2010 was an interesting year for music. My top ten is comprised of albums that I didn't really see coming, and didn't think would end up being at the top of my year end list. 2010 was full of releases from some of my favorite bands that I was highly anticipating; Melvins, Kylesa, Enslaved, and Nachtmystium. While all released great albums, none really blew me away the way their past efforts had. Without further ado, here is SF Sludge's favorite metal albums of 2010
1. Thou- Summit (Gilead Media)
This album without doubt is my number one album of the year. I got into Thou late last year through an intriguing ad in Decibel magazine. I my interest was piqued by their massive vinyl output and the historical looking artwork. This album sees Thou blossom as songwriters, finding the perfect balance between soul-crushing heaviness and an unabashed melody. I was completely blown away by this album, every single song is fantastic. What really took me by surprise was their use of melody. This is their most melodic output to date, but at the same time the most crushing. No longer the "recorded in our friends apartment sounding" record, this album features acoustic guitar overdubs, piano, organ, strings and horns. Best album of the year in my opinion.
2. Horseback- The Invisible Mountain (reissue, Relapse)
Ok so this one is kind of cheating. The Invisible Mountain had a limited release on the excellent Utech Records label in 2009, and was reissued by Relapse this year. I have the original release and it has some very cool artwork. I don't really know what to say about this album. I've never heard anything quite like it. I've listened to it's four tracks over and over again and I never tire of them. The first three are quite heavy, fuzzed out, rhythmic and repetitive. The last song "Hatecloud Dissolving Into Nothing" is a 16 minute e-bow and acoustic guitar laden track that drifts and undulates and completely immerses you into it's warm drone. 10/10, 100%, five stars.
3. Castevet- Mounds Of Ash (Profound Lore)
At one point, I realized that Profound Lore was probably the best label for contemporary metal, so I just started buying their releases whenever a new one came out, because it was basically guaranteed to be awesome. This is the first full length album by New York's Castevet and it is incredible. Everything on this record just works. The guitar tone is nice and heavy, the bass is highly audible, and the drums are so complex you'll get a headache trying to figure out how it's all played. While Castevet are quite technical, it never gets in the way of their songwriting. The riffs stick in your head and you can actually hum them. The fact that Colin Marston recorded and engineered this album helped make this record gold.
4. Ludicra- The Tenant (Profound Lore)
This was my introduction to Ludicra. Sure I'm out of the loop or a noob or whatehaveyou but I take a long time to check out certain bands. Their addition to the PFL roster was enough for me to pay attention. The first song I heard was "A Larger Silence," a song about people who have jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge. It was one of the most harrowing yet devastatingly beautiful songs I'd heard in a long time. The album expresses the struggles of tenancy in San Francisco, and urban life in general. The album art and design is impeccable thanks to bassist Ross Sewage, and makes for a great presentation for a great album. Ludicra make me proud to live in this city.
5. Locrian- The Crystal World (Utech)
Where did this album come from? To me, from seemingly nowhere. I love album art, and an eye-pleasing design is more than enough for me to check out an album. I'm a big fan of Justin Bartlett's artwork, and one day I was checking out his website and I saw his art for "The Crystal World" for Chicago's Locrian, and I knew I had to buy the album. I heard the song "At Night's End" online and I was relieved by how how good it was, as I was afraid the music wouldn't hold up to the visuals. But it does, and then some. This album definitely feels like you're taking a journey, and everything around you is glazing over into crystal detritus. Number five best album, but number one best artwork.
6. Ehnahre- Taming The Cannibals (Crucial Blast)
This is another album that came out of nowhere, for the better because that just added to the sense of awe I felt when I first heard this album. Loose, free jazz drumming, downtuned guitar, and tortured vocals screaming 20th century poetry as lyrics. How could it not be good? This band features ex members of Kayo Dot, and it comes through in the band's weirdness. All in all, I love this album. It's heavy, weird, and thought provoking. Brilliant.
7. Twilight- Monument To Time End (Southern Lord)
8. Agalloch- Marrow Of The Spirit (Profound Lore)
9. The Body- All The Waters Of The Earth Turn To Blood (At A Loss)
10. High On Fire- Snakes For The Divine (E1 Music)
11. Salome- Terminal (Profound Lore)
12. Triptykon- Esparistera Daimones (Century Media)
13. Celeste- Morte(s) Nee(s) (Denovali Records)
14. The Secret- Solve Et Coagula (Southern Lord)
15. Intronaut- Valley Of Smoke (Century Media)
16. Cloudkicker- Beacons (Self-Released)
17. Integrity- The Blackest Curse (Deathwish)
18. Landmine Marathon- Sovereign Descent (Prosthetic)
19. Sailors With Wax Wings- Sailors With Wax Wings (Angel Oven)
20. The Howling Wind- Into The Cryosphere (Profound Lore)
Honorable Mentions: Slough Feg- The Animal Spirits, 1349- Demonoir, Unearthly Trance- V,
Best Non-Metal Releases of 2010 (No particular order)
Barn Owl- Ancestral Star (Thrill Jockey)
Joanna Newsom- Have One On Me (Drag City)
Antony & The Johnsons- Swanlights (Secretly Canadian)
Zola Jesus- Stridulum EP
Swans- My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky (Young God)
Holy Sons- Survivalist Tales (Partisan Records)
Master Musicians Of Bukkake- Totem Two (Important Records)
Man's Gin- Smiling Dogs (Profound Lore)
EPs, Splits, Vinyl LPs Enjoyed:
Horseback- Forbidden Planet full-length cassette (Brave Mysteries)
Dispirit- Rehearsal At Oboroten cassette tape (self released)
Grails- Black Tar Prophecies vol. 4 vinyl-only 12" (Important Records)
Torche- Songs For Singles (Hydra Head) Is this an EP? In all the interviews I read prior to the release they said they were doing an EP before their next proper full length, but it's been called an album by many publications. Doesn't matter, it's awesome.
