Ten Albums, Ten Days

Currently sharing around on Facebook is this status: “Ten albums, ten days. Ten albums that made an impact, that still make your toes curl, that are still on rotation. No explanations needed, in no particular order.”

Well, what I want to give an explanation?

To be clear, not all of these albums would be in my “Top albums of all time” list: they really are albums that make go “Wow” every time I hear them.

And here we go!

Yes – Close to the Edge (1972)

This near-40 minute album consists of three songs: Close to the Edge, And You and I, and Siberian Khatru – all three are different in their own right, but still making the album feel like a whole. Along with Genesis’ Selling England by the Pound and Jethro Tull’s Thick as a Brick, Close to the Edge is renowned as one of the greatest progressive rock albums of all-time. For me, CttE surprises me with its sonic ups and downs. The title song is crafted in tremendously beautiful ways with recurring themes and patterns. And You and I is, in my eyes, the pinnacle of romantic music and storytelling. Siberian Khatru not only bookends the album with great musicianship, it also reveals restraint of the band as song writers. As a musician, I listen to this album and feel inspired to write my own songs and words.

Listen to the album on YouTube here.

Anathema – A Fine Day to Exit (2001)

Sad songs are Anathema’s forté. They’re real and concrete, yet presented very poetically in their music. If there’s an album that “gets you” emotionally, it would probably be this one: opening up with “As the pressure grows,” and closing off with my favourite track, Temporary Peace, singing calmly, “There’s a drift in and out…,” A Fine Day to Exit is exemplary in showing one going through the motions of stress, anxiety, and depression. Musically, the album blends brilliantly with the lyrics to create a rather sad, yet relatable album.

My favourite and the final track, Temporary Peace.

Emperor – In the Nightside Eclipse (1994)

In The Nightside Eclipse was groundbreaking for its time: being one of the first black metal albums to really go all-out with keyboards. Yet it’s the production of this album that really draws me to it. Raw, unpronounced guitar riffs compounded with exploding drums and shrilling keyboards not only create something that the casual listener would draw ire from, but something that is actually quite emotionally detailed in its epic scope.

My favourite song, Cosmic Keys to My Creations & Times, features my favourite guitar riff on the album at 30 seconds in, and in my opinion, really showcases what the album has to offer.

King Crimson – Red (1974)

If there was one album on this list I would aspire to create, it would be Red. Each song reeks of complexity by their own right, making the listener wonder how one band could create five very different songs yet still “feel” the same. While the opening title track is an instrumental, it begs to be understood. I’ve listened to it hundreds of times and still feel like I learn something new about it. However, it’s the final track, Starless, that really steals the show. This hauntingly beautiful piece of music comes at you with different movements and one of the greatest, impacting codas I’ve ever heard. Mixed in with John Wetton’s (RIP) incredible 13/8 bass groove, it was a joy to see it performed live a few years ago.

Watch the live performance of Starless here.

Green Carnation – Light of Day, Day of Darkness (2002)

At just over one hour, Green Carnation’s Light of Day, Day of Darkness stands out as an achievement in avant-garde music. While the album is one of my favourites, I still go back and listen to it regularly to try and understand the processes of the band: how it was written, why certain parts were placed the way they were, why did the band decide to do X, and so on. While I understand that it is not the greatest song ever-written, I still am in awe by the scope of the song and how fluid it comes together – not to mention the great risks taken to aim for such an achievement in song-writing.

If you’re not busy, listen to LoDDoD in its entirety here.

Frank Zappa & The Mothers of Invention – Roxy & Elsewhere (1974)

Explaining the entire story of how this album came to be is something I’ll let Wikipedia explain. However, this albums impact and scope is so broad that it still boggles my mind that Zappa & the Mothers would have even agreed to do it. In a nutshell, it was them performing crazy, complex songs live to release it all as an album. That’s right: none of the songs recorded on Roxy & Elsewhere were recorded in studio, just live at the Roxy Theatre. The end result is some of the most incredibly-talented and chilling music I’ve ever encountered. The concert was finally released on Blu-Ray in 2015. I still watch it regularly to be in awe of the musicians on stage.

From the Blu-Ray, here is T’Mershi Duween.

Devin Townsend – Terria (2001)

There’s only a handful of albums that have made me cry. Terria is definitely one of them. Much like the songs itself, I go through the motions listening to it. I refuse to listen to Terria as background noise. I’m all-in with this album. I don’t want to say too much about it, other than it’s my all-time favourite album.

Listen to Deep Peace.

Gorguts – Pleiades Dust (2016)

The newest album on my list, Gorguts’ Pleiades Dust is a technical accomplishment. Not only is the album lyrically historical, but it also incorporates some of the best sounding production I’ve encountered. While most hear death metal and group it with unsavoury sounds and production, Pleiades Dust, while still sounding unsavoury to those who do not like death metal, creates a crisp yet intense 33-minute epic that goes through the motions of extreme and subtlety. Mixed, produced, and mastered by their bass player, Colin Marston. Because of his work, the song still makes my hair stand on end.

Listen to the full song on YouTube.

