01 January 2010

Albums of the Decade

Wow, what a decade. So many changes in my life in these past ten years that the year 2000 feels like a different lifetime in my memory. As always, my moods and experiences were constantly shaped by my soundtrack and the 2000s were a fascinating decade. My tastes seemed to constantly shift and evolve, but some habits die hard.

If you're reading this, you'll understand that I needed to somehow try and make sense of what the last decade meant to me through music, because it is such a constant in my life, and such a part of how I identify myself.

Looking back, researching release dates, so many of these records seem like I'd been listening to them much longer than just in this decade. Some of them have become 'classics' in my collection, and it seems like I keep going back to them at just the right mood.

As always, loved ones, I would like to know your thoughts on this decade's finest music. I'd encourage you to write an illustrated book report as well, but even if you just want to comment here with some of your picks for albums of the decade - I'd just like to know your favorites because in my eyes, my friends, you all have impeccable taste.


Reinventing the Steel
For me, this was the first Pantera album I actually went out and bought and listened to from end to end. I was never that big of a Pantera fan when they first appeared with Cowboys From Hell. I always thought Anselmo kinda came off as a jock douchebag and that turned me off of the band for the longest time. But then around 1997, my friend Matt got me into them just from watching their home videos, and I was an instant fan of Dimebag Darrell, the goodtime party metalhead - who also happened to be a shredding guitarist. So when Reinventing came out, my roommate Tim bought it first, and I was so impressed I had to get it myself. This is Dimebag's finest hour, even if it did turn out to be Pantera's last record. The songs 'Goddamn Electric' and 'Revolution Is My Name' from this record are my two favorite Pantera songs of all time.

Relationship of Command
(Grand Royal)
The year 2000 reminds me most of all of Chi, my old band. When we started out in '99, Chi was still in that in-hindsight embarrassing Korn/Deftones phase (shudder). But as we evolved, we started taking influence from bands like Sunny Day Real Estate, the Get Up Kids, and At the Drive-In. At the Drive-In's influence on us was on the strength of this one album. Sure, they'd released a couple records previously, on lesser-known indie labels, that didn't exactly grab anybody. But Relationship of Command was this out-of-nowhere record that grabbed me by the throat and made me excited about where punk rock could go. Plus, Cedric and Omar reminded me of Wayne Kramer with their afros, and I still go apeshit when I hear 'One-Armed Scissor'. Chi used to play this record nonstop when we'd go out on *tour*. Fond memories.

Holy Wood (In the Shadow of the Valley of Death)
No, it's nowhere near as good as Portrait of An American Family or Antichrist Superstar, but Holy Wood is still shockingly overlooked in Manson's canon. It's a stellar record; definitely #3 on my list for Manson's catalogue. The whole 'concept' storyline is a bit confusing, you can check Wikipedia if care that much. But there's a real sinister vibe to this disc, same as Antichrist Superstar - a lot of subliminal shit goin' on here, a lot of conspiracy theory (the Kennedy assassination, and Masonic 'killing of the king' rituals are a couple of topics). This was the first MM record to come out after he'd been blamed for Columbine, and his disgust at the media's hypocritical finger-pointing is blatantly evident. Probably the last time a band as heavy as this saw a lot of mainstream play - the hit singles "Disposable Teens" and "The Fight Song" were super heavy for mainstream airplay. Seriously, Manson should have called 'er quits after this disc, he'll never recapture what he and his band had here.


A Sun that Never Sets
This was the first record I bought once I moved to Vancouver in September. I remember buying it at HMV Park Royal (a few days before 9/11), then walked home to St. Georges Avenue in the rain., listening to it on a portable CD player (remember those?). By the time I got home, I'd memorized the disc and it echoed in my skull for days, months after. The apocalyptic strains of this disc perfectly summed up my state of mind at the time, in light of worldly developments. I was still reeling from leaving my hometown behind - fresh hope, unfamiliar surroundings, endless possibility, unease, chaos. There is a great, impossible-to-describe power in this record, and I count it among my favorites of all time. I summed it up at the time as sounding like "the hope that follows the end of the world", and that summary still sounds valid to me today.


