2009 Top 10 Tag Team: Rick Gebhardt & Jared MehlePosted 01/07/2010 11:01AM by Rick Gebhardt as Top 10
Rick Gebhardt's Top 10:
Throughout 2009, I found my tastes oscillating between a number of genres. I had moments where I was only into doom metal, then I’d go through a melodeath phase, then I’d try on some post-rock, then it was hip-hop, then maybe some metalcore, and now I’m sort of mish-mashing them all together into my everyday listening habits. Considering I had so many different phases, for my top 10 I wanted to choose albums that were both artistic accomplishments and maintained a significant amount of time in my playlists.
I’ve tried my best to listen to tons of new music this year, and I think I must have listened to at least 500 new albums, but in doing so I may have insulated myself from really experiencing music. Listening to an album once or twice doesn’t really give you a chance to appreciate it and I’m sure there are many albums I listened to that I didn’t truly appreciate because I didn’t give them enough time. However, each album in this list stuck with me and proved to be fantastic. I would urge everyone to at least give these albums a spin to see if they work for you. I’m sure at least one will.
1. Katatonia – Night Is the New Day
Oppressive. Melancholic. Heart-wrenching. Gripping. They’re all words that could describe Katatonia’s latest album. There are also many other words that could be used, but I’m almost certain everyone will have a slightly different take on this album. Personally, it resonates with me in a way that no other album released this year could. It is heavy musically, lyrically, thematically, and stylistically. Each song toys with you, allowing you to feel as if Katatonia may be allowing something resembling hope enter into their songwriting, only to systematically tear down those glimmering moments in a grueling deconstruction of concepts. This album is the epitome of what a heavy album should sound like, setting the bar even higher than they previously did with The Great Cold Distance.
2. Architects – Hollow Crown
Initially I let this slip by thinking it was merely another metalcore album. Coming back to it after some time, I was able to really appreciate the interesting nuances the band has injected into what is by now a very standard melodic metalcore template. The occasional Meshuggah influence, the tastefully done melodic passages, the absolutely brutal breakdowns, and the throat-wrenching vocals all escalate Architects above their peers and made this an album I had a hard time keeping out of my playlist.
3. P.O.S. – Never Better
Maybe I’m biased since I live in Minnesota, but over the last few years it seems like the only interesting rap or hip hop to be released has come from the Rhymesayers and Doomtree camps. P.O.S., this year, has catapulted the hip hop genre forward. Taking numerous creative chances with the varied and unique approaches on Never Better, P.O.S. has stepped up his craft, outperformed the rest of his catalog, and proven that innovation is still something that is achievable in this genre.
4. Isis – Wavering Radiant
Upon my first listen, I thought wholeheartedly that Isis had dropped the ball with Wavering Radiant. I was not drawn in, I was not in awe of any particular song, and I felt there was a definite lack of “heavy”. However, given time and repeated listens, I found myself cozying up to the album and melting into the atmosphere the album creates. Gone is the outright heaviness (well, it’s been gone for an album or so now), but in its place is a newfound maturity and sense of ambience. I now truly appreciate this album and am impressed by what Isis have become.
5. Hierosonic – Kymatica
Why the hell are these guys not huge? They do everything and they do it all extremely well. From synth enhanced modern rock to Faith No More influenced jams to crunchy post-grunge to Refused styled post-punk, Hierosonic give you unique and mesmerizing music. You may think that the band would come across as scattershot from my previous description, but there is a backbone that runs through the entire album on which the band builds all of their different approaches. In any other year, this could easily have been my #1 album.
6. Constants – The Foundation The Machine The Ascension
This album surprised the hell out of me. Constants stepped up huge and produced a wonderful atmospheric, doomy, progressive metal album. Heck, they even tossed in some shoegaze influences to add to the mix. To truly appreciate Constants’ latest, you need to listen to it as a whole. Viewed as a single composition, this is easily the most whole album of the year, as every track connects to the next and band weaves a perfect mix of all of their influences, which range from Oceansize to Isis to Junius to Opeth.
7. August Burns Red – Constellations
Is metalcore a simplistic genre? Sure. It’s really the nu-metal of our day, when you think about it, but that also doesn’t change the fact that when it’s done well, it’s still a very viable genre. August Burns Red, once again, have proven they know how to create an album that will make you run just a bit further, do a couple more push-ups, or have you grunting out just a few more reps. Constellations is undeniably intense and will have your adrenaline pouring forth. Also, this time around the band included a few melodic moments that feel completely natural and allow some of the songs to build up to even more intense breakdowns.
8. Long Distance Calling – Avoid the Light
For most of the year, this sat as my #1 album, mostly because of the beauty of the song “The Nearing Grave”. This song, hands down, is the song of the year. However, after a lot of time with the album, I didn’t grow to appreciate it any less, but I did notice that the rest of the album didn’t quite live up to “The Nearing Grave”. I found I wanted vocals during parts other songs, despite how good they were as instrumental pieces. Despite this, Long Distance Calling have mastered the atmospheric post-rock (or even post-metal) genre and I only see amazing things for them in their future.
9. Karnivool – Sound Awake
The progression this band made from Themata to Sound Awake is jaw-dropping. They had previously hinted at directions they could go, but I never expected them to put together a progressive rock near-masterpiece. They’ve taken the best parts of bands like Porcupine Tree, Cog, Tool, and similar bands, combined them quite effortlessly, and composed an album that is captivating from beginning to end.
