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APESHIT's Top Albums of 2009

December 28, 2009

It’s that time where we take a look back on the year as 2009 comes to a close. So we, the APESHIT goons, asked ourselves, what albums moved us, kicked our asses, and reminded us of why we love metal (and music)? Read on for our top albums of 2009…

shady rajah’s top 10

images/slayer.worldpaintedblood.jpg 1. SLAYER - World Painted Blood (American Recordings) After nearly 30 years, speed metal’s godfathers return with another excursion into uncompromising metal. Battle-tested and unwavering in their tenacity, metal’s dark horse continues to ride, staying ahead of the pack with power and conviction. [Read our full review]

2. YOB - The Great Cessation (Profound Lore) Oregon’s YOB delivered monolithic walls of sludgy sound well before it became the cool thing to do. The band changed their name to MIDDIAN, were dropped by their label and sent to die in the cold. Fortunately for fans of sludge and doom, the band rose from adversity delivering their most complete and powerful date. Burying critics and fans alike into thick walls and layers of epic, all-encompassing sound.

3. MARDUK - Wormwood (Regain Records) Black metal got a little cute and trendy in 2009, what with movies and comic books and hipsters proclaiming alleged knowledge of a once special, unexplored part of the underground. Luckily for us, the posers forgot about MARDUK. Morgan Hankasson and his latest deathsquad of enforcers have insured the genre is alive and vital as ever. Wormwood sees the band unleash all the relentless speed we have come to expect, but have interjected the songs with atmosphere, technical skill and just an absolute unending killer instinct that can’t be faked.

4. NILE - Those Whom the Gods Detest (Nuclear Blast Records) A Carolina band who writes songs devoted almost entirely to Egyptian myths and historical events becomes one of the most popular bands in death metal. Who knew? But after the somewhat bland Ithyphallic, NILE returns with an angry, unrelenting album packed with twisted rhythms and crushing guitar work, delivering their most effective, spirited work in years.

5. URGEHAL - Ikonoklast (Season of Mist) Sneaking quietly under the radar like most good music, Norway’s URGEHAL have improved with each release. Ikonoklast may soon bring them the notoriety they seek with an album filled with twisted leads ,atmosphere, solid rhythms, and surprisingly catchy hooks. An album that balances the line between nasty and tuneful perfectly.

6. DARK CASTLE - Spirited Migration (At a Loss) A two piece without a bassist has somehow found a way to burst ear drums utilizing loud, Loud, LOUD amps and a drummer that uses a bass drum for a floor tom to create their mammoth avalanche of heaving, dissonant drone that scores of pretenders will never come close to imagining. A Spirited Migration indeed.

7. BEHEMOTH - Evangelion (Metal Blade Records) Let’s face it, BEHEMOTH are a massive metal machine. They have conquered numerous continents,the respect of their peers, tons of albums sales, scores of fans and their albums are even available at Best Buy. Each record is a surgical, precise display of fast, complex, exotic blackened death metal. Has the band expanded on their sound? No. Taken any risks? Well not really, but Evangelion is still light years ahead in terms of performance, production and execution of their previous work as well as most of the competition. [Read our full review]

8. ASPHYX - Death the Brutal Way (Ibex Moon Records) Seemingly forgotten or unknown to Johnny-come-lately death kids, The Netherlands finest musical export resurrected itself from the grave to wreak havoc on the SUICIDE SILENCE’s and myspace death metal generation with an ugly, filthy, meat and potatoes, no fucking around exercise in blunt, honest hate-filled death metal.

9. SUFFOCATION - Blood Oath (Nuclear Blast Records) Frank Mullen and the Lawng Island crew return with a hammer to the skull and attitude to spare on their sixth excursion of insanely low growls, heaps of bottom end, unconventional leads and “Smith blasts” No filler, no gimmicks and simply no time or need for bullshit, SUFFOCATION retains it’s proud legacy of punishing death metal. [Read our full review]

10. VADER - Necropolis (Metal Blade Records) Death, lineup changes, label changes, etc… are all part and routine of vocalist/guitarist/mainman Peter Wiwczarek’s struggles to keep Poland’s finest metal act alive. Fortunately none of the setbacks seem to hold him back, instead only adding to the fire that helped make comeback record Necropolis their most inspired work in recent years. Creating a twisted journey of catchy, punishing, sinister riffage and a pounding, driving drumfest. By now you know the drill, but with an album this good, neither Peter or his fans would have it any other way. [Read our full review]

roycifer’s top 6

images/converge.axetofall.jpg 1. CONVERGE - Axe to Fall (Epitaph Records) With Axe to Fall, CONVERGE delivered. They matched, if not surpassed, the defining Jane Doe in sheer audial extremity, and continue to embody what they live, and live what they embody. Everything they layout is both truthful, exciting, and adventurous; everything else is throwaway. [Read our full review]

