Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Blut aus Nord: 777 - The Desanctification

Joshua's Top 10 Albums of 2011
#8 of 10

Year: 2011
Genre: Experimental Black Metal
Label: Debemur Morti
TRT: 43:47

These longtime black metal jauggernauts are relentless. After a career almost old enough to vote, they're still not ready to give up the ghost. Instead they're turning up the intensity but releasing a three part series of albums for their ninth, tenth and eleventh full length offerings. This is the second in the series (with the third part due out in early 2012), and it is monstrously depraved. They've pulled a page from MoRT, and really upped the industrial sound of the drums, giving them a pummeling machinelike pulse, which enhances the eerie guitar atmospheres and schizophrenic vocals. They've given us yet another journey to hell, and I don't think we're coming back from this one.

01 Epitome VII
02 Epitome VIII
03 Epitome IX
04 Epitome X
05 Epitome XI
06 Epitome XII
07 Epitome XIII

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Nero: Welcome Reality (4.5/5)

Joshua's Top 10 Albums of 2011
#7 of 10

Year: 2011
Genre: Electro Dubstep
Label: Mercury
TRT: 61:05

This two man DJ group has been lighting up stages and playing sets all over the world for many years, so the expectation for their debut album was pretty high. But I don't think anyone thought this was the album they'd make. Instead of going for the "easy kill" by coupling some nasty drops with some glitch ambient intros (rinse/repeat), they wrote an actual album containing actual songs. You can tell they put a great deal of effort into these tracks, they're not just a handful of club-friendly wubs and wobbles. This album is like the best parts of Justice and Skrillex combined with Nero's own singunature production. The result speaks for its self. Glitchy grooves, catchy hooks and drops that are somehow more "wholesome" than "filthy". This is one that's going to be getting a lot of play from me for a long time.

01 2808
02 Doomsday
03 My Eyes
04 Guilt
05 Fugue State
06 Me and You
07 Innocence
08 In the Way
09 Scorpions
10 Crush on You
11 Must Be the Feeling
12 Reaching Out

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Rwake: Rest (4.5/5)

Joshua's Top 10 Albums of 2011
#6 of 10

Year: 2011
Genre: Atmospheric Sludge Metal
Label: Relapse
TRT: 52:48

It's nice to see a band mature their sound without losing sight of who they are, and these southern sludge lords are not fucking around. While not as primal or violent as 2007's Voices of Omen, it's hardly deserving of such a sleepy title. Rwake focus more on the atmospheric side of their sound this time around, but there's still plenty of aggression to be found, and plenty of vicious grooves to be had.

01 Souls of the Sky
02 It Was Beautiful But Now It's Sour
03 An Invisible Thread
04 The Culling
05 Ti progetto
06 Was Only a Dream

Gem Club: Breakers (4.5/5)

Joshua's Top 10 Albums of 2011
#5 of 10

Year: 2011
Genre: Piano-driven Atmospheric Melancholy
Label: Hardly Art
TRT: 37:49

Christopher Barnes channels the essence of melancholy and brings to mind "slowcore" pioneers Slowdive, while Barnes' haunting vocals are reminiscent of the Norwegian band The White Birch. Using his voice and his piano (with occasional help from cellist Kristen Drymala), Barnes creates immense atmospheres that are at once arresting and engrossing. His lyrics captivate your imagination, and whether hopeful or tragic, they come across with a sense of urgency and honesty that is sorely lacking in music these days.

01 Twins
02 Breakers
03 Lands
04 Red Arrow (John)
05 I Heard the Party
06 Black Ships
07 Tanager
08 252
09 In Wavelengths

Leprous: Bilateral (5/5)

Joshua's Top 10 Albums of 2011
#4 of 11

Year: 2011
Genre: Progressive Metal
Label: InsideOut
TRT: 58:05

Leprous' last album, Tall Poppy Syndrome, really impressed me, so my expectations were very high for this one. And apparently they were up for the challenge. They really took things up a notch. Everything they did right on TPS, they improve upon. Vocalist Einar Solberg is particularly impressive. His performance on TPS is excellent, but there are several points during this album that my jaw literally dropped. These guys are the real deal, and they're raising the bar for progressive metal in spectacular fashion.

