Metal Forge, The

Staff Picks of 2009

By TMF Staff

25 January 2010

Introduction by Michael O'Brien

I can’t think of another year in recent memory that has been so chock full of excellent releases from beginning to end and across every spectrum.

While there were some clear favourites that were shared by a lot of us, the lists compiled below are a testament to the wide variety of bands and genres that have tickled the fancy of the staff here at The Metal Forge.

Sean Dudley
 
Savage Circus - Of Doom and Death 10 - Savage Circus - Of Doom and Death
Chemistry Room - Butterfly Effect 09 - Chemistry Room - Butterfly Effect
Grave Digger - Ballads of a Hangman 08 - Grave Digger - Ballads of a Hangman
Fairyland - Score to a New Begining 07 - Fairyland - Score to a New Beginning
Rebellion - Arise 06 - Rebellion - Arise
Brainstorm - Memorial Roots 05 - Brainstorm - Memorial Roots
Crimson Cult - Crimson Cult 04 - Crimson Cult - Crimson Cult
Celesty - Vendetta 03 - Celesty - Vendetta
Mystic Prophecy - Fireangel 02 - Mystic Prophecy - Fireangel
Primal Fear - 16.6 01 - Primal Fear - 16.6
 
Cameron Edney
 
Lamb of God - Wrath Lamb of God - Wrath
Alice in Chains - Black Gives Way to Blue Alice in Chains - Black Gives Way to Blue
Devildriver - Pray for Villains Devildriver - Pray for Villians
Clutch - Strange Cousins from the West Clutch - Strange Cousins from the West
Hardcore Superstar - Beg for It Hardcore Superstar - Beg for It
Slayer - World Painted Blood Slayer - World Painted Blood
Ace Frehley - Anomaly Ace Frehley - Anomaly
Megadeth - Endgame Megadeth - Endgame
Lacuna Coil - Shallow Life Lacuna Coil - Shallow Life
Cannibal Corpse - Evisceration Plague Cannibal Corpse - Evisceration Plague
 
Steven Inglis
 
Marilyn Manson - The High End of Low 10 - Marilyn Manson - The High End of Low
Megadeth - Endgame 09 - Megadeth - Endgame
Lacuna Coil - Shallow Life 08 - Lacuna Coil - Shallow Life
Deathstars - Night Electric Night 07 - Deathstars - Night Electric Night
Alice in Chains - Black Gives Way to Blue 06 - Alice in Chains - Black Gives Way to Blue
God Dethroned - Passiondale 05 - God Dethroned - Passiondale
Static-X - Cult of Static 04 - Static-X - Cult of Static
God Forbid - Earthsblood 03 - God Forbid - Earthsblood
Chimaira - The Infection 02 - Chimaira - The Infection
Belakor - Stone's Reach 01 - Belakor - Stone's Reach
 
Simon Milburn
 
Napalm Death - Time Waits For No Slave Napalm Death - Time Waits For No Slave
La Coka Nostra - A Brand You Can Trust La Coka Nostra - A Brand You Can Trust
Susperia - Attitude Susperia - Attitude
Obituary - Darkest Day Obituary - Darkest Day
Switchblade - Invictus Infinitum Switchblade - Invictus Infinitum
Nightrage - Wearing a Martyr's Crown Nightrage - Wearing a Martyr's Crown
Alice In Chains' Black Gives Way To Blue Alice in Chains - Black Gives Way to Blue
Blood Tsunami - Grand Feast for Vultures Blood Tsunami - Grand Feast for Vultures
Insomnium - Across the Dark Insomnium - Across the Dark
Baroness - Blue Record Baroness - Blue Record
 
Justin Donnelly
 
Cheap Trick - The Latest

Cheap Trick - The Latest

This is the album fans have been waiting for from Cheap Trick for more than twenty-five years! The band’s song writing hasn’t been this strong and consistent in years, and it shows. There’s no denying that the classic rock act still have what it takes.

Duff McKagan’s Loaded – Sick

Duff McKagan’s Loaded – Sick

Without a doubt McKagan’s strongest solo outing to date, and one that finally cements his reputation as a song writer in his own right. It’s a damn shame this album didn’t received half the attention of Axl Rose’s disastrous effort under the old Guns N’ Roses banner.