Morning Star
Trying to stick to a self-imposed rule that I can't pick more than one album from each artist was tough for me with Entombed, because they put out several SOLID records this decade. I'm going with Morning Star. Why? Because the world needed another metal album that was basically non-stop paeans to Lord Lucifer. From the first track, "Chief Rebel Angel", this record is unstoppable. It especially clicks with me - combine the influences of KI$$ and Venom in a Yahtzee shaker, and you've basically got Entombed post-1993. For a death metal album, it's so DAMN catchy - I catch myself singing along to it every time I listen to it. There's not one track of filler on this disc. If you've never heard Entombed before, I would hand you this disc to get you started on the left hand path.


Sing the Sorrow
For a very short, very tumultuous period of my life in early 2003, I listened to this record nonstop. I don't remember how I got turned on to it, but it was a really good lonely record to listen to that first time I was on my own again after initially meeting Tonia, before she decided to live here full-time. The somber, emoverwrought (yep, used it again) songs really stuck with me in a timeframe when I didn't know what was going to happen with *us*. But, as over-the-top as Davey Havok & co. come across, the majority of this record delivers powerful hooks and tearjerker anthems. "Silver and Cold" stands out. Every time I hear this album, I think about what happened, what happened as a result of that, and then what almost happened. Then I sigh and realize it all turned out okay.

(Fat Possum)
Sounds like Hendrix and Howlin' Wolf by way of a couple of smarmy white-boy indie rockers from Akron Ohio. The record sounds so authentic, I had convinced myself that 'Hard Road' was some old standard by Leadbelly or Muddy Waters, but it's actually a BK original. I *even* liked this disc enough to buy it as a gift for my Dad - and what's more, he even listened to it. And liked it. Probably the only time I can say I (hopefully) influenced my Dad's musical taste. A small victory, but one I'll take nonetheless.

(Music For Nations)
Well, THAT self-imposed rule didn't last very long, but I just couldn't leave this disc out because it has one of my favorite song titles of all time in 'That's When I Became a Satanist' (c'mon, that's one of the greatest titles of all time!). Additionally, the songs 'Retaliation' and 'The Fix Is In' are two of the most solid songs in Entombed's repertoire. Inferno saw Entombed headed back to death-metal-land after detouring into death'n'roll territory for the latter '90s, but somewhere out there, they got quite a sardonic sense of humour and injected it into every album since. Fierce.

Scandinavian Leather
(Burning Heart)
I'd been introduced to Turbonegro as far back as my short season in hell (Merritt) in 1998, but they'd broken up before I really got into them. So when they reformed and returned with this record, they instantly converted me into the Turbojugend I'm proud to consider myself today. After all, one of my favorite lines of all time is from 'Fuck the World': "I got razor-blade lips, I'm gonna kiss some wrists". Coupled with the sleazy beauty of 'Sell Your Body to the Night', this album -while triumphant- is a shakey return. Nowhere near their most consistent effort, not by far, but for what it represented to me personally, it's one of my faves for 2003.


(Southern Lord)
Yup, it took Dave Grohl to come along and show all the metalheads how it was going to be done in 2004, and that while the Foo Fighters hard-pop may be a great day job, there's still some latent metalhead in the old boy yet. You'll see my list for this year is conspicuously sparse. That's because the Probot album was so good, it counts for at least 3 or 4 albums. Basically, Dave asked all of his favorite metal vocalists to contribute and then he -Grohl- wrote songs to fit their singing styles and history. The Lemmy track sounds like Motörhead, the Lee Dorrian song sounds like Cathedral, the Cavalera song like latter-day Sepultura. Absolutely brilliant. I keep my fingers crossed hoping for a Probot II record, because the first one was SO awesome. I basically listened to this for the entire year (it came out in February), and I'm STILL not sick of it.


Rock and Roll Is Dead
The swan song of Sweden's finest rock and roll band. Sure, they released another album in 2007, but it was all covers. I'd followed them since my Kamloops days when I had to order their discs from Spinners and pay import prices, and this disc was to be their finest hour. There are almost hints of cosmic country in a few of the tracks, but it's their most consistent, most solid effort. Every track is a real stunner, and the band showed its maturation with every consecutive release. This is their finest moment.


