Everybody keeps talking about what a great year it was for metal, how much better it was than last year, and how difficult this process was. Indeed, it was a good year, but I still give the edge to 2009. This year, I was literally drowned with new music, listening to an average of five new albums a week yet still barely making a dent in the enormous amount of worthiness that presented itself. Rarely did I have time to go back and revisit anything, so that all-important first impression became even more so.
And now, with as little fanfare as possible, I bring you the least anticipated “Top 20 of 2009” list that Last Rites has to offer. I’m sure I have the fewest number of albums here that ended up on the staff list, so all of you naysayers can either a) not blame me because I didn’t vote for the albums you disagree with, or b) blame me for not voting for more albums that you agree with. It doesn’t matter to me – I’m getting paid the same regardless.
The Top 10:
1. Tyr – By the Light of the Northern Star
Tyr takes the top spot in a hotly-battled showdown thanks to the sheer unexpectedness of By the Light of the Northern Star. Ragnarok bored the pants off me. Land was a huge step forward; epic, yet requiring an amount of patience to make it through the long tracks. This year, then, they took all of the epic, trimmed the fat, cranked it up, and galloped straight to greatness. Fist-pumping; sword-raising; chorus chanting. Tyr invoked all of these and more and rekindled my love of the folk/pagan/viking genre.
2. Alestorm – Black Sails at Midnight
Alestorm took the pirate metal torch from Running Wild with last year’s Captain Morgan’s Revenge, and took it to the next level on their sophomore outing: more wenches, more mead, more rum, and most importantly, more jigging. How bizarre is it that my top two choices were released by the same label, on the same day, and toured the states together?
3. Devin Townsend Project – Addicted
After the interesting yet lackluster showing on Ki, I crossed my fingers for better things from the second in the Devin Townsend Project series – and boy, did I get it. It kind of crept up on me, though. I enjoyed it at first listen but over the next few weeks the material kept finding it way back into my cerebellum. The genius of Hevy Devy + the vocal beauty of Anneke Van Giersbergen + the hypnotic drumming of Ryan Van Poederooyen = a big winner in 2009.
4. Megadeth – Endgame
I’ve steadily defended pretty much all of Dave Mustaine’s output post-Risk. At least initially. They’ve all waned a bit over time. That is, except Endgame, which has yet to wear out its welcome. Well-written, well-played, and executed as best as could be hoped for. I don’t know about this so-called beef Dave has with Roadrunner, but if this album is getting the shaft, it’s a damn shame. If people just aren’t buying it, that’s a damn shame, too, because Endgame deserves to be heard – the louder, the better.
5. Lazarus A.D. – The Onslaught
Just when the thrash revival looked to be on its last legs, along comes Metal Blade with this Wisconsin-based four piece to bring the whole scene roaring back to life. Acknowledging the past while stomping towards the future, The Onslaught encompasses the classic sound we thrashers love while reminding us that it can still sound as young and vital as it did back in 1986.
6. Mastodon – Crack the Skye
Just missing the top 5 is Mastodon’s masterwork. Given my listening habits, it was an album that was difficult to revisit because it was one that you really had to listen to, and not just have playing as you drive down the freeway. Brilliant and unexpected, especially to one who has enjoyed the band but doubted the hype. Seeing/hearing it performed live in it’s entirety on their recent tour with Dethklok only sealed the deal.
7. Heaven & Hell – The Devil You Know
Not much more can be said here that I didn’t cover in the team gangbang when it was released. Dio, Iommi, Butler, and Appice in top form. Maybe I’m just a sucker for a great Dio vocal or a hooky Iommi riff, but I don’t see how that’s relevant in assembling a top ten list.
8. Trans-Siberian Orchestra – Night Castle
The first time I heard about this album was during a 2006 interview with guitarist Al Pitrelli, when he said that it would be released in 2007 with a spring/summer tour to follow. Perfectionists that they are, it got pushed back to this year. For the most part, it was worth the wait. When TSO is on, they are damn near untouchable; when they’re off, they’re still pretty good. This 2CD concept album was pretty weighty and even frustrating at times with the many ballads, but the good stuff was just so good that I had no choice but to give them a nod here. Check out “Sparks,” “Another Way You Can Die,” and “Moonlight and Madness” if you don’t believe me.
9. The Black Dahlia Murder – Deflorate
Yeah, I’m as surprised as you are. My interest in BDM had been slowly waning since Unhallowed, but there was SOMETHING about Deflorate that latched on and stuck with me over time. I probably couldn’t tell one track from another and I don’t remember any of the titles, but I do know that when it starts playing, it has both my full attention and full volume.
10. Novembers Doom – Into Nights Requiem Infernal
I played around with this spot for awhile before deciding on this massive chunk of doom and gloom. Great vocals and tones here, and the kind of doom that an over-caffeinated spaz like myself can really enjoy. And I’m not afraid to fellate fellow staffer Sasha Horn by saying that his drumming is really what put this Requiem over the top, driving the rhythms and finding just the right sounds to fill what little empty space could be found.
The Next 10:
11. Burnt By the Sun – Hearts of Darkness
12. Sign of the Southern Cross – Of Mountains and Moonshine
13. Slayer – World Painted Blood
14. Hammerfall – No Sacrifice No Victory
15. Warbringer – Waking Into Nightmares
16. Kreator – Hordes of Chaos
17. Goatwhore – Carving Out the Eyes of God
18. Hypocrisy – A Taste of Extreme Divinity
19. Winds of Plague – The Great Stone War
20. Obituary – Darkest Day
The Almost 10:
Behemoth – Evangelion
Cannibal Corpse – Evisceration Plague
Devildriver – Pray For Villians
Dream Theater – Black Clouds and Silver Linings
Ensiferum – From Afar
God Dethroned – Passiondale
Lamb of God – Wrath
Man Must Die – No Tolerance For Imperfection
Queensryche – American Soldier
Razor Of Occam – Homage to Martyrs
The Non-Metal 5:
Alice In Chains – Black Gives Way to Blue
Pearl Jam – Backspacer
Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine – The Audacity of Hype
Pissed Jeans – King of Jeans
Dinosaur Jr. – Farm