overground scene

Albums worth listening to from 2011
February 29, 2012, 11:56 pm
Filed under: Best of the year, death metal, popular music, punk | Tags: , , , , ,

I am embarrassed to say that 2011 was marked by a disinterest in keeping up-to-date with the new developments in music. I rather ventured to re-discover and eventually appreciate past music wonders that for whichever reason had gone unnoticed. I delved deep into the magic world of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. During one of my record hunts I was lucky to find White Spirit‘s eponymous album, a masterpiece of NWOBHM. One of the records I also ruthlessly played was Demon‘s “The unexpected guest”. I also revisited King Diamond, one of the few true musical geniuses on the planet. I enjoyed masterpieces such as “The eye”, which I hadn’t listened for probably 10 years, the “Fatal portrait” and some of his latest gems such as “Voodoo” and “The house of god”. But these are albums that I have been listening to all my life. The exciting part is that I re-discovered Mercyful Fate, of which I had only listened to “Don’t break the oath” and “Into the unknown”.

Many bands that I followed in the past put out records during 2011 that I did not particularly like. Vader lost me many years ago since the release of Litany so it was not a surprise not to be impressed by their new, nostalgically titled, album. Deicide no longer sound like Deicide to me. I did not like their latest album at all. The latest Lock up was an album that I listened to a few times and has some songs I like a lot but, again, I stopped listening to it after a while. The same goes for the new Brutal Truth album, although there are still things to be discovered there.  I did not listen to the latest Pestilence album until recently so I have not formed a good opinion about it yet. Of course, as always there have been quite a few new albums that melted under the stylus of my turntable during 2011. Here are some that I think are worth giving many spins:

Amebix – Sonic Mass

The new Amebix album provides a unique artistic experience to the listener. It is one of those albums that affect all the senses in an equally profound way. It is not only a treat for the ears. It paints war-torn landscapes, it invokes prophetic visions, the grim inevitability coupled with a promise for the future. Its serious tone is fixating and builds inside you a sense of duty. It is a call to arms as powerful as Tragedy have only managed  to be. The Baron’s voice makes my skin crawl. This time around he introduces melody to his performance and it suits the songs perfectly. Here come the wolf could easily have been written by New Model Army. Each side of the record starts with a slow ballad-like song with clean guitars, followed by brutal, crawling outbursts that defined an entire scene back in the 80s. Keyboards are positioned tastefully here and there, enhancing the majestic atmosphere. A true masterpiece.

Vallenfyre – A fragile king

Gregor’s side project completely blew me away. In contrast to most musicians or bands (e.g. Bloodbath) going nostalgic and reminiscent of their brutal past and dreadfully (in my opinion) attempting to recreate that feeling, Vallenfyre sound fresh, honest and inspired. It is well known by now that the driving force behind this monster of an album is Gregor’s personal tragedy, and maybe it also provides an explanation why this album is so gloomy and honest. I disagree with the influences mentioned on the sticker on the record. Definitely you can hear the Entombed influences, but I did not hear any Autopsy. The sound of the band comes closer, in my opinion, to early Asphyx. Also on songs like “My black Siberia”  Dismember’s influence rings out with a blast. My personal favorite songs must be Seeds, The grim irony and The divine have fled, closely followed by All will suffer, Cathedrals of dread and Desecration.

Adolescents – The fastest kid alive

The latest Adolescents album is super cool! Skate punk attitude combined with some classical Californian hardcore elements. The melancholy found in their previous excellent album (OC confidential on songs like Find a way and Death  on Friday) is ever-present here again on songs like “Can’t change the world with a song” and “inspiration”. Tony has written some of his best lyrics ever and reminds us that he is one of the most important personalities in the American punk scene. The cool breeze of  “Serf city”, makes the song an instant hit. The more explosive moments such as “One nation under siege” (its beginning reminds of Bad Religion), “Too fast too loud”, “orange crush”, ‘Tokyo Au go go” are also extremely contagious and beautiful songs, testaments to the inspiration and passion driving Tony Cadena and Steve Sotto.

Morbid Angel – Illud Divinum Insanus

I have written another post about Morbid Angel’s most recent album. It is a widely hated album but I liked it from the first moment that I heard it. I cannot overstate how much I appreciate listening to something that will challenge my expectations and conventions. Moreover, I cannot overstate how much I enjoy listening to a death metal album that after I am done listening I can remember the songs, I can enjoy the variety and I will want to revisit and discover new stuff. But people do not even seem to like the more conventional death metal songs on the album. If you cannot understand the genius of Blades for Baal, Nevermore, I am morbid, then you are either deaf or an idiot. And I’ve said it before and I will say it again: Vincent and Azagthoth belong together.

Mastodon-The_HunterMastodon – The hunter

This album was not originally included in this list, but I felt I needed to remedy that because what the fuck!? When Mastodon first came out I didn’t like them because – although they were fetishised by the metal community – they did sound like old news to me. Musically everything that could be done by that point had been done. People vomiting on their microphones, playing a million notes per minute, playing together notes that don’t make any sense, utilising extreme distortion, etc… Music had reached its end in the late 80s. After that for sure bands elaborated on this fatality, made it more sophisticated, and I have to admit made it interesting. But, at the same time they regressed. Introducing technicality, or melody to death metal or grindcore was not pushing forwards, it was pushing backwards. My point is that Mastodon to my ears, they had nothing to offer. They were angry but not the angriest, they were brutal but not the most brutal, they were melodic but not the most melodic, they were post-modern like many others. Adding to that my tendency to shun most of the things that attract the attention of the masses, I never gave a damn about Mastodon. But this latest album…what the fuck! No way this album should be ignored by anybody. I still think that it is not something terribly new (I can hear Sabbath, Nevermore, Psychotic Waltz, and other all over the album) but it is so much inspired and well-played that I cannot find words to describe its beauty.


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