Carcass – Heartwork (1993)

My real first foray into a “darker world” of music, Carcass’ Heartwork (and album cover by the late H.R. Giger), changed my life. It blended my love for complex, progressive music into something much more sinister to my ears at the time. The blend of beautiful melodies mixed with the sound of anger absolutely stunned me when I first heard it. Not only was the album something I was new to experiencing, it eventually helped me branch into other genres and heavier music. While I always consider bands like Tool and Metallica “gateway” metal bands to heavier music, Carcass was my gateway band into something bigger than I had realized. Every song on this album still gets me excited – not only as a fan of music, but as a musician too. Heartwork was something else.

Watch the music video for the title track.

Camel – Mirage (1974)

Whereas Yes, Genesis, and Pink Floyd were the “big three” of progressive music out of England, Camel somehow slipped by. Their second album, Mirage, however, didn’t pass me. I’ve always said to people who haven’t heard Camel before, they’re the band that Yes, Roxy Music, and The Doors would’ve had if bands could conceive with one-another – just listen to their song Earthrise for example. Each song still sounding different from the last, both in production and song writing, Mirage still excites me as a musician with how one band can create something so powerful and filled with wonder – yet there is a strong likelihood that very few people would ever have heard of them.

Listen to the opening track of Mirage entitled Free Fall.

So there’s my ten! Lots of albums from 1974, eh? Believe me, it wasn’t intentional.

If you have any questions, commments, or want to give me your list, sound off below!

And until next time, keep on Space Truckin’!

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My Top Albums of 2016

And starting off at number fifteen. . .

15. Evergrey – The Storm Within

evergrey

While it has only been two years since Evergrey was last featured on my Top 15 list, they knocked it out of the park with this album. What I feel to be their best album since 2004’s The Inner Circle, Evergrey takes it up a notch with The Storm Within; showcasing some of the most aggressive song writing, grand choruses, and dark lyrics.

Watch the music video for “In Orbit” featuring Floor Jansen:

14. Darkthrone – Arctic Thunder

darkthrone-arctic-thunder

Yet almost redefining their sound again, Darkthrone somewhat goes back on their black metal roots but now taking shape with some bits of crunchy doom metal. Coming at the listener with thundering beats and punishing riffs, Darkthrone really impresses with this surprisingly straight-forward album that, despite being their sixteenth studio album, still comes as a breath of fresh air.

Listen to the first track, “Tundra Leech”:

13. iamthemorning – Lighthouse

iamthemorning

One part chamber pop, another part progressive rock, iamthemorning have always been a bit different. With beautifully haunting music and vocals, Lighthouse stands out as a daring take on making something complicated sound so beautiful and elegant.

Check out the entire album streaming here:
https://iamthemorningband.bandcamp.com/

12. Deströyer 666 – Wildfire

destroyer-666

As far as blackened thrash metal goes, Deströyer 666 create a solid album with gripping choruses and challenging aspects to their listeners. It’s not just your run-of-the-mill thrash album. There’s lots going on. The production is solid, the songs are great, and the riffs are crunchy. Putting this album on makes for one helluva fun ride.

Listen to the single, “Wildfire”:

11. Borknagar – Winter Thrice

borknagar

Even into their tenth studio album, Borknagar still shows the skill and comfort in their songwriting capabilities as Winter Thrice can take you over a variety of genres while still being Borknagar. Thrash, black, viking, progressive – thematic elements and bombastic choruses make for a audibly exciting album that anyone could really get into. Borknagar has always been a band that delivers quality – and with Winter Thrice – they still do.

Watch the lyric video to the first track, “The Rhymes of the Mountain”:

10. Marillion – Fuck Everyone and Run (FEAR)

marillionfear

This was a surprise to me. Hands-down to be one of their greatest albums, Marillion’s FEAR truly harkens back to classical progressive rock times. Lyrically speaking, the album mirrors the title as it reflects upon the changes in England and people left behind; between the have and have-nots. Sometimes feeling like a gloomy, slow burn, the music is emotionally driven and if anything makes the listener realize that they are not alone with their thoughts.

Listen to “The New Kings” here:

9. Drombeg – Earthworks

drombeg

I stumbled onto Drombeg by sheer luck. Listening to the first few songs of this debut album, I was sold. His publisher’s description of the album describes it best: “A soundtrack for the middle-of-nowhere, the wild landscapes of Brookes’ native Southern Ireland are littered with historic, and geological structures hardened under the relentless elements. Sinuous string melodies, and tender piano phrases reach like sunlight breaking through heavy clouds, blended with electronics and field recordings in careful balance to produce a rich cinematic sound.”

Check out the entire album here:
https://futuresequence.bandcamp.com/album/earthworks

8. Devin Townsend – Transcendence

devintownsendtranscendence

I wasn’t sure if I liked this album at first. As a biased Dev fanboy, I felt like I was simply getting another version of Epicloud. After a few spins, it hit me, and I fell in love with Transcendence. Truly showcasing how much Devin has progressed as a musician over the years, his songwriting skills have tightened and makes for an engrossing album that sonically delivers. Not to mention this is the first album that features song writing credits to the rest of the band – being Dev’s first real collaboration with them. A true treat for the ears.

