It was a great year for metal. Too much for one person to talk about. So, in addition to my favorite records for the year, I decided to ask a few metal friends and assorted personalities to pass along top 10 lists for this final Show No Mercy of 2007. (I didn't make the request until a couple days ago, so thanks to all of your for your speedy responses.) It's always interesting to me to see what other folks are listening to and I think the playlists of Blake Judd (Nachtmystium), Kristoffer Rygg (Ulver), Neige, Dominick Fernow (Prurient), and members of Skeletonwitch, Portal, Zweizz/Umoral/Fluerety, among others, makes for an fascinating cross-section of extreme metal tastes. Note that some of the albums mentioned actually came out before 2007, but whatever. In one case the respondant preferred to list albums he discovered over the past 12 months, regardless of release date. Caveats aside, nitpickers, my own pillar of 25 first.
01. Watain: Sworn to Dark [Ajna Offensive/Season Of Mist]
From the opening Set Teitan-guesting "Legions Of The Black Light" and the rawly anthemic "Satan's Hunger" through the pummeling, operatic, oddly post-hardcore "Stellarvore" (for real), this Swedish satanic black metal power trio have created a buzzing, burnt masterpiece with their third album, mixing old-school punk, the melodicism of early Maiden/Venom (and, of course, Dissection), with chilling skull and candelabra atmospherics and heavily charred rock 'n' roll (such fucking riffs). Make sure to catch the bloody live show -- though they need the topical crowd-pleasing gore about as much a primo day Slayer.
02. Deathspell Omega: Fas - Ite, Maledicti, in Ignem Aeternum [Ajna Offensive/N.E.D.]
Fas doesn't top 2004's Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice, but that's like disssing Melville for not writing another Moby Dick. Twisted, angular ambience (part Antaeus factory/part church) overlapping deep post-rock, beastial choirs, progressive and avant tendencies, and brutal intensity on a musical, lyrical, and conceptual front, e.g. "Every human being not going to the extreme limit is the servent or the enemy of man and the accomplice of a nameless obscenity."
03. Bergraven: Dödsvisioner [Hydra Head]
Swedish multi-instrumentalist Pär Gustaffssons opens Dödsvisioner with two minutes of barely audible electronics then blasts into a blackened landscape that floats between slippery Keiji Haino pedal-steel-y ambience, buzzing doom and dense chugging anthems, each feeling like a chapter in a larger narrative. Best black metal drum sound of the year. Gustaffssons stopped by SNM in June.
04. Wolves in the Throne Room: Two Hunters [Southern Lord]
Majestic rural, cricket-chirping Pacific Northwest black metal-- guttural vocals peer from beneath long passages of shimmering guitar and slumbering deep-woods sustain on their gorgeous follow up to Diadem Of 12 Stars. It's an Emperor symphony or autumnal Burzum trudge (and additional, frostbitten 4AD female vocals) filtered through Olympia D.I.Y. -- though, the pristine, beneath-the-pines analog production's a step up from WITTR's indie neighbors. The trio stepped out of the forest and stopped by SNM in September.
05. Baroness: Red Album [Relapse]
Expansive Georgia crust crew fronted by guitarist/vocalist John Baizley (who does art for Pig Destroyer, my beloved Skeletonwitch, his own band, and sports a Xasthur t-shirt in the above pic). Proggy, doomy, hugely ambitous (note the Southern-fried acoustic excursions). Think of a more patient, discursive Mastodon. Most importanty, they write great fist-pumping hooks. My favorite driving album of the year and I don't own a car.
06. Alcest: Souvenirs D'un Autre Monde [Profound Lore/Prophecy]
I caught up with French multi-instrumentalist Stéphane Paut, aka Neige, one of the most varied contributors to contemporary black metal, a couple of months ago. The brief, but filling follow-up to his 2005 Le Secret EP isn't black metal, it's an airy boot-gazing blast into spiraling guitars and whispered vocals. Jesu on a partly cloudy day.
07. High on Fire: Death Is This Communion [Relapse]
Matt Pike, Des Kensel and new bassist Jeff Matz do the unthinkable, topping the classic 2002 gem Surrounded By Thieves (and 2005's Preston-y Blessed Black Wings, etc.) The Jack Endino-produced slab rails through eleven counts of perfect no-bullshit Oakland-born hard rock. You can call it stoner or doom or post post-Sleep, but whatever the case, Lemmy must be proud (and maybe a wee bit scared). Full review soon.