2. MARDUK - Wormwood (Regain Records) MARDUK have seemingly hovered as a B-rate black metal band throughout their career, but their recent slew of albums really shows that even after 11 full-length albums, a band can only get better. Wormwood showcases MARDUK’s continued refinement (particularly since Mortuus began screaming for the band). Not only is his vocal presence sickening, he has brought about an added fresh and almost experimental edge to their sound.

3. VALIENT THORR - Immortalizer (Volcom Entertainment) Their penchant for denim isn’t the only thing TURBONEGRO-esque about VALIENT THORR. They also write fun, tasty, stoner/punk/rock anthems…albeit with a hefty, bearded, American flare.

4. SUNN O))) - Monoliths & Dimensions (Southern Lord) One can only go so far with drone. That’s why collaborating with others, like MAYHEM’s Attila Csihar (amongst many others), only helps add “dimensions” to their sound. Csihar’s presence gives the songs an even more demonic spice, while somber horns recall some of Miles Davis’ fusion trips.

5. GREYMACHINE - Disconnected (Hydra Head) JESU started out as an excellent successor to GODFLESH but soon waned, losing darkness and grit in favor of dreamy shoegaze. Disconnected picks up where all went sparkly, capturing a dark industrial sound that explodes with grit and noisy drone, fit for a seasoned GODFLESH fan.

6. MADDER MORTEM - Eight Ways (Peaceville) It’s unfortunate that MADDER MORTEM doesn’t get as much attention that they deserve. They have always been one of the better and more interesting metal bands out there. Vocalist Agnete Kirkevaag is a remarkably talented and versatile singer, and she is backed by a band of musicians that can still be creative in the oft-limiting genre of metal. Eight Ways is another win for the band.

dr.park’s top 10

images/converge.axetofall.jpg 1. CONVERGE - Axe to Fall (Epitaph Records) When an album makes your head explode, you know it’s a winner. There are few bands that produce the same level of dissonant, chaotic extremity. This album makes most extreme metal albums wilt. [Read our full review]

2. KATATONIA - Night is the New Day (Peaceville) It’s always a pleasure to listen to a new KATATONIA album and see how they’ve redefined what “modern metal” is for them. Their use of subtle synthesizers, string instruments, and yet another expansion of their riff and songwriting vocabulary is yet another reason why KATATONIA are so good. [Read our full review]

3. THE DEVIN TOWNSEND PROJECT - Addicted (Inside Out Music) Devin Townsend + Anneke Van Giersbergen = dream collaboration. Two underground metal pioneers are always better than one. Addicted is just over the top melodic, euphoric futuristic pop metal that you’d expect from Devin. [Read our full review]

4. VOLBEAT - Guitar Gangsters and Cadillac Blood (Mascot Records) Charismatic, catchy songs are never overrated. VOLBEAT know exactly how to hook you in. If your love of the rock genre spans the genre’s birth to the present, you’ll find much to enjoy about this excellent album. [Read our full review]

5. PARADISE LOST - Faith Divides Us, Death Unites Us (Century Media Records) Those in the know know that Nick Holmes is one of the great singers in metal. And of course, the rest of PARADISE LOST are excellent as well. Twelve albums into their career and they’re still writing some of the most distinct, charismatic, and top notch songs in metal. Isn’t it time you stop hearing about this band and actually check them out? [Read our full review]

6. SWALLOW THE SUN - New Moon (Spinefarm Records) Death/doom perfection. Finland still has the monopoly on the genre. After AMORPHIS, SWALLOW THE SUN are easily the most musically relevant band from Finland. Don’t deprive yourself of New Moon. [Read our full review]

7. JELLO BIAFRA AND THE GUANTANAMO SCHOOL OF MEDICINE - The Audacity of Hype (Alternative Tenticles) There are a trillion bands that lightly discuss socio-political topics but what bands actually make you think deeper? There are lots of major issues facing Americans and issues that affect everyone around the world yet most bands are too busy wearing stupid costumes and singing about ridiculous fictional topics. The Audacity of Hype is the best hardcore punk album since, well, Jello Biafra’s last collaboration with THE MELVINS. [Read our full review]

8. NAPALM DEATH - Time Waits for No Slave (Century Media Records) Good old NAPALM gets better with age. Time Waits for No Slave embodies the types of qualities that makes extreme metal enjoyable and exciting to listen to. If you don’t love NAPALM DEATH, you’re a dumbass. [Read our full review]

9. NILE - Those Whom the Gods Detest (Nuclear Blast Records) When NILE roll on Those Whom the Gods Detest, they’re unstoppable. The album more than makes up for any drop in quality on Ithyphallic. Welcome back, NILE!

