Wednesday, 19 December 2007

It’s that time of the year again. I’ve been reading a lot of blog posts about the best music of 2007 lately. My own list makes no claims to being comprehensive or objective. Let me explain why, in mind-numbing detail:

It’s somewhat limited, genre-wise. I can’t stand emo or indie rock, and my tastes certainly don’t run as far afield as to step outside the boundaries of guitar-based music. While I do listen to jazz, blues and both Indian and western classical music, I am not abreast with current developments in any of these genres. By and large, I like sludgy, fuzzy, heavy, riff-based music. Within those confines my tastes stretch from death metal all the way to funeral doom. I’m also a fairly demanding fan of so-called alternative music. So this list is limited to music that fits within these admittedly narrow specifications.

It’s also skewed towards my actual listening patterns. While there are other albums I’d include in a comprehensive listing of worthwhile albums released this year, I’m picking and choosing the albums I specifically found myself listening to time and again. So, while bands as diverse as Gamma Ray, Immolation and Alchemist all released awesome albums, within their own stylistic confines, this year, I’ve favoured the albums that I actually listened to obsessively for a fortnight or so. So, it doesn’t even pretend to be an objectively definitive list.

Lastly, I’ve noticed that I tend to be more impressed with a relatively new band putting out a promising album than an established band chugging out more of the same mid or late career competency – so albums by Megadeth, Annihilator and the likes tend to get overlooked while newer bands whom some will contend are simply derivatives of these older acts may find their way in. I’m very keen on seeing the music I listen to as a living artform with new artists constantly arriving to take the form further, and this does skew my preferences and perhaps my judgement.

And now, in no very specific order, here is a list of my favourite 2007 music:

  1. Clutch – From Beale Street To Oblivion. While it doesn’t have the breakthrough excitement of it’s predecessor, ‘Robot Hive/Exodus’, Clutch’s new album shows the band taking another step on its evolution from hardcore infused metal to deeply stonerrific blues rock.
  2. Disbelief- Navigator. The thing that sets this album apart from a lot of death metal I enjoyed this year is that Disbelief keep launching into these awesome grooves that harken back to the best moments of the whole late-90s groove metal movement, while keeping things real. The singer is kickass too.
  3. Neurosis – Given To The Rising. Really, this should need no explanation. In an increasingly crowded post-metal landscape, Neurosis still dominates. Huge, soaring and misanthropic riffs, brooding interludes and one of the most balanced sets they’ve ever done.
  4. Mustasch – The Latest Version Of The Truth. Definitely this Swedish hard rock band’s breakthrough album. Gritty guitar tones, groovy, infectious classic hard rock and metal riffing and juicy, catchy vocals, these guys sometimes remind me of classic Alice Cooper.
  5. Alabama Thunderpussy – Open Fire. This might even be my favourite album of the year. Incredibly kickass, energetic and memorable southern rock in total overdrive mode. Great songwriting, tasty chops and super vocals.
  6. Orange Goblin – Healing Through Fire. Much like the above, only from the UK. Orange Goblin continues to be a relatively newly arrived yet dominating presence in the stoner scene.
  7. Hidden Hand – The Resurrection Of Whiskey Foote. Scott Wino Weinrich is responsible for some of the most important stoner/doom music ever made, and with this new album he continues to build that awe-inspiring legacy.
  8. Baroness – The Red Album. This is an awesome debut. It’s modern metal, not nu metal or metalcore or any of that crap. Drawing on a diversity of influences, some traditional, some rather avant garde, Baroness are poised for the sort of crossover success currently enjoyed by Opeth and Mastodon.
  9. Blotted Science – The Machinations Of Dementia. Does what it says on the cover. Uncompromisingly technical and frenetic heavyass instrumental prog from one of the pioneering technical metal guitarists, and my favourite prog or prog-related album of the year, hands-down.
  10. Reverend Bizarre – III So Long Suckers. Old school doom metal at its most drawn-out and majestic. A great swan song for this band, although the iterative arrangements may not win a lot of fans outside of doom adherents.
  11. Antimatter – Leaving Eden. Just brilliant acoustic-based melancholic rock. If you like Nick Drake or Pink Floyd, you can’t help but love this one.
  12. Grinderman – Grinderman. A sort of back-to-basics project for Nick Cave. It’s great to see him functioning in a rawer format than the pianistic crooning of latter Bad Seeds material, although a lot of this material could well have been on a Bad Seeds album with more filled-out arrangements.
  13. sHeavy – The Machine That Won The War. A singer who sounds like Ozzy but with better lungs, and awesome Sabbath/classic doom metal riffs and grooves.
  14. Atavist - II Haunted. Atavist raise the stakes for Khanate-style sludge. An amazing album, it has to be heard as a single unit. Essentially a very ambitious musical structure created using very simple tools.
  15. Unsane – Visqueen. One of their best albums, as far as I’m concerned. Abrasive, muffled vocals, cold, relentless riffs – it is formula music, but an awesome formula executed to perfection.
  16. Amplified Heat – How do you like the sound of that. This Texan band plays energetic, stomping blues-based rock that bypasses three decades of rock evolution to show that old ideas still work well, if used with the right amount of enthusiasm and authenticity.
  17. Thrown – The Suicidal Kings Occult. Dark, melodic music from the heavier side of doom. A dash of NWOBHM melody, huge, enveloping riffs and harsh, death-influenced vocals together with great song construction combine in an album that really ought to have a wider audience.
  18. Taint: Secrets And Lies. Sludge metal with traces of doom, stoner and hardcore.A great amalgamation of influences into an original sound, and a great second album for this more than promising band.
  19. Evile – Enter The Grave. There’s been a lot of great thrash revivalism this year, a lot of it very efficiently delivered by some of the original thrash giants. This one stood out from the pack because of the awesome guitar work.
  20. The Austerity Program – Black Madonna. A very well-named band. Unadorned riffing backed with drum machine and spiced with math tendencies. This album is strictly no-frills stuff, and to my mind, that increases its impact. Steve Albini would approve.
  21. Jonas Hellborg – Art Metal. Together with Selvaganesh and Mathias Eklundh, Hellborg creates a downright masterpiece of Indian-influenced fusion with a heavy edge. I defy anyone who claims to appreciate music in its purest form to be unmoved by this album.
  22. Thurston Moore – Trees Outside The Academy. Moore takes songs that could have sat happily in a Sonic Youth album and develops in ways that are interestingly different from the Sonic pattern, with much emphasis on acoustic guitar and violin interplay. It’s the sound of a real musical visionary purposefully stretching out, and it is good.
  23. Aeon – Rise To Dominate. Slamming by-the-book Floridan death, only from Sweden. It doesn’t veer from the template in any form, but the masterful handling of the death format and the absolutely crushing vocals made this one a frequent repeat listen.
  24. Fu Manchu – We Must Obey. Their riffiest album in years, and it clearly shows that these happy-go-lucky stoners still have the art of desert rock groove-jamming aced.
  25. The Ocean – Precambrian. An incredibly ambitious and layered album, this one is a triumph of structuring. This really does amount to an aural evocation of long-ago geological ages, and if there’s any justice, The Ocean will break through into broader acclaim with this album. This would be another serious contender for the best album of the year.
  26. Worship – Dooom. Uncompromisingly dark and stripped-down funeral doom, this isn’t an album, it’s a cult.
  27. Om: Pilgrimage. Om continue to produce some of the most meditative and spiritually elevating music this atheist has ever tripped on. This is music for the heart and soul, so to speak, and an album of rare beauty and finesse.
  28. C-187 – Collision. Pestilence guitar man returns with a groove metal album that is streets ahead of anything else being produced in this rather crowded idiom. Viral grooves, neck-snapping rhythms and occasional glimpses at Mameli’s former jazz-death flights.
  29. Witchcraft – The Alchemist. Witchcraft have arrived. While their first two albums were awesome examples of vintage doom metal that sounded like they slipped through a time warp from circa 1974, this album consolidates and builds on those sounds to take Witchcraft to a new level of groovy, melodic brilliance.
  30. Electric Wizard – Witchcult Today. The Wizard is back, and the lugubrious grooves, hypnotic jams and schlock horror mix has evolved, while maintaining a great deal of consistency from their past albums.

2 comments:

Strong Black Coffee Gone Cold said...

This is about the only way to contact you - I cant find your email id. I believe you are the same JP who used to have a blog called criminal english on blogspot. I REALLY need a favor from you. Your blog had this entry where you talked about a chap called Henri (Henry?) Draper who was found dead in his apartment which was full of his artwork which no-one knew about. Well, can you forward me that entry/news article/anything to do with Henri Draper? I have gone nuts trying to contact you over the last 3 months because I completely forgot the name of your blog. Mail me at sourav.rc@gmail.com

H R Venkatesh said...

hey man how about a list of best reads for 2007?
and if you're of a mind to, how about one for films as well!