08. Wold: Screech Owl [Profound Lore]
Blackened noise from the arcana-scribbling, outsider Saskatchewan crew of Fortress Crookedjaw (vocalist and "devices"), Opex (guitars and "drums"), and Obey ("scourge"). Screech Owl, the jewel in their twisted crown, is a shattered spray of white (house) noise and bedroom shoe/volume-gazing fronted by a cackling, possessed ghoul. Definitely the most extreme use of space and feedback on the list -- it sounds like it was recorded on a boombox (or a compressed 4-track partly buried in that Canadian dirt). They stopped by SNM way back in January.
09. Portal: Outre [Profound Lore]
Masked and witch-capped claustro-atmospheric, heavily percussive Aussie death metal weirdness. Intense, suffocating, scissoring, often imploded -- Gorefest + Ruins Of Beverast on Halloween. The track "Ominpotent Crawling Chaos" sorta nails the overall atmosphere: If Hieronymus Bosch listened to extreme metal, etc. Guitarist Horror Illogium drops a top 10 below.
10. Skeletonwitch: Beyond the Permafrost [Prosthetic]
Anthemic blackened NWOBHM from Ohio. Imagine Iron Maiden mixed with Immortal. My favorite dual guitar riffs of the year. An old-school fist pumper. They stopped by SNM in August and offer a top eight below.
11. Ulver: Shadows of the Sun [Jester/The End]
12. The Ruins of Beverast: Rain Upon the Impure [Van]
13. Blut Aus Nord: Odinist [Candlelight]
14. DHG: Supervillain Outcast [Moonfog/The End]
15. Moonsorrow: V: Hävitetty [Spikefarm]
16. Sear Bliss: The Arcane Odyssey [Candlelight]
17. Rosetta: Wake/Lift [Translation Loss]
18. Machine Head: The Blackening [Roadrunner]
19. The Angelic Process: Weighing Souls With Sand [Profound Lore]
20. Zoroaster: Dog Magic [Battle Kommand/Terminal Doom]
21. Inquisition: Nefarious Dismal Orations [No Colours]
22. Krohm: The Haunting Presence [Moribund Cult/Debemur Morti]
23. Ride for Revenge: The King of Snakes [Northern Heritage]
24. Rwake: Voices of Omen [Relapse]
25. Azrael: Act III: Self + Act IV: Goat [Moribund]
Addendum: I'm still absorbing Dillinger Escape Plan's Ire Works. I like Pig Destroyer's Phantom Limb well enough, but am a tad surprised at the five-star reaction it's received. It's definitely pleasing, though. Am continually obsessed with the depth and complexity of this year's Nile and Behemoth, but still don't dig 'em as records.
Blake Judd, Nachtmystium
01. Nifelheim: Envoy Of Lucifer
02. High On Fire: Death Is This Communion
03. Zoroaster: Dog Magic
04. Drudkh: Estrangement
05. Manes: How The World Came To An End
06. Hacavitz: Katun
07. Alcest:Souvenirs D'un Autre Monde
08. Superchrist: Headbanger
09. Watain: Sworn To The Dark
10. Year Of No Light: Nord
Kristoffer Rygg (Garm), Ulver
There are quite likely many gorgeous albums I have not had the pleasure to listen to this year, but those I've heard I'd say:
The Hidden Hand: The Ressurection of Whiskey Foote
Johan Johannsson: Englabörn [reissue]
Ole-Henrick Moe: Ciacocona/3 Persephone Perceptions
Pamelia Kurstin: Thinking Out Loud
PJ Harvey: White Chalk
Marissa Nadler: Songs III: Bird on the Water
Mayhem: Ordo Ad Chao
My Midnight Creeps: Histamin
The Threshold Houseboys Choir: Form Grows Rampant
When: Trippy Happy
Scott Hedrick of Skeletonwitch's Top Eight (no particular order):
Horror Illogium of Portal
01. Negative Plane: Et In Saecula Saeculaorum
02. Cemetery Urn: Urn of blood
03. Martire: Martire (re-release)
04. Necros Christos: Triune Impurity Rites
05. The Angelic Process: Weighing Souls With Sand
06. Diocletian: Decimator MCD
07. Katharsis: World Without End
08. Goat Molestor: Realm of Evoked Doom 7"
09. Funerary Pit: Winds of Hell 7"
10. Teitanblood/Necros Christos Split 7"
Roberto Martinelli, Maelstrom Zine
01. The Ruins of Beverast: Rain Upon the Impure
02. Pagan's Mind: God's Equation
03. Virgin Black: Requiem - mezzo forte
04. Jesu: Conqueror
05. Wrath of the Weak: Wrath of the Weak
06. Circus Maximus: Isolate
07. NeObliviscaris: Demo 2007
08. Akercocke: Antichrist
09. Gorefest: Rise to Ruin
10. Symphony X: Paradise Lost
Neige (Alcest, Peste Noire), Albums he discovered and felt closest to this year (in no order)
The Chameleons: Script Of The Bridge
Virgin Prunes: If I Die I Die
Cocteau Twins: Treasure
Clan Of Xymox: Clan Of Xymox (their first album)
Drudkh: Blood In Our Wells
The Organ: Grab That Gun
Silencer: Death Pierce Me
For Against: December
The Jesus And Mary Chain: Psychocandy
roadside picnic/a room forever - experimental metal, black noise/ambient top ten.
record of the year: ***wold - screech owl***
hands down, record of the year.