Watch the music video for “Stormbending”:

7. Aborted – Retrogore

abortedretrogore

Absolutely devastating death metal, Retrogore is a feast to the ears for those into horror films and, well, gore. It’s vile to the point of hilarity, and the band is fully-aware of that. With song titles like “Whoremageddon” and “Forged for Decrepitude” (which also features classic lines from Re-Animator), Aborted makes a much improved effort from their previous release and excites me to see what will come next.

Listen to the title track here:

6. Abbath – Abbath

abbathst

Immortal’s ex-frontman Abbath debuted his first album earlier this year to great success. Never would I have found black metal to be this damn catchy (which I suppose goes against the grain of what tr00 kvlt black metal is), but damn it’s catchy! Beat after beat, this album comes at you with stellar force.

Check out the video for “Winterbane”:

5. Anneke & Árstíðir – Verloren Verleden

annekearstidir

Icelandic folk band Árstíðir teamed up with one of my favourite vocalists, Anneke van Giersbergen, to showcase a variety of traditional and classical songs. It’s a wonderfully peaceful album with great resonance naturally showcased within the albums’ production. I found myself spinning this album a surprisingly large amount of times this year. Absolutely beautiful.

Listen to the wonderful cover of “Bist Du Bei Mir”:

4. Meshuggah – The Violent Sleep of Reason

meshuggah

What’s not to like about Meshuggah? This band is always pushing the listener to something that rhythmically uncomfortable yet familiar. Always a great band to divulge into, if not a bit challenging to fully comprehend, The Violent Sleep of Reason is a crushingly great listen with riffs that will still have your head spinning to understand.

Check out the music video for “Clockworks”:

3. Gorguts – Pleiades’ Dust
gorguts

Gorguts was last seen in my Top Albums of 2013 with their full-length, Coloured Sands – reaching the number two slot on my list. While I often don’t like to count EP’s as an album, Pleiades’ Dust stands out for being such a work of art I’d hate myself for not giving it proper recognition. The album forms a historical experience about the House of Wisdom and its destruction within a thirty-three minute song that is broken up into several movements. While Gorguts still stick with their technical death metal roots, the experimentation – and the overall experience – is an absolute joy.

Listen to the full song/album here:
https://gorguts.bandcamp.com/album/pleiades-dust

2. Moonsorrow – Jumalten aika

moonsorrow

I first got into Moonsorrow when I first got into metal. In fact, I learned about them when they were first starting out. I dug their first three albums (I started with Kivenkantaja) and fell in love with the band. And they’ve only become better over time. With their seventh album in place, these pagan black metallers have created another success. “Mimisbrunn” may just be one of the best songs they’ve ever written.

Check out the music video for “Suden Tunti”:

1. Vektor – Terminal Redux

vektorterminalredux

The gap between my second place album and this spot is gigantic. I don’t think there has been an album deserving a number one slot as much as Vektor’s Terminal Redux. I cannot say enough good things about this stunningly brilliant, progressive thrash album. I’ve been gushing over it since its release in May and am still excited listening to it.

The concept is grand, if not surprisingly ambitious for the thrash genre, but these guys make it right. While the lyrics are deep, intellectual, and well-written, the music is on a league of its own.

Lightning-fast riffs with tremendous variety makes the album refreshing to listen to on each spin; vocals representing the agony of the traveler and his yearning to learn more – as does the music want the listener to do. Nothing is stale and everything is wonderful. With the addition of female soul singers during integral parts of the story, the album begins and concludes with such choral ferocity, I still get goose bumps when I’ve fully invested myself into the album.

From the first track, “Charging the Void” to the incredible finale with “Recharging the Void,” Vektor brings the listeners on a wild journey through the far reaches of space all in the span of nine pulse-pounding songs.

Vektor’s Terminal Redux. I simply cannot say enough good things about this album. It has easily become one of my favourite albums ever to have graced my ears. It is now one of my favourite albums of all-time. An epic masterpiece worth your attention.

The incredible opening track to my album of the year, here’s “Charging the Void”:

Honourable Mentions:

Testament – The Brotherhood Of The Snake

Opeth – Sorceress

The Neal Morse Band – The Similitude Of A Dream

Anderson/Stolt – The Invention of Knowledge

Fates Warning – Theories of Flight

Amon Amarth – Jomsviking

Most Disappointed:

Dark Funeral – Where Shadows Forever Reign

Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool

Megadeth – Dystopia

Riverside – Eye of the Soundscape

Redemption – The Art of Loss

Dream Theater – The Astonishing

Levin, Minneman, Rudess – From the Law Offices of Levin, Minnemann, Rudess

Questions? Comments? Agree? Disagree? What have you?

My Top 15 Albums of 2012

And starting off at number fifteen. . .