(A) Senile Animal
I'm sayin' it - hands down, the best Melvins album ever. Those two dudes from Big Business joined the fold and turned the Melvins into a superdrum juggernaut. But the songs are a fine return to form for the progenitors of the Seattle scene. I hoped they could follow it up in 2008 with Nude With Boots, but it was not to be - Nude With Boots was too busy trying to be led Zeppelin. The songs on (A) Senile Animal are heavier, clever-er, and catchier. A little more intricate than the previous thud-wallop of the Melvins, but no less accessible.

(Century Media)
I'll be the first to admit, I missed out on Frost the first time around. Either I was too young, or I just didn't get into the heavier stuff early enough. Either way, all I remember was the video for 'Circle of the Tyrants' and that one hardcore in the audience who painted black rings around his eyes and an inverted cross on his forehead. It wasn't until much later that I realized what an influence they were. So the fact that they reunited and released an album like Monotheist was a pleasant surprise, because it's a killer record start to finish. It was the Celtic Frost album that took twenty years to make, but it's probably their best work to date as well.

Kind of a left field entry for me, but I really like the minimalist heartbreak pop of Owen Ashworth. There are some real stick-in-your-head songs on here, but for me, the cake-taker is 'Bobby Malone Moves Home' which has a very special place in my heart (eh Bobby?). But 'New Year's Kiss' and 'Don't They Have Payphones Wherever You Were Last Night' are heartbreakers too, and 'Holly Hobby (version)' will get stuck in your head for days. CFTPA's Vs. Children (2009) is also a great record, and I recommend it as well, but of the two this one wins out for me, and is a better place to start. .

Dante XXI
I'm not alone in saying that this album is probably Sepultura's strongest post-Max-Cavalera effort since he left the band in 1996. It's also Igor Cavalera's last record with the band, and his drumming here is once again top notch (which was always a major selling feature for me), a strong reminder of why he will always be one of the most impressive drummers in death metal. A concept record based on The Divine Comedy, this record is a solid effort start-to-finish - but it's also the kind of disc you have to sit and listen to in its entirety, because it's a pretty grand effort. Derrick Greene is at his best here; his vocals are harsh and never sounded better than they do here.


Here Come the Waterworks
Who the hell are these guys? A former Murder City Devil and a member of Karp? Why does a two-man band sound like this? Two-man bands are supposed to sound sparse and minimalist, not all barky and loud. Not like the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Why does the vocalist sound like early-solo Ozzy, and how do they get such noisy songs to be so effin' catchy? How'd they get a sometime-Melvins guy to play guitar on it? Why are they the best new band I heard in the Oughties? How did they become fulltime members of the Melvins, thereby (incredulously!) making the Melvins even better - and why would they, considering how awesome their own material is? All of these questions can be answered by repeated listening to this record. Not one bum track, every song is a hilarious bludgeon.

We Sing of Only Blood or Love
(Fat Possum)
Since his days of sounding like a malevolent Jim Morrison in the sinister Acid Bath, Dax Riggs always stood out vocally. This was his first record after breaking up his next band (deadboy and the Elephantmen), and it's a stunningly strong effort. There's a darkness here, but it's such a CATCHY darkness. Sure, the comparisons to the White Stripes are unfortunately inevitable - but Dax's stuff is meatier/less disposable than the Stripes' radio-friendly faux-blues. With its poetic lyrical imagery of near-fatal near-misses, and demons tied to chairs in one's brain, We Sing of Only Blood or Love is some powerful mojo and one of my favorite white-boy-blues albums of all time.

Axis of Eden
After a major infatuation with Today is the Day in the late '90s, I kind of lost touch after their massive 2001 'experiment' Sadness Will Prevail - a grandiose, two-disc flop, with too much noodly, 'ooo-scary' attempts at ambience, and not enough of that hate-venom-spew that we all came to expect and love. Then they tried to get it back on 2004's Kiss the Pig, but that album was too short, too much of a middle finger to everyone who didn't appreciate the *art* of Sadness. Plus, the constant lineup changes took their toll. But finally in 2007, Steve Austin rewrote the book with Axis of Eden, which is a painfully crushing reminiscence of the TITD albums of the late-90s. 'Black Steyr-Aug' is a vicious migraine of a song ("YOU. ARE. FUCKED. FUCKED FOREVER. OUT OF FUCKIN' LUCK!"), in that listening to it will leave you wanting to smash shit in with your forehead into things - and decidedly the standout track here.