(the rest, 1-10, no particular order)
01. neurosis: given to the rising
02. om: pilgrimage
03. amocoma: go to hell (if anyone can tell me anything about these guys - please, please write me)
04. deathspell omega: fas ite, maledicti, in ignem aeternum
05. ktl: 2
06. wolves in the throneroom: two hunters
07. ride for revenge: king of snakes
08. monarch: st / dead men tell no tales / die tonight
09. moss: cthonic rites
10. monument of urns: the ancient method
in constant rotation:
sunn o))): oracle
asbestos death: unclean dejection reissue
great american desert/drear split cd
stielas storhett: vandrer
velvet cacoon: genevieve
trollman av ildtoppberg: arcane runes adorn the ice-veiled monoliths of the ancient cavern of the stars
nordvargr: for the blood is the life
nordvargr/drakh: the betrayal of light
black boned angel: eternal love/eternal hunger, bliss and void inseperable
bummer of the year - khanate's break up. lame, lame lame.
Dominick Fernow, Prurient and Hospital Productions (in no order)
Lifelover: Pulver LP [Northern Sky]
Circle of Ouroboros/Nuit Noire - split 7" [Insikt/Unjoy]
Inquisition: Nefarious Dismal Orations [No Colours]
Clandestine Blaze: Church Of Atrocity [Northern Heritage]
Pagan Hellfire: A Voice From Centuries Away [Tour De Garde]
Akitsa: La Grande Infamie [Christhunt]
Lascowiec: Gunshots Ring Out Over Vinland Streets [Demo, Funeral Agency]
Satanic Warmaster/Mutiilation/Drowning The Light [pic lp - gotowarex]
Cultus: A Seat in Valhalla [Heidens Hart/Runenzauber]
Ancestors: II [Northern Sky]
I've listed five metal albums and five albums from other genres.
Abigor: Fractal Possession: Complex, progressive and beautiful. I've been listening to this album at least once a week since I got it in May, and I'm still getting surprises every time I listen to it.
Bergraven: Dödsvisioner: This album was a sloooow grower. At first I thought it sounded bleak and boring, but after some ten spins the magnificence dawned on me. Black metal has never had a more serious case of the blues.
Joey Hopkins' Midget Factory "Demo 2007": Extremely hostile IDM (Intelligent Digital Metal). Dunno if this would qualify as black metal among the priests of the orthodoxy. But black metal was never about listening to what the priests have to say anyway.
Mayhem: Ordo Ab Chao: Best Mayhem recording since the two tracks that were featured on the "Projections of a Stained Mind" compilation from 1991.
Vrolok: Void: I've tried several times to get into a wide range of USBM bands, but never really succeeded until I got this album. (Apart from Profanatica's "Tormenting Holy Flesh", but that's a different time and place altogether.) Crisp guitar sound that kinda reminds me of "A Blaze in the Northern Sky", a drummer that knows exactly how to play just in a little bit more complicated way than he is capable of and wonderfully discouraging vocals.
Five from other genres:
CocoRosie: The Adventures of Ghosthorse and Stillborn: I once interviewed Sierra Casady, one half of this duo, and I asked what their music would look like if it were an animal. She told me it would be a mixture of a unicorn, a mermaid and a pony. But to me it will always be a kitten. Or a piglet.
Hild Sofie Tafjord: Kama: Nicely layered ambient noise with a french horn as the primary sound source. Noise music rare gets more delicious.
Helge Hurum: Spectre: This is actually a reissue of old and unreleased recordings from the archives of the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK). I think it's from the sixties, very smooth jazz music. Me likes.
Arcade Fire: Neon Bible: Disappointed with the new Radiohead album as I am, I find myself playing this album over and over when all I want is the grand new Radiohead album I've wanted for years. What I just wrote sounds silly, and maybe this album is not so good, but I like it nonetheless.
Hans Appelqvist: Sifantin och mörkret: Not quite as good as his albums "Bremort" and "Naima", but still there is no way to deny that Hans Appelqvist makes the best pop music ever. And it's in Swedish!