Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Virgin Black: Requiem - Fortissimo (5/5)

Joshua's Top 10 Metal Albums of 2008
#1 out of 10

Year: 2008
Genre: Orchestral Funeral Death Doom
Label: The End
TRT: 43:59

Virgin Black continues down the dark spiral of despair with this album. Officially the third and final piece of the Requiem trilogy (though the second to be released), it is the ultimate realization of sorrow and slighted petitions regarding the nature of life and love. Revolving around morbid themes of suffering and death, the band forgoes many of the contrasting elements found in previous releases and opts for a somewhat straight-forward funeral doom metal sound mixed with bursts of death/doom, and vocalist Rowan London abandons his operatic range entirely in favor of death growls. This time around, the band contrasts the heavier side of their sound against the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra’s classical contributions and the operatic offerings of their resident soprano. This combination manages to open up new avenues of expression and serves to underline the grief and passion of everything else they’ve done.

Fortissimo still nods to previous works, but whereas the main hook for Mezzo Forte was Drink the Midnight Hymn and Opera de Trance, Fortissimo taps the vein of I Sleep With the Emporer. Flowing seamlessly from Mezzo Forte with despair, anger and longing, it's simultaneously devastating, euphoric and cathartic.

01 The Fragile Breath
02 In Winter's Ash
03 Silent
04 God in Dust
05 Lacrimosa (Gather Me)
06 Darkness
07 Forever

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Meshuggah: obZen (5/5)

Joshua's Top 10 Metal Albums of 2008
#2 out of 10

Year: 2008
Genre: Technical Experimental Poly-rhythmic Metal Masturbation
Label: Nuclear Blast
TRT: 52:39

Many times when a band has been around for a few years, they will begin to compromise their style to go for a more accessible sound. This will usually disenfranchise their loyal fan base, while brining in many new listeners who couldn’t appreciate the bands older style.

So when I say that in 2008, Meshuggah released the most listenable and accessible album of their twenty year career, isn’t that cause for worry?

Have no fear. These Swedish juggernauts of metal insanity combine the fury of their earlier albums with the technicality and unmatched time signature mastery of their more recent offerings.

Riff after riff, drum beat after drum beat, obZen is pound for pound one of the most awe-inspiring metal creations ever released. Wrapping your head around the intricacies layered within takes multiple listens. Just be careful to give your ears a break every now and then, or they might start bleeding from the beating.

01 Combustion
02 Electric Red
03 Bleed
04 Lethargica
05 obZen
06 This Spiteful Snake
07 Pineal Gland Optics
08 Pravus
09 Dancers to a Discordant System

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Made Out of Babies: The Ruiner (4.5/5)

Joshua's Top 10 Metal Albums of 2008
#3 out of 10

Year: 2008
Genre: Progressive Sludge Rock
Label: The End
TRT: 42:29

I love Julie Christmas. Her work with Battle of Mice is absolutely phenomenal. So I was always miffed at the quality of this band. Nothing seemed to hit the same way, or work together as well.

Well all that has changed. The Ruiner is a delicious slice of demented pie, serving up Ms. Christmas in all her endearingly unhinged glory. Coupled with music that keeps pace while also keeping the frenetic energy grounded with solid musicianship and an insatiable appetite for groovy rhythms, catchy beats and just enough sludge to keep things nice and heavy.

01 Cooker
02 Grimace
03 Invisible Ink
04 The Major
05 Buffalo
06 Bunny Boots
07 Stranger
08 Peew
09 How to Get Bigger

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Mirrorthrone: Gangrene (4.5/5)

Joshua's Top 10 Metal Albums of 2008
#4 out of 10

Year: 2008
Genre: Progressive Symphonic Black Metal
Label: Red Stream
TRT: 64:39

A new discovery for me this year. Mirrothrone is a one man project, and that one man (Vladimir Cochet) creates his own brand of black metal, utilizing choirs, orchestras and keyboards to create very lush and beautiful soundscapes, contrasted by the brutal musicianship that pairs perfectly with his harsh vocal stylings. A very satisfying album, with a healthy level of replay value.

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01 Dismay
02 No One By My Side
03 The Fecal Rebellion
04 Ganglion
05 Une Existence Dont Plus Personne ne Jouit
06 So Frail

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Transitional: Nothing Real Nothing Absent (4.5/5)

Joshua's Top 10 Metal Albums of 2008
#5 out of 10

Year: 2008
Genre: Shoegaze Drone Sludge
Label: Conspiracy
TRT: 33:12

Comprised of Kevin Laska and Dave Cochrane, Transitional crafts dark and moody music. This release has a decidedly old-school Heart Ache sound to it, with a good dose of Sun Down/Sun Rise as well, which is not surprising since Cochrane collaborated with Justin Broadrick on that project in the past. Oscillating between heavy lows and atmospheric highs, Transitional has put together a very satisfying release, who’s largest fault lies in it’s frustratingly inadequate length.