Also I don't usually bother making "best songs" lists for any given year, but gun to my head, I'd probably have to say my favorite track from 2011 is Forced Entry.

01 Bilateral
02 Forced Entry
03 Restless
04 Thorn
05 Mb. Indifferentia
06 Waste of Air
07 Mediocrity Wins
08 Cryptogenic Desires
09 Acquired Taste
10 Painful Detour

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Wolves in the Throne Room: Celestial Lineage (5/5)

Joshua's Top 10 Albums for 2011
#3 of 10

Year: 2011
Genre: Atmoblamet
Label: Southern Lord
TRT: 48:51

Wolves in the Throne Room will always hold a special place in my blackened heart, because they are the band that unlocked black metal for me, and it has since become one of my most-listened to and favorite genres. After the release of the straight-forward and mostly mediocre Black Cascade, I feared they had lost their touch. Yet again, I'm happy to be wrong in such situations.

Celestial Lineage gets back to the incredibly well constructed atmospheres of their first two albums, and some how, some way, makes them more vast and full-sounding than ever. In addition, there are some absolutely magnificent riffs to be found here. While that's always been the case, they're much more prominent on this album. Specifically (and you know I don't like singling out tracks), Astral Blood is one of the most black plague infectious tracks I've ever heard. I spent several weeks humming guitar parts (much to the chagrin of my wife). And when I got it on vinyl...let's just say Side C has gotten many many times the play the rest of the album has. I think I must have picked up the needle and started it over maybe 12 times in a row that first day. I would highly recommend picking up the LP if that's something you're in to.

01 Thuja Magus Imperium
02 Permanent Changes In Conciousness
03 Subterrenean Initiation
04 Rainbow Illness
05 Woodland Cathedral
06 Astral Blood
07 Prayer of Transformation

Blue Sky Black Death: Noir (5/5)

Joshua's Top 10 Albums of 2011
#2 of 10

Year: 2011
Genre: Atmospheric Instrumental Trip-hop
Label: Fake Four
TRT: 62:41

While they started their career solidly in the realm of instrumental hip hop, over the past couple albums they've been moving more and more in the direction of washed out electronics and trip hop. They've also become more interesting as they mature their sound. Noir is like a warm day on the tail end of summer. Everything seems calm and laid back, but you just have a feeling that a storm is brewing on the horizon, and you can't shake your sense of unease. Like a hallway where there's enough light to keep moving, but not enough to see what's at the far end. Blue Sky Black Death prowls in those shadows, waiting.

01 Our Hearts Of Ruin
02 Sleeping Children Are Still Flying
03 And Stars, ringed
04 To The Ends Of The Earth
05 Farewell To The Former World
06 Falling Short
07 Gold In Gold Out
08 Where Do We Go
09 In The Quiet Absence Of God
10 Where The Sun Beats
11 Starry
12 Fire For Light
13 Swords From Driftwood
14 Sky With Hand

Arms and Sleepers: The Organ Hearts (5/5)

Joshua's Top 10 Albums of 2011
#1 of 10 (Album of the Year)

Year: 2011
Genre: Ambient Electronic Soundscapes
Label: Expect Candy
TRT: 41:01

This duo from New England showed up on my radar sometime shortly after their second full length Matador was released in 2009. I liked it and checked out their first album, and liked it as well, but it wasn't until late in 2010 that I really started to get into their sound. That's what they do. They create lush and layed soundscapes that appear simple on the surface, but become more intricate as you start to pay attention to and pick up on the subleties. When I saw them in April of 2010, The Organ Hearts was slated for release about a month later. After they opened their set with the first three tracks from the new album, the anticipation became palpable, and I bought it the day it was released.

This is their best release to date. Everything I love about their previous releases is here, but magnified. At first blush this seems to be the most minimalistic and ambient material they've created, but as you become more familiar with the music, more and more things begin to pop out at you. Over time, listening to this album becomes like watching a time-lapse video of a mountain meadow as it transforms from winter to spring, and the flowers bloom from the frozen ground.

01 Kepesh
02 Tusk
03 I Sing the Body Electric
04 The Afternoon Child
05 A Smile in Sofia
06 Antwerp
07 Serie Noire
08 Reprise
09 Yesterday's Child
10 Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye
11 Atelier
12 Airport Blues