Before we start let’s make one thing crystal clear. 2009 has simply been a ridiculously phenomenal year for stunning records. Though yes, there have been a few duds and a couple of vomit drenched turds along the way, but overall the year has seen jaw dropping debut records, albums from hungry young bands, established acts asserting their greatness and the old guard reinvigorating themselves.
Top 30 Albums of 2009
Starting in positive fashion, The Grind That Annoys’ top 30 albums of the year:
Click the “standout track” to listen
30 – Cannibal Corpse – Evisceration PlagueIn 2009, Cannibal Corpse are more important than ever. Death metal is enjoying a glorious resurgence and who better than the pioneers themselves to be still leading the pack and releasing quality albums? Exactly! And of course, Evisceration Plague is one such album.Standout track: Shatter Their Bones
29 – Propagandhi – Supporting CasteOn paper Supporting Caste sounds dull as dishwater but after repeated spins these tunes will become effortlessly lodged in your head. There are certainly enough riffs to do so with the title track laying testament to that, and a cover of “Come To The Sabbat”, though odd is a pleasing inclusion.Standout track: Supporting Caste
28 – Absu – Absu
If Absu didn’t make anything of this record than they were possibly looking at drifting off into oblivion. But thankfully this self titled saw a re-invigoration of the Texan black metal crew, with a new style and approach in tow.Standout track: Between The Absu Of Eridu & Erech
27 – Zu – CarboniferousPossibly one of the most fun releases of the year. Instigating with the chaotic experimental jazz of “Ostia” then through punchy number after punchy number, Carboniferous just bathes in its inexorable rasp while also becoming strangely accessible.
Standout track: Ostia
26 – Shining – IV/ Klagopsalmer
Klagopsalmer is more than likely going to split a few Shining fans. Vocalist Kvarforth delves into melodic singing and it’s all wrapped up by a much cleaner production. But this release still maintains the vitriol and melancholy that is so associated with Kvarforth and Shining.
Standout track: Plågoande O’Helga Plågoande
Standout track: Au Crépuscule de Nos Rêves
24 – Wardruna – Runaljod: Gap Var Ginnunga
Runaljod: Gap Var Ginnunga was an entirely unexpected triumph. Led by Kvitrafn but also involving former Gorgoroth mainman Gaahl, Wardruna are a mesmerising assemblage of musicians channelling their Norwegian and Viking heritage into a hypnotic delivery of folk.
Standout track: Algir – Tognatale
Standout track: Demon Prince
20 – Wolves In The Throne Room – Black CascadeAs mentioned earlier, black metal has been enduring change aplenty and Wolves In The Throne Room can lay claim to be the leaders. Black Cascade is a powerful and somewhat dramatic trek for the ears, pounding its way to vexing yet engaging airs.Standout track: Ex Cathedra
18 – My Dying Bride – For Lies I SireAs far as melancholy is considered it would be difficult to challenge My Dying Bride. While they’ve earned the right to call themselves veterans, For Lies I Sire could be a contender for being their strongest effort; if not, certainly in the latter half of their career. From the moment Aaron Stainthorpe murmurs his first lyric on “My Body, A Funeral”, For Lies I Sire swans morosely to its dispirited yet faintly pleasing close.
Standout track: Echoes From A Hollow Soul
17 – Steven Wilson – InsurgentesVeering slightly away from his day job with Porcupine Tree, Steven Wilson’s debut solo record Insurgentes is a remarkable effort incorporating all the elements and then some that make Wilson such a noteworthy songwriter, the closing title track straightforwardly accentuates that claim.
Standout track: Insurgentes
Standout track: Alice (“Alice” is unavailable to play now, but click HERE to listen to “Big Church”)
15 – Alice In Chains – Black Gives Way To Blue
Alice In Chains’ recording return had the potential to go horrifically wrong. But for their first album in 14 years and with new vocalist William DuVall, AIC seized your heart for this outstandingly emotive record where themes such as remembrance and new beginnings sway gently together. The victory march begins.
14 – Pearl Jam – BackspacerPearl Jam are one of the greatest rock bands of all time for a reason, and that reason is records like this. Ever since their 1991 debut Ten, Pearl Jam have failed in releasing a dud and Backspacer passionately continues that course with the likes of the punchy vigour of “Gonna See My Friend” or the enticingly gorgeous melodies of “Speed Of Sound”.
Predecessor, United Abominations was where Megadeth returned to the splendour that’s always been associated with them and from there it could only go uphill. Endgame is the peak. It also saw the recording debut of virtuoso guitarist Chris Broderick and the record swells with unyielding riffs and a ridiculous amount for musicality. So, for album number twelve Dave Mustaine can accept a resonant round of applause.