Steven Wilson - Insurgentes

Steven Wilson – Insurgentes

Although Porcupine Tree released another fine effort this year (‘The Incident’), I actually have a preference for Wilson’s debut solo effort ‘Insurgentes’. Perhaps it’s because it’s a little more out there stylistically or maybe because it’s a little more challenging for the listener. Either way, this is definitely one of my favourite efforts from Wilson for 2009.

Converge - Axe to Fall

Converge - Axe to Fall

After perfecting their sound over the course of their three previous releases, Boston metalcore heavyweights Converge decided it was time to shake things up a little, with ‘Axe To Fall’ boasting a bold new sound for the legendary act. Needless to say, while their newfound sense of melody is a little unexpected, they still manage to crush with their trademark violent noise.

Katatonia - Night is the New Day

Katatonia – Night is the New Day

Just about every new Katatonia release seems to be earning a place in my top ten releases, and rightfully so. Again, the band has altered their sound a little, with the results speaking for themselves.

Paradise Lost - Faith Divides Us Death Unites Us

Paradise Lost - Faith Divides Us – Death Unites Us

Although Paradise Lost never really went away, the highly influential U.K. act has been slowly upping the aggression on their last couple of releases, which has helped them return to favour. In Short, 2007’s ‘In Requiem’ was a great album, but ‘Faith Divides Us – Death Unites Us’ is quite simply their best in a long time.

Alice in Chains - Black Gives Way to Blue

Alice in Chains – Black Gives Way to Blue

Comebacks and reformations are all the rage these days, but sadly few live up to expectations. Despite the scepticism, Alice In Chain’s return to the scene proved to be worthy of the hype, with their new release allowing the band a justified new start for a second time.

OSI - Blood

OSI - Blood

After a couple of strange and bewildering solo releases that left me feeling a little disappointed, Kevin Moore finally returned to OSI. After the lacklustre and generally uneventful ‘Free’ (2006), it was great to finally hear Moore inject some life into ‘Blood’, and confirm that the brilliance of their debut wasn’t simply down to its big name guest contributors, but more centred on strong songs.

Redemption - Snowfall on Judgement Day

Redemption – Snowfall on Judgement Day

With Fates Warning on semi-permanent hiatus, it’s not surprising to see Ray Alder’s other band Redemption gain more critical acclaim and exposure with every new release. Three albums in, and Redemption continue to shine and perfect their sound, with ‘Snowfall On Judgement Day’ another stunning release from the progressive rock outfit.

Sights and Sounds - Monolith

Sights & Sounds - Monolith

I think this album is one of those gems that passed under the radar by most. And those that did hear it were generally disappointed with it. Does that say something about my taste in music? I don’t know, but I know I like this album. Progressive rock mixed with post hardcore, and with a huge Devin Townsend influence evident throughout – What is there not to like? A lot I guess. Either way, I really liked ‘Monolith’.

 
Michael O’Brien
 
Megadeth - Endgame

Megadeth - Endgame

This is the album that I never expected Megadeth to be able to make - one that manages to truly bring back the classic sound that Dave Mustaine and Co have been chasing for so many years. It may not be perfect but it was a damn fine album from the long running act that shows there’s still plenty of fire in their belly.

Minsk - With Echoes in the Movement of Stone

Minsk - With Echoes in the Movement of Stone

I had never heard of Minsk before I received this album in the mail and they took me completely by surprise with it by mixing together huge amounts of Neurosis’ percussive tribalism with healthy doses of Cult of Luna styled doom and 70’s progressive rock. I’ve given this album at least one spin a day since I received it several weeks ago and there’s no sign of me tiring of it anytime soon.

1349 - Revelations of the Black Flame

1349 - Revelations of the Black Flame

1349 had developed a reputation for putting out powerful, blasting, balls to the wall black metal over the course of three very solid albums. Their 2009 release, Revelations of the Black Flame, saw the band shift their musical direction in ways that no one could have seen coming. Gone was the focus on tinny black metal - in its place was a cold, dense and claustrophobic album that literally oozed hate and malevolence. It was a divisive move and I know it left a lot of people scratching their heads but, not only did I love what the band had done from an aesthetic perspective; I loved it because of the stir it caused. 1349 showed that there are indeed new and challenging areas for black metal yet.

Alice in Chains - Black Gives Way to Blue

Alice in Chains - Black Gives Way to Blue

I was never a diehard Alice in Chains fan per se but their Dirt album has been a constant favourite of mine for years now. I think it’s pretty safe to assume that with the death of Layne Staley back in 2002 many people saw that as the end of Alice in Chains. I think it’s also safe to assume that many fans of the band looked upon the news of a reformation with some level of concern and quite possibly disdain but here’s the thing, this new Alice in Chains have done what no one dared to hope - they released a damn fine album without Staley at the helm. Sure, it may not necessarily equal the watermark set by some of the band’s previous albums but the band should feel no shame about what they have released here.