15. 3 Inches of Blood – Long Live Heavy Metal

3IoB

To-the-point and still a whole lot of fun. As the title suggests, this album is a testament to what heavy metal is. True to its roots, 3IoB’s album is a classic throw back to early Judas Priest or Manowar, with hella-cheesey lyrics that leave you questioning what you’re even singing along to. It’s hilarious, it’s great, it’s heavy, and it’s fun! For anyone looking to have a good time, please call 3 Inches of Blood – Long Live Heavy Metal

14. Vintersorg – Orkan

vintersorg

Swedish band Vintersorg (which is technically just two guys), produced a straight-forward, avant-garde folk album. If that last statement wasn’t paradoxical enough for you, listen to Orkan to understand. While still following traditional musical stylings, Vintersorg ups-the-ante by incorporating different chord changes, unconventional song styles, vocal techniques, and performances on the lute! The kicker is that it does all sound-straight forward. While you don’t expect to hear a chorus when listening to this music, it flows naturally, making it a great album to listen to for “something different.” Oh, and the lyrics aren’t in English.

13. Overkill – The Electric Age

overkill

This album is too much fun. You’ll be head banging for a solid fifty minutes. What a rush.

12. Van Halen – A Different Kind of Truth

vanhalen

Get through the first track (and the single) Tattoo, and you’ll be loving the rest of the album. While starting off sloppy, Van Halen’s A Different Kind of Truth picks up and over-exceeds in all ways possible. Solid hard rock from this album kicks your butt and keeps rocking all the way until the end. Singer David Lee Roth still has what it takes to make music fun – not being the traditional singer – he adds so much more atmosphere to the music. This “better late than never” album really lives up to expectations.

11. Alabama Shakes – Boys & Girls

alabamashakes

Who hasn’t heard “Hold On” yet? Alabama Shakes made an impressive impact in popular music this year with this album. Beyond expectations, the band stays true to soul music and southern rock while taking advantage of recording technology to this day. A really, really solid album comes from this band – especially with their singer, Brittany Howard, who has one of the most incredible voices in music today. If you haven’t heard this album yet, get on top of that!

10. Devin Townsend – Epiclouder

devin-townsend

While Devin Townsend released his album Epicloud earlier this year, if you got the Special Edition copy, you would’ve received the “demos” album titled Epiclouder. To be honest, I prefer the demos. Although they are not “completed” by Devin’s standards, the music is even more beautiful and chilling than the actual album Devin released. While it doesn’t fit Devin’s concept of Epicloud (as he says in the linear notes), Epiclouder tells many more stories, and goes down many more musical paths which would not have worked in the regular album. Most of all: it’s really refreshing and happy.

9. Kreator – Phantom Antichrist

kreator

Don’t take the title literally. It’s actually an interesting fantasy concept which runs through most of the album. It sings about a post-apocalyptic life and the battles to fight oppression. As always, Kreator manages to mix both aggression musically along with the music they perform. However, a few tracks sneak inside the album to change up the flow of music. All tasteful, I found that Kreator’s album is really neat story and a great way to wind down the day.

8. Ihsahn – Eremita

ihsahn

This album is so all-over-the-place, it’s fantastic. Ihsahn, you may remember from the black metal band, Emperor. However, outside of Emperor, he does progressive metal. I’m putting that lightly. Eremita is jazz fusion mixed with metal, mixed with darkness, mixed with orchestrations, fright, bewilderment, and awe. What it does well though, is give a focus to saxophone, and really puts an imprint on how underutilized the instrument is used in popular music today. (Albeit, me saying that Ihsahn is “popular” is just silly).

7. Threshold – March of Progress

threshold

After their 2007 release, Dead Reckoning, no one has heard anything from Threshold. We can see why (well that, and their singer passed away in 2011; bringing back their original vocalist from pre-2008 albums). March of Progress is a really powerful album from start-to-end. It sucks you in with haunting keyboards and keeps you grounded until the album concludes. It’s a great album just to rock out and play along in the background with whatever it is you’re doing. It’s a guaranteed enjoyment.

6. Kamelot – Silverthorn

kamelot

Let’s not lie to ourselves. Kamelot’s 2006 album, The Black Halo, is hands-down their best album. Then came Silverthorn. Featuring new vocalist, Tommy Karevik (Seventh Wonder), and quite a few guest musicians and singers, Silverthron stomps The Black Halo out of the competition. Heavy, pretty, and down-right awesome, Silverthron is a new beginning for Kamelot. I highly recommend you give it a try too.

5. Anneke van Giersbergen – Everything is Changing

anneke

Ex-The Gathering singer, Anneke van Giersbergen release this hauntingly beautiful album at the beginning of 2012. I find myself still returning to it as it really sticks. Anneke’s voice, happy lyrics, and rocking music, is guaranteed to make you feeling pretty good about yourself once the trip is over.

4. Flying Colors – Flying Colors

flying-colors

A super group of musicians would naturally make a super album. Flying Colors self-titled debut showed how much fun it is to rock out. Piecing together various musical styles, the album grabs you right of the get-go and refuses to let you leave until you soak in all of the greatness it offers.

3. Woods of Ypres – Woods 5: Grey Skies & Electric Light

woods-of-ypres

David Gold’s final album – Woods 5 represents everything that is beautiful and dark in this world. From poetic lyrics to gut-wrenching music, Woods 5 hits all of the right spots and sometimes kind of close to home.

