Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Ray's Top 10 of 2009 Revealed!

1. COLOSSUS – “Drunk On Blood” – A little over a year and a half ago, North Carolina’s COLOSSUS came flying out of Chapel Hill with a debut album that rocketed to #4 on the Raysrealm Top 10 of 2008. There were songs that hinted at the best of Mercyful Fate and Maiden. The vocals called to mind “Stained Class.” The lyrics spoke of a world of gnashing teeth, blood-ridden demons &…well, yes, “Ghost Fuckers.” And then, there were those guitars. 3 of them. They rode in together like the Dalton gang, sporting swaggering riffs, dizzying Lizzy-like harmonies and solos that are dreamed of where names like Downing, Tipton, Smith & Murray may even fear to tread. Then, this year, COLOSSUS went ahead and recorded 5 songs that even snowed that shit under. And they put it out on vinyl, yet. Case closed.

2. THE GRAVIATORS – “The Graviators” – Holy shit, this album kicks ass! Really, that’s my reaction every time I hear this relatively late entry that bulled it’s way up my 2009 list. See, THE GRAVIATORS have 3 things going for them: 1) While heavy as a rhino’s ballsack, they still throw a chockblock of melody into every song. 2) They plant surprises in just the right spots, from the Sir Lord Baltimore-style coda of “Keep ‘Em Coming” to the “Dreams Of Milk & Honey” style solo at the end of 9-minute epic “Planet Gone.” 3) They have an awesome, killer maniac guitarist who rips like a total axe God. This album is everything Sabbath’s “Devil You Know” piece of shit wasn’t.

3. THE MISHAPS – “The Mishaps” – How about treating yourselves to a combination of The Hellacopters and Blue Oyster Cult? Crazy, you say? Not so much, when all you’ve gotta do is throw in this little disc from my hometown’s (that’s Baltimore to you, honcho!) very own THE MISHAPS. Part of the gig of the year (them paired with Colossus at The Golden West Café in July), this band comes on with a hard rawkin’ sense of melody, not to mention a clever sense of humor and the panache to package this as a LP/CD combo. What a deal!

4. MORGLBL – “Jazz For The Deaf” – A recommendation from my bowling buddy Rick & Roll (The Rickter Scale show on Delicious Agony Radio), I was told their guitarist worshipped Dimebag & Coltrane in equal parts. Having to see / hear this for myself, I trundled out to see this trio at Orion Studios earlier in the year and after picking my jaw back up off the floor, I proceeded to buy not only this one but their entire back catalog. Oh yeah, I got a t-shirt too so either I’m a sucker or they’re really good. Hint: I only suck female parts and there’s no girls in this band.

5. CORY CASE – “Waiting On A Remedy” – When I used to sit up in that stifling bedroom on those long August afternoons and plunk out sour chords and reedy solos on my 4-pick-up (yes, 4!!!) Lafayette Electronics guitar, I was trying to be Leslie West. Or Mark Farner. Or Tony Iommi. Point is, I wasn’t about emulating the subtle crowd. Louder was better. Accept when I’d have a go at a couple of Jim Croce’s gems like “I’ve Got A Name” or “Time In A Bottle.” See, even for a true-blue rawker like me, there was something fresh and brutally honest about the late Mr. Croce’s soul-bearing laments. Such a shame that he was taken so young, and his loss left a gaping hole in the singer-songwriter camp that never was filled. Until now. CORY CASE has a wonderful gift and I’ve played this album enough times to know that.

6. OSIBISA – “Osee Yee” – I remember one day when I was a kid riding my bike back Dale Avenue and I passed a guy carrying a copy of the Carlos Santana / Buddy Miles “Live” album that had just come out. I remember how bad-assed-looking the cover was and thinking Santana looked like a long-haired version of my favourite ball player, Frank Robinson. I also wondered if anybody else had ever taken music from their own culture and made it groove like a bitch the way Carlos did. A few trips to the record store later and Africa’s OSIBISA had answered my question. Now it’s nearly 40 years later and they’ve released their best album since 1971. Frank Robinson hit 28 home runs that year.

7. RIPPER – “The Dead Have Rizen” – Having blithely walked past RIPPER’s “And The Dead Shall Rise” LP in 1986 with all the streetwise savvy of a rock, Ray actually finally got his act together one day. Suffice it to say, this miraculous happening wasn’t greeted by God mixing up the red matter and ending it all in shock, but he did settle for sending the Realmsman a few more brain cells on down. He rested and Ray, lo and behold recognized the long-awaited 2nd RIPPER album as the metal-banging motherfucker that it is and wrote a suitably kick-ass review about it that appears early on in 2009’s entries. And, all was good.

8. THE CHURCH – “Untitled # 23” – If I were a good liar I’d say, “Yeah man, I’m a big CHURCH fan, man, got all the unreleased stuff, a couple box sets…hey how ‘bout that show from Brisbane ’95 that’s been circulating, eh?” But the problem is I learned not to lie in my sophomore year of high school. That was when I failed 3 subjects, forged my parents signatures on the report card and…got caught within a week. So, I’ll come clean. I didn’t know diddlysquat about THE CHURCH until Bowling Rick asked me to go see ‘em live earlier this year. After being mesmerized by (for me, live performer of the year) Steve Kilbey, I immediately bought this and played it 10,000 times. If Wishbone Ash, Radiohead and David Gilmour had a baby, it might grow up like this.

9. ANVIL CHORUS – “The Killing Sun” – Back in the heyday of San Francisco’s thrash metal scene, clubs like The Old Waldorf and The Mabuhay Gardens were the stomping grounds of young whippersnappers like Metallica & Exodus. These guys discovered that if you combined the aggression of attacking the low e-string on your guitar like a rabid mongoose with the catchiness found in UFO & Diamond Head, you had the DNA of an exciting new genre. Funny thing was, ANVIL CHORUS was trodding the same boards but with a much different tactic… super-melodic, progressively structured songs, well-crooned vocals and guitar and keyboard work that would give Rush reason to question themselves. Sad fact of the matter was, the band never got anywhere and left the legacy of a couple massive demo tapes as their epitaph. Well, justice is sometimes served and in 2009, this slumbering giant awoke and recorded those songs again, this time in the form of an album that’s a blinder from start to finish.

10. ADMIRAL OF BLACK – “The Hand Of Chaos” – Thanks to the good people over at, this one bites the Top 10 hard at the last minute and just won’t let go. One of those rare near-perfect balances between hard rock & metal, Chicago’s ADMIRAL OF BLACK also finds a beautiful balance between in-your-face Panteraggressions and haunting pensive moments that would have Pearl Jam running jealous. You may also want to get the hell out of Dodge if you have any aversion to bad-assed guitar playing, because the solos here are nothing short of brutal. Check out the way their axe man let’s it rip so deftly over the rhythm changes, something the old guys used to do. Beards, long hair & Flying V’s rule!

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