Standout track: Bite The Hand
12 – Devin Townsend – Ki
Ki is the first instalment in The Devin Townsend Project, a four part series of albums each indulging in four different styles. It’s difficult to pin down the style of Ki though. It owes a great debt to My Bloody Valentine for its at times shoe-gaze quality but simultaneously, is wholly in its own league. When it gently swoons it does so uncontested – a relaxing but still invigorating listen.
Standout track: Ki
11 – Scale The Summit – Carving Desert CanyonsScale The Summit could potentially be huge, as far as instrumental bands are concerned. This is their second record proper but the breakthrough that could lead to bigger things. They’ve already got Dream Theater bringing them on tour! But that means nothing if the songs and skills aren’t there and they are here in abundance. There’s technicality but no wankiness, which is something to be reckoned with. Across the 8 tracks here there’s a steady build to the truly awe-inspiring close of “Giants”.
Standout track: Giants
10 – Isis – Wavering RadiantFifth studio album, Wavering Radiant continues these post metal innovators’ relentless trajectory. Never have they released a record that could even be vaguely considered a disappointment and Wavering Radiant stands proudly next to particular career bests Oceanic and Panopticon. It ethereally strides (“Ghost Key”), inescapably creeps to deafening heights (“20 Minutes/40 Years”) and by closer, “Threshold Of Transformation” one’s left winded with wonder.
9 – Animals As Leaders – Animals As LeadersWow is really the only word that could do Animals As Leaders justice. Former Reflux guitarist Tosin Abasi returns with this instrumental project which is dripping with dizzying guitar technicality and breathtaking crescendos, melded with occasional electronics and startling bass skills. It’s all then focussed into twelve simply magnificent tracks. One of the best debut records of the decade.Standout track: On Impulse
8 – Lamb Of God – WrathThis came as no surprise. Wrath was the album all Lamb Of God fans knew they’d make to follow up the world beating Sacrament. Wrath takes no prisoners and kills at will. A barrage of riffs with Randy Blythe’s blade gargling vocals relentlessly push and push resulting in one of the finest modern metal records of not only this year, but the last ten.
Standout track: Reclamation
7 – Pelican – What We All Come To Need
Pelican’s last record City Of Echoes set a startling new standard for the band. So, how do you go about topping your strongest effort? There’s no particular method just go for it. That’s what Pelican did and while time will tell whether What We All Come To Need bests COE one can certainly gauge that it’s a stunning album, with riffs and ambience in profusion.
Standout track: Specks Of Light
6 – Porcupine Tree – The IncidentThe Incident is a 14 tracked 55 minute conceptual piece. There are few bands of the modern era that can pull off something ambitious like this and Porcupine Tree are one of them. Opening in dramatic fashion with “Occam’s Razor”, The Incident sprawls across varying styles and approaches, integrating enthralling allures like “Time Flies”, “Octane Twisted” and the exceptionally beautiful “I Drive The Hearse”. Dark, introspective, captivating and sophisticated.
Standout track: I Drive The Hearse (only live excerpt available)
5 – Biffy Clyro – Only RevolutionsTwo years ago Biffy Clyro invaded the mainstream with Puzzle, gathering a hefty fan base in the process. The album was rightly deified as their best… until now. Not feeling the pressures of conforming to typicality though Biffy delivered on all levels with Only Revolutions, an album that will only strengthen their course but with one oh so sweet element in tact – their own terms.
Standout track: Whorses
Killswitch Engage claimed that they stepped out of their “comfort zone” on this self titled effort. While they failed on meeting that promise, the record still strangely delivered on all fronts. It emitted the colossal poignancy of the Killswitch we know and love, bursting with earth shaking choruses, hooky riffs, unrelenting drumming, and Howard Jones further proving that he has possibly the most gifted pair of lungs in metal today. It lacked the versatile deviation many had hope for but when you’ve tunes this good it’s easy to let it slide.
Standout track: Lost
3 – Mastodon – Crack The Skye
Crack The Skye was ridiculously hyped, but even with all the anticipation nothing quite prepared anyone for the majesty unravelled in this complex diadem. Akin to a hypnotic fable, Crack The Skye is a musical journey of overwhelming zeniths that only be truly appreciated when listened to from start to finish. An immense and startling accomplishment only dimly describes it.
Standout track: The Last Baron (excerpt)
2 – Dream Theater – Black Clouds & Silver Linings
The modern prog metal kings gave each and every one of us more reasons to exalt them with tenth effort Black Clouds & Silver Linings, arguably their best record in ten years. Mammoth riffs on opener “Nightmare To Remember” serve up BC&SL as a lush piece of music through to the 20 minute closer, the vast, undeniably grandiose sprawl of “The Count Of Tuscany”.