2. The Flower Kings – Banks of Eden

flower-kings

Blues and jazz melded together to make wonderfully crafted progressive rock and one heckuva pretty album. It is an absolutely stunning album, front-to-back, from a band no one really knows about. The Flower Kings have really topped themselves with Banks of Eden. It’s gorgeous, it’s happy, it’s The Flower Kings. The album offers so much for listeners, it’s impossible to tell you everything about it. You’d be doing yourself if a favour if you gave this at least one spin. Just a warning though: you won’t put this down.

1. Anathema – Weather Systems

anathema

What can you say about an album this beautiful? Pushing the envelope with new ground, Anathema’s Weather System’s sets the standard to what music could – and should be. Emotional, uplifting, and so much more, there’s a reason why this album is my number one. Do yourself a favour and find out why.

Honourable Mentions:

Rush – Clockwork Angels

Testament – Dark Roots of Earth

Storm Corrosion – Storm Corrosion

Torche – Harmonicraft

Devin Townsend – Epicloud

Questions? Comments? Agree? Disagree? What have you?

My Top 15 Albums of 2014

And starting off at number fifteen. . .

15. Rude – Soul Recall

Rude - Soul Recall

Old school death metal in 2014. Rude brings back the sounds of Death and Morbid Angel to create a solid, refreshing throwback to what death metal was all about.

Watch the video to the title track “Soul Recall”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aeB0_E6r2YY

14. Spectral Lore – III

Spectral Lore

I’m a sucker for atmospheric, epic black metal. Spectral Lore’s III album hits the nail on the head with this well-crafted work. Layered with plenty of soundscapes, this album truly defines the cold.

Listen to the entire album here: http://spectrallore.bandcamp.com/

13. Yautja – Songs of Descent

Yautja

This is sludge at its finest. Bass pounding with beats, distorted guitars, and a rally cry with the drums. This debut album by this relatively unknown band deserves the recognition it gets here. (FYI, Yautja is the name of the alien species the Predator is).

Listen to the entire album here: http://yautja.bandcamp.com/

12. Evergrey – Hymns for the Broken

Evergrey - Hymns for the Broken

Evergrey returns to their pre-2001 days with this powerful new album. While the band seems to slowly depart from their gloomier lyrics, the music is still-ever emotional and also driven by a refreshing new sound with their old song-writing style.

Watch the video for “The King of Errors”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pmmh69G-pt0

11. Casualties of Cool – Casualties of Cool

casualties-of-cool

Although Devin Townsend released three friggen’ albums this year, Casualties of Cool is the only one on my list. This country rock album experiments with a little bit of everything he’s done in the past. There’s a little bit of his “mediation” album Ghost, his rock album Ki, and his dark ambient/noise album, Devlab. A concept album, Casualties of Cool is really something that stands out amongst not only his discography, but in the general sphere of “music.”

Listen to the song “Forgive Me”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QNlLqvZPfI8

10. Judas Priest – Redeemer of Souls

judas-priest

The last arguably “good” Judas Priest album was 1990’s Painkiller. After a few flubs, Redeemer of Souls truly is a redemption for the band. While it doesn’t showcase anything new, it shows that Judas Priest still has everything they did back when they started: powerful song writing, great lyrics, and offering awesome, head-banging momments all throughout the album.

Listen to the song “Halls of Valhalla” here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VddfDsrVdcs

9. Falconer – Black Moon Rising

falconer

If you’re a fan of well-constructed riffage, this is what you need to listen to. Incredible song writing skills, and of course, epic vocals from Mathias Blad, this hits the sweet spot of finely-crafted power metal.

Listen to the title track “Black Moon Rising”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lv05oHDjus4

8. Freak Kitchen – Cooking With Pagans

freak-kitchen

Cooking With Pagans is one of the best rock albums I’ve heard in a long time. For the uninitiated: a similar style of Motorhead with jazz, metal, and pop music, Freak Kitchen shows off impressive songs with silly lyrics and catchy choruses, making you to grow a smile across your face. Their music video below, Freak of the Week, was also given a $100,000 budget. They opted to hire cartoonists to make it happen.

Watch the video to “Freak of the Week”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y2vzBdIejVY

7. Blut Aus Nord – Memoria Vetusta III: Saturnian Poetry

blut-aus-nord

There’s some real, damn good black metal here. The guitars are really what make this album an outstanding piece of work. Rich with emotions, it pained me to put this album in seventh place. Alas, you’ll soon learn why.

Listen to the entire album here: http://noisey.vice.com/blog/blut-aus-nord-memoria-vetusta-iii-lp

6. Sólstafir – Otta

solstafir

This band is always pushing the boundaries to what “rock music” is. The album offers a wide encompassing amount of different styles – often in the same song (see below). There is no real way to describe Sólstafir’s sound. They’re a forever-evolving band, which is really great for people who like to hear something they never have before.