Altar Of Plagues- Tides EP (Burning World)
Thou/Moloch Split: Tears That Soak A Callous Heart (Perpetual Motion Machine)
Mamiffer/House Of Low Culture Split- s/t (Utech)
Isis/Melvins split 12" (Hydra Head)
Kowloon Walled City/Fight Amp/Ladder Devils- Lose Lose Lose three way split (Brutal Panda)
Top Ten Most Listened-to Tracks of 2010
1. Up All Night by Grails- 31 plays
2. Hatecloud Dissolving Into Nothing by Horseback- 25 plays
3. Harvester by Castevet- 24 plays
4. 8,000 Years by Twilight- 24 plays
5. Grey Matter by Castevet- 23 plays
6. A Larger Silence by Ludicra- 22 plays
7. Tyrant Symmetry by Horseback- 20 plays
8. Ruined Life Continuum by Nachtmystium- 20 plays
9. The Cryptic Ascension by Twilight- 20 plays
10. Frost Hammer by High On Fire- 18 plays
Most Anticipated Releases of 2011
Isis- last recorded material, live cds and live DVD (2011)
Grails- Deep Politics (March 8)
Krallice- TBA (Spring)
Horseback- New full length, split/collabs with Pyramids and Locrian (2011)
Pyramids- Collab with Wraiths (2011)
Dark Castle- TBA (Spring)
Best Shows Of 2010
*note, as of this writing I have not yet attended the Agalloch/Dispirit show at Great American, which is pretty much guaranteed to be amazing, and one of the best shows of the year.
Great AMerican Music Hall, The Troubador
My favorite band Isis broke up this year. I already booed and hooed about it here.
High On Fire/Torche/Kylesa- Sanctioned Annihilation Tour
Great American Music Hall
Amazing bill. Three heavy, sludgy bands that are incredibly different from each other, but have enough in common to make a show like this really work.
Triptykon/1349/Yakuza- Weltenbrand Tour
I felt honored to watch Tom G. Warrior perform. The man is an icon, and many of the bands I enjoy today owe some debt to him. 1349 were awesome, Yakuza sounded perfect, and Bruce Lamont is a great guy.
My first time seeing any of these bands. Pale Chalice blew me completely away and I can't wait to see where they go in the future. Fell Voices exceeded any expectations I had before seeing them. Moloch was pretty good, but I couldn't really get into them. Thou are quickly becoming one of my favorite bands. They completely neglected the stage and played on the floor with the rest of us.
Portal- First North American Tour
Everything has already been said about Portal. They band played in in pitch black with occasional flashes from cameras showing their shrouded faces. Please come back!
Watain- Lawless North America Tour
Yes, Watain. A lot of shit gets talked about Watain, as is to be expected with any metal band that sees some success, especially black metal (see Nachtmystium). Throw in the fact that Scion sponsored the tour and the shit talkers have a picnic. I don't care about the politics of black metal at all, and I still don't know how I feel about Scion's involvement in metal, but from what I can see they haven't done any damage to "our scene."
At the end of the night, I had a blast. We had two great local openers (Pale Chalice and Necrite), and two established acts (Black Anvil and Goatwhore). It didn't even matter that the air conditioner was on full blast on an already cold, rainy night. I even forgot I hate the DNA Lounge. I was truly entertained. Whatever their intent might be, there is no denying that Watain put on a show. The make up, props, blood and fetid stench all help transform the space and immerse the audience.
As much as I love Thee Parkside, it's pretty bland on the inside. It's really up to the artist to create the atmosphere. Impaled had no problem achieving this. Fog machines, "impaled" skulls on mic stands, flashing police lights and matching uniforms helped transfrom a dive bar into Impaled's theater of gore. Ross Sewage (also of Ludicra and Ghoul) can do no wrong.
All in all 2010 was a great year for music and I was able to see/shoot tons of amazing artists. Thanks to Jessica for driving me a million places, Photoray and Sensory Abuse for their help and advice, the people at Earsplit and whoever reads or has shared this blog. Here's looking forward to another year of Sludge.