Thursday, 3 September 2009

The Manflet Metal Round Up... 2009 so far

If I’d known when I was sullen teen just how socially acceptable metal was going to become, the narrow minded little misanthrope that I was probably would have hated it. But thankfully in the early 90s metal couldn’t have been less popular which makes it all the more remarkable that it’s now the most popular music form in the world.

Still, you wouldn’t know that this was the case given the confused looks you get from most people if you mention a band other than Metallica, Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath etc. So, with Manflet being a veritable fountain of knowledge on so many subjects, I thought I would put together a list of my favourite metal albums of 2009 so far, so that the curious can dip their toes into the otherwise confusing maelstrom that is the genre, the poorly educated can add a few obscurities to their shallow library of metal knowledge and the disagreeable twats can tell me I’ve got it completely wrong.

1.Kreator – Hordes of Chaos
Who would have thought that one of the best thrash albums ever would be released in 2009 by Kreator of all the bands in the world. Kreator were somewhere very near the top of the pile of the German thrash scene in the 80s but following the world’s betrayal of metal in the 90s they went quite crap. 2001’s Violent Revolution was promising but Christ alive, dead, then alive again, Hordes of Chaos is truly jaw dropping. It’s catchy as hell, despite using the minimum of melody and the vocals sound like Reign in Blood era Tom Araya but seriously pissed off. I can’t believe this album isn’t part of a really cool dream from which I’ll wake up and feel slightly depressed at how dull reality really can be at times.

2.Heaven & Hell - The Devil You Know
You might think you haven't heard of these, but technically you have as it's pretty much the Black Sabbath line-up from the 1980 and 1981 and 1992 albums Heaven and Hell, Mob Rules and Dehumanizer respectively with tiny metal god Ronnie James Dio (beloved of Jack Black) on vox. It’s a fact that few are willing to admit, but Ronnie is a better singer than Ozzy by miles even though he’s miniature and ancient – imagine if Bilbo had given in to the dark whims of the One Ring and you get the picture.

3.Crystal Viper - Metal Nation
What do you mean you've never heard of them? So what if they have less than 2000 listeners on Crystal Viper play metal truer than Manowar at Sunday Mass. Armoured skeletons on album cover - check, orchestral intro - check, song about Zombies - check and they're Polish and have a girl singer who occasionally goes by the name Leatherwitch. If Robert E Howard, author of the Conan the Barbarian stories, was alive today, Polish and into metal he would be in Crystal Viper.

4.My Dying Bride - For Lies I Sire
You haven't heard of these either? Okay, well I think you can guess from the band name what they're going to sound like. Now add violins and some keyboards and there you go. Probably too miserable for most, but they were/are one of my favourite bands ever so you'll have to live with it. I often refer to them as the Morissey of Doom/Death metal but to be honest that’s doing them disfavour as at their most morose they make Morrisey look like High School Musical.

5.The Gathering – The West Pole
Some less open-minded metal fans will decry me for including this release on a list titled ‘metal’, but I’m not doing some wanky post-metal roundup list because post- genres are just stupid. Anyway, this is like um... Okay there’s probably a whole book, nay a whole library to be written on the subject of whether music writing can ever come close to capturing the actual sounds of the music it tries to describe, especially in the case of bands who do their best to avoid categorisation. Put it this way, if you like moody, powerful, beautiful music with rich female vocals you might like this, if you don’t it’s because the descriptive terms I used are highly ambiguous and prone to idiosyncratic interpretation.

6.Madder Mortem – Eight Ways
Okay, I know you’re going to listen to this for ten seconds and say it sounds like Evanescence and call me a 16 year old emo faux goth but it totally doesn’t and I’m totally not. In a long tradition of metal bands that bring jazz-like influences into their music (well as far back as Atheist anyway) Madder Mortem do it in a distinctively Norwegian style, i.e. really fucking well with a disconcerting undercurrent of weirdness. By the way don’t be put off by the jazz thing, I’m not talking New Orleans or anything, more that it’s unpredictable and has some weird time signatures and stuff.

7.Revolting – Dreadful Pleasures
I couldn’t decide whether to include this or Denial’s ‘Catacombs of the Grotesque’ (oh the stress) as my favourite new old school style death metal album, this won simply because I happened to have listened to it more, such are the whims of fate. To be fair if you’re not a death metal fan you’ll fail to hear the sublime Entombed/Dismember/Grave/Carnage isms, you’ll just hear a god awful racket with a man bellowing in a Cookie Monster voice over the top. If you do like death metal you should love this because it’s just sooo death metal, no prog, no jaz, no posts, no acoustic passages, no keyboards, no singing etc.

8.Believer – Gabriel
Another thrash album makes the list and a bunch of Christians at that (James is not alone), who’d have thought it? It’s very easy to describe this as ‘progressive’ because it’s full of weird breaks and random passages of non-metal type sounds. But when it’s being less weird and very metal it’s a bloody heavy little bugger.

9.Wolf - Ravenous
Ah the Swedes, they just have a knack for making really good classic metal (see Grand Magus’ ‘Iron Will’ for further evidence). Maybe it’s because they don’t take themselves as seriously as the British that they feel comfortable playing this stuff or maybe it’s because they take themselves so seriously that the perfect replication of 80s metal has been transformed into an aesthetic pursuit that must be mastered. Anyway, there are bits of Maiden, Priest, Helloween and Running Wild (I had to mention a slightly obscure one) in here and some seriously catchy choruses, which lest face it is a must in the trad metal stakes.

10.Candlemass – Death Magic Doom
Back when doom metal was a dirt term Candlemass were being miserable and epic, and they continue to do so today and it’s made all the more epic because Rob Lowe of Solitude Aeturnus sings for them (did I lose you there?). 'Death Magic Doom' is also one of the best album titles ever and the song 'The Bleeding Baroness' is probably the catchiest thing they've ever written.

11.Amorphis – Skyforger
You thought I was going to stop at 10, eh, what do you think this is the Manflet RnB roundup, jeez. Anyway I absolutely love Amorphis and have done since I heard a track on an obscure metal compilation in 1992. So even though this album is not that different from their last two, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t a slice of pure genius, it just means it’s yet another slice of pure genius. As far as I’m concerned Amorphis are the last word in epic-ness. The (relatively) new singer does death growls and proper singing to perfection and the music is both heavy and melodic. As with all Amorphis albums the lyrics are based on the Finnish national myth cycle the Kalevala which makes for some interesting if not strictly intelligible song subjects.

Anyway that's it for now, tune back in in December for more. Actually come back before then December is ages away...


James Glazebrook said...

dude, you're so underground! i haven't heard of most of this...

i think you should organise a giveaway - a data cd containing all these albums for anyone who comments on this post.

like me.

Nick said...

If I'd put a couple of black metal albums in there I'd have been TRVE and KVLT too.

Good idea though. You're the first of a hundred winners, congratulations!!! Your CD will be in the post, or most likely in my bag because I'll forget to post it.

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