Another one of those 'where did these guys come from?' bands (uh, Brooklyn), Parts and Labor make tasty noise rock that's too brainy to be metal, but they're definitely in the neighborhood. The similarity to Hüsker Dü doesn't go unnoticed, and the singers have their Bob Mould-isms down pat. The drummer is un-freakin'-beleeevabull and relentless, as is necessary for a proper noise-rock band. Plus, they're one of those bands that still make great videos:


Death Magnetic
(Warner Bros)
You must have seen this coming. Metallica were, for me and millions of others, effectively dead since about 1992, earlier for some. The whole image shift, and atrocities like Load and Re-Load were enough for most of us to say we were done. Then along comes Rick Rubin to make the best effing Metallica record since 1988's ...And Justice For All. By rights, Death Magnetic should have been its sequel, instead there's this twenty-year gap where Metallica kinda went AWOL. Aside from the horrendous production (constant clipping of the guitars - FYI, you can find versions online that fans have remixed, correcting the clipping), the record was a huge surprise to everybody. I think that's why I'm including it here; mostly because it was such a pleasant surprise for 2008. The songs are there, they're ten minutes long again, and actually heavy. Plus, Marianne Faithfull is nowhere to be found.

The Age of Nero
Fine. I cheated and put this on my 'Best of 2009' list and here's it's in 2008* . Plus, I'm repeating myself. Two strikes. But first, you ought to listen to the record and maybe you'll see why it's so important I had to include it here. Satyricon seems to be tapping into something with the direction they're taking their music in. Purists will argue that black metal is not supposed to be 'accessible', and while I see their point, I see Satyricon as taking the genre in a direction that's needed. Plus, the music is still raw enough that your average rock fan isn't going to all of a sudden develop and interest in Norwegian black'n'roll. But you listen to 'Black Crow on a Tombstone' and tell me that it ISN'T stuck in your head for days afterwards. 'Commando' and 'The Wolfpack' too, all of them are catchy as hell, for black metal.
* The Age of Nero came out in Europe November 3 2008, but the North American release wasn't until early 2009. That said though, the internet has rendered international release dates irrelevant anyway, so it's all a moot point.


The Brother Seed
(Norway Rat)
Just barely made the list as I only found out about them in December (thanks again Alex). Norwegian noise rock with funny characters in the band's name - what's not to like? Årabrot sounds like all of my favorite AmRep bands from the 90s had a drunken baby band together and then they got Super Grover to sing for it. Seriously, the way that guy strains his voice raises MY blood pressure. 'Fumble Finger' was the first track I heard, and I was instantly smitten. Albini's production shines thourhg as always and complements Årabrot's songs.

Evolution Through Revolution
This one was on my original 'Best of 2009' list, and I didn't want to bump it, but I just couldn't do a 'Top 11' list. Brutal Truth reunited after a 10-year hiatus and this album is proof they didn't get rusty; in fact they got better. I have a hard time with grindcore (too start-stop-wheedla-skronk, almost like free-form jazz), but not when it's done by these guys (or Napalm Death, but that's ALL). Rich Hoak is still inhuman as a drummer, and Kevin Sharp is still a monster screamer. The cover of the Minutemen's 'Bob Dylan Wrote Propaganda Songs' is going to be bashing its way around your head for a few days after hearing it, trust me. But every track is on point here, and it' sure good to have Brutal Truth back. I missed that feeling of wanting to headbutt objects made of metal and brick.

Darkness Come Alive
(Deathwish Inc)
You put on that track 'Lions' and you tell me that shit doesn't make you feel proud... it's absolutely anthemic, something that's missing from a lot of bands today. The whole record has a feeling of being bigger than everyone expected of it. Sure, there are other standout tracks ('Heavy Lies the Crown', 'Blood Avenger') but 'Lions' is one of those bloody-battlefield, 'come-ON-fuckers!' songs that makes you think you were maybe a Viking Berserk in a past life. Shitty day at work? Some asshole cut you off in traffic? Bad customer-service experience? Trust me, put on 'Lions', I swear you'll feel twelve feet tall and made of iron. Darkness Comes Alive is an epic disc, and it should put Doomriders on the map for good.

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