Sunday, February 1, 2009


1. IMPERIAL BATTLESNAKE – “Sentinels Of The Hardland” - This Chicago band’s 2nd full-length album is the sonic equivalent of being thrown in an industrial-sized clothes dryer with a handful of live grenades. The guitar work of Mlodzilla & Ronnie James Theo sounds like Chuck Schuldiner & Tony Bourge dropped into a cement mixer with a 10 gallon drum of horse steroids & a box of wah-wah pedals. Wes Nile’s vocals are the unholy amalgam of Blaine Cook and Zack De La Rocha…if they were both locked in a room and told their mommies did nasty things. The album has songs called, among other things “Funeral Hymn Of The Albatross” and “Priapism.” It is totally awesome.

2. BIBLE OF THE DEVIL – “Freedom Metal” – Show me a band who’s put out 5 albums over the last several years, getting better every time and giving the metal world yet another clinic in Chicago Flying V Attack 101 every time. After ‘06’s concept effort “The Diabolic Procession,” this sees ‘em dishing out a simply riveting set of post-NWOBHM rifferama that starts at the first note of “Hijack The Night” and doesn’t let up until the dying strains of “500 More.” A couple nifty surprises like the super-melodic “Heat Feeler” & the Lynott-like “Ol’ Girl” sweeten the pot. Let all your friends who don’t like lead guitar hear this and watch the melted brains ooze out their ears.

3. SANTERIA – “Year Of The Knife” – Seems SANTERIA’s drummer was involved in a serious car accident after their last album (2003) and it was thought the dude may never even walk again, let alone play the tubs. Do these Louisiana Cajun rawkers snag another stickman & move on? Nah, have a little faith, wait for their bro and sure enough, he’s back on the stool. It’s an even better story because this follow-up, some 5 years later, is enough to make anyone foolish enough to worry about a Led Zeppelin reunion forget it anyway. Much like da Zep, SANTERIA move easily from catchy heavy rock to ethnic exploration to more epic & challenging pieces, all with a singular deftness & class. Show me a more powerful song this year than “Haunted Heart.”

4. COLOSSUS – “…And The Rift Of The Pan-Dimensional Undergods” – Proving that North Carolina has something fantastic besides The Outer Banks & college basketball, this 6-man wrecking crew flew in out of nowhere with one of the best debut metal albums in many a long year. Taking elements from everything from Maiden to Mercyful Fate to early Priest to Thin Lizzy, the quality never dips an iota from one end of this bad boy to the other. It all reaches a double-zenith in the lengthy opus “Willow” as well as the impossibly catchy, wonderfully titled “Ghostfucker.” Oh and yeah…they’ve got THREE LEAD GUITAR PLAYERS!

5. VALKYRIE – “Man Of Two Visions” – Capturing the feel of a place is not something usually expected from an underground metal band, but Virginia’s VALKYRIE do it right on this, their 2nd full length effort. Between the perceptive vocals, the unforgettable melodies and the Wishbone Ash-like dual guitar leads, there’s a rural-yet-heavy vibe here that completely encapsulates The Shenandoah Valley. The songwriting of brother guitarists Jake & Pete Adams is transcendental, as they move from the Maiden/Trouble amalgam of “Running Out” through the rustic guitar piece, “The Gorge.”

6. U.S. CHRISTMAS – “Eat The Low Dogs” – Damn, North Carolina strikes again! This time it’s a band who’s been around for awhile, bubbling beneath the surface with somewhat obscure releases until the smart folks at Neurot decided to give this killer gift to the world. I’ve said it at least once & I’ll say it again, this is music that is truly frightening and yet, in a most delightful way. Thundering & dense metallic chords lay a bed for howling feedback & theremin to lay as uneasy bedfellows as a wave of psychedelic paralysis sweeps over the listener. Hurts so good.

7. AGAINST NATURE – “Accumulus / Natural Blue” – I gotta admit. It’s pretty hard for me to pry AN’s 2007 “The Anxiety Of Influence” out of my player. Those two 20+ minute epics comprised a helluva percentage of my listening time over the last couple years. Still, unwilling to rest on their laurels, this Baltimore band not only graced us with a few EP’s and 2 (that’s right, TWO) full lengthers this year. Forging a melodic yet way-powerful style of ‘70’s heavy rock/prog, they then lace it with aspects of jazz and somehow create songs you’ll never forget. One listen to “…Blue’s” “Lemongrass” & you’ll be hooked and John Brenner’s tone-master guitar vibe is just icing on the cake.

8. BLACK 47 – “Iraq” – I’m convinced that there may not be any band in the broad brushstroke of “rock” who can dance between genres with such a smooth touch as New York’s BLACK 47. For years now, this bunch has created music that begins with a basic beat and then opens it’s arms to embrace everything from Celtic folk to NYC punk to Latin to hip-hop to the vast, panoramic arrangements of The Boss’ E Street band. Topping it off are the riveting & poignant lyrics of Larry Kirwan, this time exploring the myriad feelings of the Iraq conflict from experiences of those who were there. Special stuff.

9. TIFFANY APAN – “Poet” – Having noted the relative shortage of quality Celtic folk releases over the last year or so, it was an absolute pleasure to have this disc come sliding out of the mailbox and into my player. Simply put, TIFFANY has one of those special voices that not only makes a song but completely owns it. Her ability to write top-level songs and then to mold & shape them with a voice like gold is wonderful. Songs like “Ashes To Dust” & “Warrior (Soldier For Myself)” are other-worldly in their depth & soul and Jason English’s sometimes heavy guitar work adds a surprising & welcome edge.

10. CYNIC (UK) – “Suburban Crisis” – I won’t go into the whole odd parallel of two different CYNIC’s taking year’s to release albums, only to both do it this past year. See the January ’08 blog for that. I will, however, take the time to once again sing the praises of this English band who had their origins in the NWOBHM. Sporting a sound that’s surely steeped in those golden years of the past, CYNIC brings the spirit forward in a manner that makes tracks like “Dark December” & “Eight Below” way more than just viable in today’s metal scene. Special kudos go to vocalist Shaun Grant, who manages to find a way to merge aspects of both Lemmy & Mike Lezala (Legend) into his style.

1 comment:

Cynic (UK) said...


Thanks so much for the review, and the "getting in the top10". Much appreciated.