Top 10 Albums of 2009

So, in the theme of the holidays (and, coincidentally, jockin' Kyle’s style), here’s my top 10 albums of 2009. These are in no particular order, and represent only the albums I’ve actually picked up and listened to. While I like to think I listen to a lot of albums, I know I’ve not listened to all of them. And here we go…

Crack the Skye - Mastodon

Wow. This album blew me away. I had heard some good things about this album before listening to it. I was not anticipating how awesome it would turn out. To me, when you look at Mastodon on paper, there shouldn’t be anything special. A progressive metal band from Atlanta. Hmm…OK. But their approach to writing music is magical. Crack the Skye feels like a hallucinogenic mindfreak of a trip to me. From start to finish, it’s a voyage that has not let me down. A worthy successor to Blood Mountain, in my mind. “The Czar” (all 11+ minutes of it) continues to melt my mind every time I listen to it, especially at the climax as the lyrics “Spiraling up through the crack in the sky”. Breathtaking. Should have been nominated for a Grammy.

Deflorate - The Black Dahlia Murder

I saw these guys live for the first time at this summer’s Mayhem Festival and they really impressed me. I liked Unhallowed, and when I heard they had a new album coming out I was kind of excited. This album has not left my rotation since it came out. From start to finish these guys just plow through my face with riff after riff that defines death metal. Great stuff. I can’t wait for the next one.

Wrath - Lamb of God

What can I say about Lamb of God? Just another metal band? Hardly. These guys dominate a live stage like nobody else, and their passion really shows through on every set I’ve seen. This album feels a lot more stripped down than the producer’s wet dream that was Sacrament, and for that I really appreciate it. But the songs stick with me. The guitars are glorious, and the way Randy changes up his vocals throughout the album is a welcome change of pace. Definitely worthy of the Grammy nomination.

The Pariah, The Parrot, The Delusion - Dredg

I saw these guys earlier in the year at The Bottom Lounge in Chicago. I love ‘em. I’m convinced these guys approach music the same way a painter approaches a new canvas. Catch Without Arms was a great album, but this album feels a lot more attuned with El Cielo or Leitmotif in terms of artistic integrity. “Pariah” gives me goosebumps every time I hear the “Dah dah da dah da da dahhhhh” at the beginning. Excellent album.

Relapse - Eminem

The only hip-hop album on my list. Wow. F***ing brilliant. Eminem goes on hiatus for years and comes out with this opus? I think it was all worth it. After reading all of the struggles he went through during his time away from the mixing board and then hearing him pour his heart out on this album it’s easy to see why he has problems with substances. Every track on this record could be a candidate for the best hip-hop song of the year, in my opinion.

Hollow Crown - Architects

A UK metalcore band? Huh? Seriously awesome album. I have my homie Gordon to thank for this one. The first time I played this album I was blasting my stereo at home, and I immediately started head banging to the drums on “Early Grave”. Totally surprised me in a good way. These guys got chops, and I’d love to see ‘em live sometime soon.

The Eternal Return - Darkest Hour

Darkest Hour has been a staple in the metal community for much of the 2000’s. This album further defines their sound. It seems like they almost stepped back a lot of their riffing on this album, but in a good way. Almost like they’ve done all the crazy stuff in the past, now they are carving out songs that kick you in the face and stick with you. Dialed back, if you will. Not to say the riffs aren’t complex and intricate, it just feels like they scaled things back perfectly to reflect a more defined song writing approach. Well done. The lead off song “Devolution of Flesh” has one of the most memorable guitar riffs of theirs I’ve heard since Hidden Hands of a Sadist Nation.

Killswitch Engage - Killswitch Engage

I am a big Adam Dutkiewicz mark. The guy is as talented as he is hilarious. When I heard they were putting out a new album and touring on Mayhem Festival, I was stoked. They didn’t disappoint me. In a way, the band stayed true to form, and in a way they seem to have added a lot more aggresion than was present on As Daylight Dies. A lot of metal heads don’t appreciate the lyrical content and styling of Howard Jones…I think he’s great. Awesome album. Plus the inclusion of live versions of “Rose of Sharyn”, “My Curse”, and “Holy Diver” make it even better. Hearing Adam call the crowd “douches” made me laugh in my car when I listened through it the first time. I can’t wait to hear Adam’s black metal side project with Jesse Leech.

Black Gives Way to Blue - Alice in Chains

No Layne Staley. Hmm. Concerns? How is this the same band? Why am I buying this album? Because William DuVall is a damn good vocalist, and he can play some mean guitar, too, that’s why. I’m convinced Jerry Cantrell cannot make a bad tune. The guy is a machine. This album harkens back to the good ole’ days, and it feels like an Alice in Chains record. Great rock album.

Hatebreed - Hatebreed

Jamey Jasta is one hard working SOB. I saw Hatebreed last night at the House of Blues in Chicago, and man, he does bring it on stage. Fired up. Adrenaline. Awesome live show. Every one of their albums has been, from start to finish, like a live recording to me. They are not the most dynamic band, they are not the most original band, but what they are is consistent and in-your-face to a point where I get a rush just hearing them play. This album convinced me that Hatebreed can not possibly produce a bad album. And it features Jasta SINGING a few passages!!! What?!?! That’s unheard of! Great anthems as always.

That’s that. I’d also like to give honorable mention to Every Time I Die - The Big Dirty. I know it didn’t come out in 2009, but this album (thanks to my buddy Gordon) has been repeating in my head since I first heard it. I first gave them a listen this year, and I’m really glad I did, and kind of sorry I havn’t heard anything of theirs previously. I’ve heard so much good stuff about New Junk Aesthetic, and I’m sure it’s amazing, but I can’t really include it because I have not listened to it in it’s entirety yet. That being said, I’m looking forward to picking it up soon.

That’s my take on 2009. I thought it was a great year for metal and music in general. Good stuff came out, and there’s a lot of stuff out there that I need to get my hands on still. Hopefully 2010 can keep up the trends and not disappoint.


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