Watch the music video to “Lágnætti”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R8n8Uy5KmvU

5. Gridlink – Longhena

gridlink

Out of all of the albums I’m putting on my list, this is the one I feel most people wouldn’t enjoy. Gridlink is a grindcore band at heart. However, their newest release “Longhena” is truly the most beautiful grindcore I’ve heard. In its glorious chaos, the songs are ripe with emotion and complicated orchestration. While the album barely clocks over twenty minutes, it’s incredible how much wonder was put in it.

Listen to the entire album here: http://handshakeinc.bandcamp.com/album/longhena

4. Agalloch – The Serpent & The Sphere

agalloch

These American folk/black metallers release, yet again, another gorgeous album. A completely different shift from the other two black metal albums on my list, Agalloch is more based within folkore and slower paced songs. While the momentum shifts throughout the album, their music is certainly breathtaking, if not awe-inspiring in its allure.

Listen to the entire album here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZHk5EnSuOV0

3. Anathema – Distant Satellites

anathema

Much like Sólstafir, Anathema is constantly pushing the boundaries to what rock is. While they lean more on the progressive rock side of things, this album showcases yet more incredible song writing by the band. Wonderful vocal harmonies, symphonic atmospheres, technical moments. . . this album is absolutely beautiful. Words cannot explain.

Can you even handle this music? The time signature! The beauty! Listen to “The Lost Song Pt. 1” here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v30RadD_aiI

2. Cynic – Kindly Bent to Free Us

cynic

This album took me by surprise. Cynic was a technical death metal band. They featured harsh vocals and technical know-how with their instruments. With “Kindly Bent to Free Us,” they dropped their old selves – and death metal vocals – and turned into a progressive rock band. What they still keep is the incredible instrumentation, complexity in their songs, and the immense strength they have as a band through showcasing their talents. Being a band with only three musicians, you would feel as if there is more to the band than what you hear. The album is overwhelmingly complicated, but careful with how it lets the listener focus on particular parts. Nothing is actually overwhelming, but the song ideas as a whole are. It’s a great, great album.

Watch the lyric music video to “Kindly Bent to Free Us”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wJ6MXHOXLq4

1. Triptykon – Melana Chasmata

triptykon

Between this album and Cynic, I had the hardest time deciding which would be number one. However, Triptykon’s “Melana Chasmata” takes the top spot.

Only in their second album, Triptykon’s lead singer, Tom G. Warrior, continues with his thought-provoking song writing and emotional output through this raw, energy-filled album. Triptykon is not only distorted with their song writing, but their sounds as well. In fact, the sound which the band produces is on another level of musical standards.

From the crushing bass of Vanja Slajh, to the echoed despair of Norman Lonhard’s snare; the rhythmic pounding from Santura’s guitar, and the melting intensity of Warrior’s guitar and vocals – “Melana Chasmata” is an album which will stick with me for a long time. I don’t think a week went by since its release in April where I hadn’t listened to it.

One of the best things to take away from the album is how the band is not afraid to do whatever they want. Case-in-point with the two music videos below. Getting variety like this on an album is only one of the many reasons to why “Melana Chasmata” takes the top spot on my list.

Watch the music video to the slow-paced and haunting “Aurorae”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NmyWeOvF_Sg
Watch the music video to crushing first track, “Tree of Suffocating Souls”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oMamBKqz_8U

Honourable mentions:

Devin Townsend – Z2: Sky Blue

Valnacht – Le Sacrifice d’Ymir

Overkill – White Devil Armory

Mayhem – Esoteric Warfare

Artificial Brain – Labyrinth Constellation

Pallbearer – Foundations of Burden

Electric Wizard – Time to Die

Most Disappointed:

Transatlantic – Kaleidoscope

Yes – Heaven & Earth

Devin Townsend – Z2: Dark Matters

Questions? Comments? Agree? Disagree? What have you?

Poetry Overlords Mk II

Since my last blog entry, I’ve been stuck exploring the intriguing comparisons between poetry and music. I don’t know why, but I just am! And if you haven’t jumped on the “Follow UncannyDerek on Twitter” bandwagon, you’re missing out. Sort of.

Here’s the TL;DR version from my last blog:

Reading poetry out loud is a lot like performing music.

New Thoughts. Little. Yellow. Different.

Now what?

This next part is going to stir some debate, I’m sure, but try to follow me here.

As a musician, I personally find that with music I could record absolutely anything and put it out to the public. I could guarantee it would be understood and appreciated by people.

Take for examples, Fantômas – Suspended Animation (2005) or Devin Townsend – Devlab (2004). Both albums are ambient noise and rather chaotic to the listener. But I really enjoy both albums. There’s no real “sense” to each album and they’re both dramatically different from one another. For the average listener though, there’s no real construct or sense to them. For the most part, I’d confidently say that many people would dislike those albums.

Breaking down the instruments and themes, sure, one could find the inspiration and technicalities built within the albums. That being said, both albums can be difficult to listen all of the way through.

So, Poetry?

Right! So, this is where things get debate-y.

As I said, with music, it could get published despite how normal or bizarre it sounds (as with my examples found above). There’s an audience for everything in music. But with poetry and literature? I think it’s a bit more complicated than that. Sure there’s an audience for everyone, but. . . well let me explain.

