply blows my mind. As a band, Katatonia can best be described as Opeth’s Damnation album stretched into an entire band. But Night is the New Day does so much more, delivering a doom metal album that is far outside the box with its progression and outside influences, while still maintaining a bleak and appropriately dark atmosphere.

New Moon by Swallow the Sun

Comeback Album of the Year:
Black Gives Way to Blue by Alice in Chains
The best comeback story in music in years. Layne Staley is looking down on the new Alice in Chains with a smile on his face.

All Shall Fall by Immortal
Carver City by CKY

Best Debut Album:
Daylight by West Gate
Once again, were you really expecting anything else? Come on, this has got to be predictable by now.

Sot by The Few Against Many
When Legends Become Dust by Conducting from the Grave

Song of the Year:
“With Time” by West Gate
If my iPod could only hold two songs, this would be one of them. The other one would be “Zombie Autopilot” by Unearth, which, as everyone knows by this point, is my favorite song ever written. “With Time” is my second favorite, and if after listening to it you don’t understand why, then I pity you, because this song is a masterpiece.

“Flare” by Disarmonia Mundi
“Through My Eyes” by Threat Signal
“24 Years” by Caliban
“Contractor” by Lamb of God
“Ascension Chamber” by Scar Symmetry

There you have it, friends! Keep your eyes peeled for Part 3 of my review...the most complete countdown of the year 2009 in hard rock and heavy metal that you will find ANYWHERE! Be ready!

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