Behemoth - Evangelion

Behemoth - Evangelion

I have pretty mixed feelings when it comes Behemoth and those feelings had swung much more towards the negative side of things when we get to the albums Demigod and The Apostasy. The band were always solid but I couldn’t fathom the amount of awe they inspired in their fans. Evangelion was the album that brought Behemoth back into my good graces by virtue of its intensity and its technicality. Yes it is still modern day Behemoth but there is something about this album that I can’t shake.

Goatwhore - Carving Out the Eyes of God

Goatwhore - Carving Out the Eyes of God

Goatwhore were another unfamiliar band to me prior to this year but their Carving Out the Eyes of God album hooked me immediately with its Southern, Soilent Green-esque vibe mixed with Celtic Frost black and roll. It’s perhaps the most immediately accessible album on this list, but only in the best possible way. It’s instantly likeable and demands that you tune in and bang away without any frills or niceties to get in the way.

Mournful Congregation - The June Frost

Mournful Congregation - The June Frost

South Australia’s Mournful Congregation demonstrated once again why they are revered by the funeral doom faithful. It was a long wait between The Monad of Creation and The June Frost and I had my doubts about the band’s ability to craft something that matched the majesty of The Monad of Creation, but my fears were allayed when The June Frost made its way out of the shadows and presented a newly focused Mournful Congregation that can still pull out captivating songs of incredible length but can also condense their visions into songs of more traditional durations. The band allowed themselves to experiment a little more this time around, losing the all encompassing focus on funeral doom and introducing more varied elements while still retaining the fine balance between melancholy and beauty.

Ulcerate - Everything is Fire

Ulcerate - Everything is Fire

Ulcerate made an impact on me back in 2007 with their debut release, Of Fracture and Failure, but nothing could have prepared me for the onslaught the band returned with on this, their second album. Everything the band had shown us was turned on its head resulting in an album so dense and technically impressive that it borders on the inaccessible, even now some months later. This is the technical death metal album that other bands can only dream of creating.

Ahab - The Divinity of Oceans

Ahab - The Divinity of Oceans

Germany’s Ahab took me by complete surprise with their stunning 2006 release, The Call of the Wretched Sea. While themes centring around Herman Melville’s Moby Dick may not be the most common in the metal world, the band’s Nautical Funeral Doom was as heavy as Ahab’s heart. The Divinity of Oceans is a beast of an album that refuses to resort to the usual funeral doom trickery by allowing the music to take the listener on a journey rather than brow-beating them with material as murky as the depths of the ocean.

Mono - Hymn to the Immortal Wind

Mono - Hymn to the Immortal Wind

I wrestled with the decision to include a non metal band in this list but the quality of Mono’s work speaks for itself. I discovered these guys off the back of their amazing 2006 album, You Are There, and have been hooked on their post rock musings ever since. Hymn to the Immortal Wind continues the band’s penchant for creating sweeping and sprawling instrumental music that is engaging and, at times, achingly beautiful.

Marduk - Wormwood

Marduk - Wormwood

Similar to what Mayhem and 1349 did before them, Wormwood was a massive stylistic shift for Marduk who had spent over 15 years developing and playing a very recognisable style of black metal. After such a long time producing pretty similar music it had never occurred to me that Marduk might try their hand at something a little more subtle and progressive but I’m glad they did because like those albums by Mayhem and 1349, Wormwood is a challenging and rewarding modern black metal album.

More from Savage Circus, Chemistry Room, Grave Digger, Rebellion, Crimson Cult, Celesty, Mystic Prophecy, Primal Fear, Lamb of God, Alice in Chains, Devildriver, Clutch, Hardcore Superstar, Slayer, Ace Frehley, Megadeth, Lacuna Coil, Cannibal Corpse, Marilyn Manson, Deathstars, God Dethroned, Static-X, God Forbid, Chimaira, Be'lakor, Napalm Death, Susperia, Obituary, Switchblade, Nightrage, Blood Tsunami, Insomnium, Baroness, Minsk, 1349, Behemoth, Goatwhore, Mournful Congregation, Ulcerate, Ahab and Marduk