There is a certain “universal standard,” per se, that is set with literature in which I think music is removed from. Due to “rules” in literature, a missing period could make or break a sentence. Paragraphs can’t be scattered too far as it could confuse the reader. The lack of capitalization could misplace titles or nouns. I could go on.

Now hold on a second because I know you’re already beginning to think of counter-arguments to mine. That’s good, because I had them too.

Let me yank out a few popular lines from Gertrude Stein’s Sacred Emily which appeared in Geography and Plays (1922).

Color mahogany.
Color mahogany center.
Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose.
Loveliness extreme.
Extra gaiters.
Loveliness extreme.
Sweetest ice-cream.
Page ages page ages page ages.

So to start: this is a Canadian blog and she spelled “colour” wrong.

Okay, I’m kidding. But we can see – as readers – how some of the lines, when they are read individually, seem like incomplete thoughts. The final line, “Page ages,” is repetitive and has no commas. It looks strange to the reader and requires some attention when performing it out loud. Should “Color mahogany” have a colon to read “Color: mahogany”?

While Stein’s poem can fit under the same category as the Fantômas and Devin Townsend albums posted above, I feel it is much harder to cater to a literary audience than a musical one due to what some could say “universal standards” put in place with reading.

Someone listening to an album can (mostly) understand when they hear guitar, drums, saxophone, trumpets, piano, or vocals.
But when someone reads or performs poetry, grammar and understanding can get lost in translation.

To ALMOST Conclude

I can play a guitar solo – regardless how awful it would be – but people would still understand it as a guitar solo.

I can perform poetry – regardless how chaotic it would be – but people would have a difficult time understanding it.

With these “universal standards” put in place with reading, such as periods needing to come at the end of sentences, I feel many readers and listeners to poetry may just miss the point. As someone who goes to poetry readings, I often get scoffed at when telling people I’m going. Is it because they think poetry is pretentious, or is it because they simply don’t understand it? Would a “universal standard” to poetry help? Is there even a way to create such a thing?

There’s nothing really conclusive here. It’s more meant to stir the pot and flesh out more ideas.

What are your thoughts on the matter?

Comic News Explosion!

There’s been so many little interesting things happening in the comic world that it boggles the mind how one can keep up with it. So here’s some stuff I found to be the most exciting in the past little while:

Uncanny X-Men Returns!

If you haven’t heard me complain about Marvel canceling Uncanny X-Men yet, don’t fret. I was right. They WILL be back – even sooner than expected. But starting at #1.

Am I psychic? No. I just am aware how comics work.

Both Comic Book Resources and ICv2 report (Oh, and Marvel too, I guess), much like the Looney Toons, the X-Men are back in action. And as I said before with too many X-titles on the market – sure enough, another one will hit the stands too. Wolverine & The X-Men. *Sigh*

It just doesn’t stop. And I doubt this has anything to do with the cartoon series.

Uncanny X-Men Back

Leonard Kirk Joins X-Factor!

This is the most exciting part to my news, in my humble opinion. Firstly, my first (or second, I’m still undecided) X-book is getting my local hometown artist on board! Leonard Kirk joins writer Peter David and artist Emanuela Lupacchino for a killer new arc in X-Factor. This is so freaking exciting! You can see some of Kirk’s sketches here on Marvel’s website. His versions of Wolfsbane and Layla are gorgeous.

Black Widow Archie?

Speaking of stuff not stopping, remember when Betty and Veronica from Archie were both Black Widows? I suppose Veronica is Natasha while Betty is Yelena? Does Archie comics even know there is a second Black Widow? Regardless, here are the covers:

Black Widow Betty

Black Widow Veronica

Avengers 1959

If you haven’t been reading The New Avengers, you missed out on some ridiculous retconning as of late. Turns out in 1959, Nick Fury created a band of Avengers before the Avengers ever came to be. What’s even more over-the-top is that the team consists of villains like Sabretooth, Kraven the Hunter and Namora (well she’s turned around now). This five-issue mini series will chronicle the missions the team worked with Fury on.

So not only was the Avengers 1959 story tacked-on to the New Avengers story poorly, but now it’s getting its own mini series. Mind boggling. Writer/artist Howard Chaykin will be taking the helm with the story. You can check it out this October.

“Namor: The First Mutant” Canceled

And to go off of Namora, Namor: The First Mutant has officially been canceled with issue #11. No – it will not be seeing a reboot any time soon, but it shows me that Namor is better off in the X-Men. His stories weren’t bad at all – it was just that Namor has never had a home. When he did with X-Men, he was great. His own spinoff was unfortunately not worth it. However, I’ll never forget how great Namor: The First Mutant #5 was. It definitely places Namor in a completely different light.

You can still read about Marvel’s best anti-hero currently in many X-books, as well as in the Fear Itself: The Deep mini series.

Alpha Flight’s Villain

Announced and only teased to readers today, Alpha Strike will be the main villains in the Alpha Flight maxi series. Is that Wendigo? And who is the mysterious lady in the shadows?

Alpha Strike

Total anarchy!

As a complete side note, I’ve been listening to Devin Townsend’s “Deconstruction” album consistently for two days straight. (It was released Tuesday).