10. Dead By April – Dead By April
I’ll admit right off the bat that this album is not pushing any envelopes, breaking any boundaries, or creating something with critical appeal. It’s bubblegum metal, if you can believe it. I think if you were to mix Fall Out Boy with Sonic Syndicate you’d probably get something like Dead By April. That doesn’t sound good, and I thought this album laughably bad at first… but then I noticed I had racked up a ton of listens for this album. I just couldn’t stop. This band is undeniably infectious and, commercialized stigma be damned, it’s fun as hell to listen to. And to me, fun counts for something.
Another Mask – Faces
Kauan – Aava Tuulen Maa
It Prevails – Capture and Embrace
Nahemah – A New Constellation
Animals as Leaders – Animals as Leaders
Jared Mehle's Top 10:
As far as the industry goes, 2009 will be remembered by most as the year that Micheal Jackson died. Personally, I was more concerned about Jim leaving Pennywise and fragmenting what has been a constant force in punk music for 20 years. When the year started, I couldn't go anywhere without hearing about the Jonas Brothers. By the end, I can't seem to get away from Lady Gaga. In keeping with the theme, 2010 should see a white-guy rapper named Mr. Baby Diapers go multi-platinum.
You should already know that Chris Brown beat the shit out of Rihanna just before the Grammys. But did you know that Blink 182, Adema, and Limp Bizkit have reformed? All of those events are shocking. But hey, we got rid of Cute is What We Aim For this year and Fall Out Boy is on hiatus. That's more or less even.
They say as you get older, you tend to lose interest in music. From my experience, I'd say that's generally true, but the people of DecoyMusic are an exception; myself included. While I still listen to endless amounts of music, this year it felt like I was seeking out less new music; instead going for favorites of years past. You'll see a number of artists on my list with second and third albums. Even completely new artists such as Kris Norris have a connection to an old favorite (Darkest Hour).
One thing I can depend on is that every year there is going to be some mind-blowing new music released.
1. Conducting From the Grave - When Legends Become Dust
There's just something about really intricate guitar playing that grabs me. That's what I love most about Conducting From the Grave. They're heavy as hell and they just shred. The sheer amount of musicianship on display in When Legends Become Dust is overwhelming. This relatively new band has a bright future on their horizon if they can continue down the path they've started.
2. August Burns Red - Constellations
Some claim August Burns Red are boring and unoriginal. They do however manage to keep things fresh and most certainly heavy with each album they put out. The few experimentations, such as Tommy from Between the Buried and Me guesting on Indonesia, work out in the band's favor.
3. For the Fallen Dreams - Relentless
For the Fallen Dreams hit me over the head like a ton of bricks a little over a year ago and I honestly can't get enough of them. Changes was a hell of an album and the momentum continues with Relentless. It does sport a little bit slicker and more polished sound, but it's still got that hardcore crunch.
4. Set Your Goals - This Will Be the Death of Us
Summertime is prime for cruising around with your windows down and the music turned up. I was anxious to get my hands on Set Your Goals latest effort for most of the first half of the year. I was hitting their MySpace page daily. When it finally dropped, there was little to be disappointed about. Ironically, for an overall summertime favorite, I wish the song Summer Time was a B-side.
5. The Devil Wears Prada - With Roots Above and Branches Below
Though I'm not of a fan of the band's overtly Christian lyrics, I couldn't stop spinning With Roots Above and Branches Below once I got ahold of it. It's taken the band 3 albums to fully mature their sound, but with this album, they finally found the right mix of electronics and metal.
6. The Kris Norris Projekt - Icons of the Illogical
When Kris Norris left Darkest Hour, I felt very betrayed. Having become quite a fan of Norris' talented guitar playing, I hoped that wouldn't be the last we'd heard of him. Not long after, Norris put out his solo album, Icons of the Illogical. Though I was put off by the fact that the album is mostly instrumental at first, I've come to enjoy it for what it's supposed to be about - the guitar playing. Kris Norris is one amazing guitar player and we can only hope he winds up in another band some day.
7. Confession - Cancer
Having been a fan of Crafter since his I Killed the Prom Queen days, it was virtually a no-brainer that I come to like his new venture, Confession. Compared to IKTPQ, Confession features much more clean vocals. Really, much of the album is standard metalcore chugging with breakdowns, but the clean vocals add a catchiness to the tunes. That mix reaches perfection in 'That's Not The Goose". Which, by the way, must be some Aussie saying.
8. Bury Tomorrow - Portraits
The first thing that comes to mind when I think of Bury Tomorrow is Atreyu. The bands have an admittedly similar sound, though with the transformations Atreyu has gone through in recent years, you could argue Bury Tomorrow are what they should have come to sound like. Just as I noted with Confession's Cancer, the combination of clean vocals and driving metalcore riffs just works. After one listen ,you'll find yourself humming the melodies and headbanging along.
9. Evergreen Terrace - Almost Home
If one thing can be said about Evergreen Terrace is that they are consistent. You can always count on them to put together a solid album. Almost Home firmly cements that fact. Initially, I was put off by the shift in sound from Wolfbiker. I happened to be quite fond of that album and the direction the band took it. However, it didn't take long before Almost Home found it's way into my playlist daily. There's not anything bad to say about it.
10. It Prevails - Capture And Embrace
It looked like It Prevails was going to fall apart with all their member changes. I believe The Inspiration lineup and the Capture and Embrace lineup only share two members and that there have been changes since C&E was released. It's a good thing this band stuck with it and made a second album because it's every bit as good as the first.
A Day To Remember - Homesick
Catherine - Inside Out
Darkest Hour - The Eternal Return
A Plea for Purging - Depravity
Killswitch Engage - Killswitch Engage