01 Nowhere Shining
02 Fracture
03 This Paradise, Part I
04 This Paradise, Part II
05 Lustless
06 Abandonment

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A Storm of Light: And We Wept the Black Ocean Within (4.5/5)

Joshua's Top 10 Metal Albums of 2008
#6 out of 10

Year: 2008
Genre: Dirty Post-Metal
Label: Neurot
TRT: 62:50

Another project of Josh Graham (Blood and Time, Battle of Mice, Red Sparowes) This time exploring a similar sound to that of Neurosis (who he directed visuals for). Very atmospheric and heavy, with an emphasis on sludge. Interestingly enough, Graham has said that the album’s concept has something to do with “bog bodies”, corpses that have been preserved remarkably well in the sludge of peat bogs for hundreds of years.

While some might be turned off to his gravelly vocal delivery, I personally find it to fit perfectly with the feel of the album.

01 Adrift (The Albatross I)
02 Vast and Endless
03 Black Ocean
04 Thunderhead
05 Undertow (The Albatross II)
06 Mass
07 Leaden Tide
08 Breach (The Albatross III)
09 Descent
10 Iron Heart

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Daylight Dies: Lost to the Living (4/5)

Joshua's Top 10 Metal Albums of 2008
#7 out of 10

Year: 2008
Genre: Death Doom Metal
Label: Candlelight
TRT: 51:28

I’m a bit late to the party, having only just discovered them this year. Lost to the Living is the fourth studio album from these Americans, and if their older work is similar, I’m going to have a lot of fun exploring their back catalogue. Doomy, gloomy and yet groovy. If you enjoy Opeth or Swallow the Sun, be sure to check out this band.

01 Cathedral
02 Descending
03 A Subtle Violence
04 And a Slow Surrender
05 Last Alone
06 Woke Up Lost
07 The Morning Light
08 At a Loss
09 A Portrait in White

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Mouth of the Architect: Quietly (4/5)

Joshua's Top 10 Metal Albums of 2008
#8 out of 10

Year: 2008
Genre: Post-Metal
Label: Translation Loss
TRT: 55:38

While not as instantly likable as Ties That Bind, their 2006 offering, Quietly is a grower. It has a more subdued and contemplative tone, fitting of the album’s title. Track five also boasts a guest vocal spot by everyone’s darling, Julie Christmas, which can only ever make an album better.

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01 Quietly
02 Hate and Heartache
03 Pine Boxes
04 Guilt and the Like
05 Generation of Ghosts
06 Rocking Chairs and Shotguns
07 Medicine
08 A Beautiful Corpse

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Cult of Luna: Eternal Kingdom (4/5)

Joshua's Top 10 Metal Albums of 2008
#9 out of 10

Year: 2008
Genre: Post-Metal
Label: Earache
TRT: 60:54

In their latest release, Cult of Luna focus more on cults and nefarious religious practices than they have in their previous work. Many stark images of owls, dark woods, cover of night, and strange rituals inundate their sludge-centered post-metal compositions. It’s pretty creepy. And by creepy, I mean awesome.

01 Owlwood
02 Eternal Kingdom
03 Ghost Trail
04 The Lure (Interlude)
05 Mire Deep
06 The Great Migration
07 Osterbotten
08 Curse
09 Ugin
10 Following Betulas

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Crowpath: One With Filth (4/5)

Joshua's Top 10 Metal Albums of 2008
#10 out of 10

Year: 2008
Genre: Technical Death Metal
Label: Willowtip
TRT: 31:22

In their twelve year career, this group of Swedes has put out four albums, and barely two hours of material. But I for one am willing to let the length of their albums slide, because they’re very good at what they do. Which is of course bringing face-crushing and ear-smashing chaos to the table. Technical death metal, mixed with elements of crust, sludge and wee bit of mathcore…This band keeps you thrashing for half an hour, and then leaves you wanting more.

01 One With Filth
02 Where Angels Do Sin
03 Fondling the Grotesque
04 Plague Bearer
05 I Gryningen
06 Cleansed in Chlorine
07 The Deed
08 The Hunt
09 Septic Monarch
10 In Pitch Black Piss
11 Retarded Angel

Search for Crowpath on Amazon