Update: 06/24
Rest in Peace Gene Colan

Legendary comic book artist Gene Colan passed away yesterday at the age of 84 due to complications with hip and liver disease.

Colan is known for co-creating such characters as Ms. Marvel, Captain Marvel, Blade, Super-Adaptoid and Dracula. He’s also known for exceptional runs on Daredevil, Captain America and Doctor Strange. He was recently given an Eisner Award for Best Single Issue with his work in 2009’s Captain American #601.

He shall be missed.

Where Have I Been?

Whoa! Hi! I’m back. Where have I been all this time? I haven’t put my comics in their long-boxes for over a month now! I’m a terrible human being. But aside from what, where have I been?

Aside from reading comics and working, I went to a concert of Devin Townsend on Wednesday (yes, I updated the setlist). Keeping the details short, I met him – he is my idol – I was front row-center – and I walked away with the setlist and his guitar pick. Win! Then I performed a concert on Thursday with my band Superheroes (click to add us to Facebook!), while also spending the past two weeks practicing and recording Superheroes first EP for said show. We managed to sell a few copies yesterday, so thank you to everyone who supported us and came out! We had a blast!

As a side note, despite the name, we do not sing about superheroes. Sure, I may put a few action figures on my amp, but that’s the extent of it.

But what a week of interesting news! Martin Sheen is confirmed to be Uncle Ben in the new Spider-Man movie, while Sally Field is in-talks for Aunt May. Also, Scott Pilgrim comes out on Blu-Ray Tuesday, which I am very excited for. I loved the movie, as well as the books. The books were definitely better, however, the movie was done extremely well. I applaud both versions.

Well, I feel like a bit of a dink, not being able to give full-fledged updates as of late. I had planned on doing a full-blown last-and-this week’s comic review, plus one Classic Comic, but alas, I’ve just been too busy to keep up with it all. But I hope you all at least got a chance to see my Halloween costume as the Red Skull here? I really enjoyed doing it up. Unfortunately, living in the city I was in, no one knew who I was. And get this injustice:
Of course I went to a bar on the Saturday (the 30th) and I saw a guy dressed as Captain America. Going up to him as the Red Skull, he had no idea who I was! Brutal! My other friend dressed up as the Black Cat and ran into a Spider-Man/Spider-Girl couple costume. As she spoke with them, neither knew who she was as the Black Cat!

What sort of injustice is this?! Suddenly it’s cool to be dressed up as a superhero not knowing anything about it? That’s almost as bad as me dressing up as a Power Ranger and not knowing who Zordon was, or as Luke Skywalker and not noticing Darth Vader walking past me. I just think it’s ridiculous. Anyway.

I want to start fresh next week. (Please give me a second chance?!)

If you like, I’ll review my favourite comic of this week! Deal? Okay!
Despite a hefty week of comic collection for me: Chaos War #3, Namor #3, X-Men: To Serve and Protect #1, and Generation Hope #1, the best comic went to Taskmaster #3!

TaskMaster3

Taskmaster is a pretty unknown Marvel villain. I mean, he is popular, but there are more popular ones out there. This is Taskmaster’s second miniseries, but has been around the Marvel U for decades. You may have seen him recently in the Siege series, helping Osborn’s dark reign upon Asgard. Since the defeat of H.A.M.M.E.R., Taskmaster’s whereabouts have been unknown. To make a long story short, various villainous agencies, such as HYDRA, A.I.M., and so on have teamed together under one group called the Org, and are trying to stop Taskmaster from, well, being alive. Only, he doesn’t know why. Here, you should stop reading unless you want to hear ***SPOILERS***.

Well in the story, we find out from Nick Fury, talking to Steve Rogers, that Taskmaster is ex-SHIELD. I know, eh? And the reason why the Org is trying to stop him is because he knows too much. But Taskmaster doesn’t remember – and we find out why in the story (I’ll leave that spoiler for you to read). Regardless, the story develops so much in this third issue that there is so much to talk about!

Firstly, the cover! A Town of Hitlers! Yeah. Read the story. Secondly, the humour is off-the-charts with this book. I mean, it’s coming off as a more serious Deadpool comic to me. We have a wise-cracking villain who is trying to discover his past while the world of villains is being thrown against him. We get to see Taskmaster do some great moves with his powers (which we also find an origin for), while we are also introduced to a new villain named Redshirt. This villain, although very serious, has some of the funniest panels I’ve seen in recent comics.

Writer Fred van Lente is from The Incredible Hercules fame, so his story-telling would naturally have a sense of humour while still making massive plot still seem stable to the Marvel U. Mixed in with Jefte Palo’s art and Jean-Francois Beaulieu’s colours, and you have yourself a great story with fantastic images and a twist – literally – on every page.

Although it has some radical story-telling, Taskmaster has turned to be quite possibly one of my favourite mini-series this year.

Grade: 10/10

As for me folks, I plan on having an article posted sometime next week involving blogs and storytelling. It may not even be comic-related (although highly likely)!

Thanks for hanging in there folks!

Keep on Space Truckin’!