Standout track: The Count Of Tuscany
1 – Between The Buried And Me – The Great Misdirect
Between The Buried And Me have, simply put delivered a masterpiece with The Great Misdirect, one that will be sanctified and with justice lapped up by many a new fan to come. 2007’s Colors had a similar effect but BTBAM took on this unruly undertaking and viciously, yet serenely and meticulously topped it. They did so with vivacious zeal and fervour. This is evident by the ferocious rampages and delicate, soaring climaxes that are rife throughout its 59 minutes. The Great Misdirect is an irrefutably riveting and absorbing listen – album of the year was a no brainer.
Standout track: Swim To The Moon
Top 5 EPs of 2009:
4 – Alright The Captain – 123This ADD soundtracking debut effort from post rock outfit Alright The Captain does a lot of things particularly well but mostly leaves you begging for more. A debut full length album couldn’t come sooner.
2 – Löbo – AlmaAlma is hauntingly ethereal and effortlessly plunges the listener’s world into darkness. It’s heart crushingly heavy and indoctrinates a vast and sprawling cadence unravelled across its opulent 4 tracks of experimental doom.
1 – Jesu – Opiate SunJustin Broadrick explores new regions on Opiate Sun, leaving behind most of the drone sounds of prior releases. Here, there’s unavoidable poppy hooks and melody. Again, the listen is too fleeting but for its duration it becomes wholly alluring and engaging.
Hollywood Undead – Swan SongsWords can’t be conjured; this was covered HERE last April.
Julie Feeney – PagesPages is supposedly a sublime blend of artistry, but of course Julie Feeney’s press releases will say something like that. In truth it’s a dull and irksomely pompous record seething with pretentiousness and an air of snobbery.
Sepultura – A-LexThe band that still calls themselves Sepultura are still releasing albums and A-Lex is the latest instalment in their latter career slump. It’s a laborious trek but one that’s not as terrible as it’s lacking in a reason to even exist. Sepultura in 2009 sans Max and Iggor Cavalera = virtually nothing.
Chris Cornell – ScreamSimilarly click HERE. Chris Cornell, one of the most revered voices in modern rock, lays down his guitar, grabs a synthesizer or two and shacks up with Timbaland? Fuck off.
KASMS – Spayed
Spayed has some elements akin to Pages in that exhibits a near conceited impression of itself and where “forced esotericism” is exuded. Plus the song structures are a muddled mess and the production is horrendous, reminiscent somewhat of a grimy mire.
2009 had two rather sad incidents. On the 5th October Evile bassist Mike Alexander passed away tragically due to a pulmonary embolism while the band was on tour in Sweden. He was only 32.
The man, the myth, the legend that is Ronnie James Dio was diagnosed with stomach cancer at the end of November. Thankfully, however the cancer has been caught in its early stages and treatment began immediately, get well soon Dio.
Here’s a quick look at things to get excited about in the forthcoming year:
Rumours are still lolling around the net that Faith No More may very well enter the studio to record their first new batch of material since 1997. Here’s hoping.
2009 was to be Anthrax’s victorious stride back into the limelight. But with the Dan Nelson drama, the thrash vets found themselves frontman-less. But two “one-off” shows (come again?) with former vocalist John Bush has left fans eager for the man to return full time.
Decapitated are returning, over 2 years on from the tragic death of innovative drummer Vitek. Vogg has assembled an entirely new line-up with touring beginning in February and new record is expected later in the year. Interesting, to say the very least.
Ihsahn’s After is possibly going to be the first big release of the year with a January 25th release date slated. Listen to the new track “Frozen Lakes On Mars” HERE
Another fresh return comes in the form of the new Fear Factory who have already released a new song (HERE). The record, Mechanize is hitting us in February.
Cynic aren’t going to make us wait 15 years for some new material this time. Though, no new album is expected. An EP however containing one new song and four re-workings of Traced In Air tunes will be released in the first quarter of ’10.
Korn have returned to working with producer Ross Robinson, who produced their first two records. The new album is supposedly taking an older, more aggressive approach.
Opeth’s schedule will be largely cleared next year, but will be playing six exclusive shows to commemorate their 20th anniversary. Also, rumours have begun that Bloodbath will be hitting the festival circuit. Mikael Akerfeldt has discussed the possibility of a solo acoustic album, we’ll all just have to wait and see.
Anticipation will be ridiculously high also for Nevermore. They’re expected to drop their new record, The Obsidian Conspiracy in January/February.
Of course, one of the biggest releases next year will be from Iron Maiden. Information is painfully sparse and everyone will just have to wait.
Devin Townsend will release the two remaining albums in the Devin Townsend Project – Deconstruction (allegedly his heaviest material ever) and Ghost, an ambient album. News is also making the rounds that Townsend will release a sequel album to 2007’s Ziltoid The Omniscient.
New albums are also expected from Down, Shining (Född Förlorare), Dillinger Escape Plan (Option Paralysis), Soulfly (Omen), Cephalic Carnage and the highly anticipated debut effort from Ne Obliviscaris.
There’s a countless more but we just haven’t got the time. Thanks for reading.