10. ABSU - Absu (Candlelight Records) It’s a foolish move to underestimate how good ABSU really is. Perfect drumming, a nice array of metal rhythms, and lots of smokin’ riffs can all be found on this very cool comeback album. [Read our full review]

MetalGeorge’s top 10

images/amorphis.skyforger.jpg 1. AMORPHIS - Skyforger (Nuclear Blast) I could listen to AMORPHIS on repeat and never become bored. Skyforger continues this winning streak for the band, and solidified the Finnish collective as one of my absolute favorites via its all-consuming melodic heart and furious folk stomp. New-ish frontman Tomi Joutsen has single-handedly saved the band from near-extinction with his passionate vocals, with Skyforger serving as his finest performance yet. Unstoppable. [Read our full review]

2. THE COMPANY BAND - The Company Band (Restricted Release) A stoner rock supergroup with grooves to spare and bar-none one of the best lyricists around in CLUTCH’s Neil Fallon. This missed the number one spot by THAT much.

3. THE DEVIL’S BLOOD - The Time Of No Time Evermore (Van) Bearers of what might be the most unique sound in town, 2010 will be the year of THE DEVIL’S BLOOD trademarked “horror soul”…mark my words.

4. REVOCATION - Existence Is Futile (Relapse) I’ve never been one to blindly support local bands just because they’re “local,” but Boston REVOCATION’s have made it to where they are via unerring hard work and dedication. Oh, and because—with the blistering Existence Is Futile—they’ve made a modern death/thrash masterpiece. This will peel your fucking face off.

5. ASTRA - The Weirding (Rise Above) Vintage 70s prog with guitar work to die for, this still blows my mind every time I hear it.

6. MADDER MORTEM - Eight Ways (Peaceville) It’s truly an unjust world we live in when Agnete Kirkevaag and her band of melancholy men aren’t recognized for the amazingly deep, complex band they are, and the amazing records the release each and every time. Eight Ways is no exception, and fulfills on every level.

7. (tie) COUNT RAVEN - Mammon’s War / CHURCH OF MISERY - Houses of The Unholy (I Hate/Rise Above) Because I couldn’t resist sneaking in an extra pick, these are two exercises in doom metal class and excess. I’ll leave you to choose which band does which. Either way, you’ll come up a winner in the end.

8. DEATHSTARS - Night Electric Night (Nuclear Blast) Annoyed at the bi-curious, glam/goth image? Your loss, because Night Electric Night rocked the way most bands WISH they could. Oh, and these ex-SWORDMASTER dudes hook up with hotter chicks than you or I could EVER hope to meet, never mind touch. So suck it.

9. CRIPPLED BLACK PHOENIX - 200 Tons Of Bad Luck (Invada) Vast, emotional depth and a songwriting complexity to die for…what’s not to love? Amazing that an ex-Iron Monkey dude is involved in this, but it’s true!

10. TEGAN AND SARA - Sainthood (EMI) No, it’s not metal. Yes, it’s twin-lesbian-sister-led indie rock. But it features some of the finest songwriting you’ll ever hear, and proof once again that if you listen to just heavy metal…then you’re truly missing out, my friend.

(Thanks to Blistering!)

bigjohnson’s top 10

images/napalmdeath.timewaitsfornos.jpg 1. NAPALM DEATH - Time Waits for No Slave (Century Media Records) While most bands have come and gone, NAPALM DEATH still continues to reign supreme, as Time Waits for No Slave packs just as much intensity and brutality as when they first released Scum, way back in 1985. With their tight drumming, chugging riffs, and the unique vocals of one Mark “Barney” Greenway, these blokes are still grinding out masterpieces, while keeping everything fresh at the same time. With short bursts of grind like shotgun blasts to the face, tracks like “Diktat,” “Downbeat Clique,” and “Feeling Redundant” make you wish that all bands had the longevity and creativity as “N.D.”! Long live the kings of grind! [Read our full review]

2. HYPOCRISY - A Taste of Extreme Divinity (Nuclear Blast Records) These veterans need no introduction, and once again Peter and Co. deliver a melodic and catchy slab of death metal. The band is no longer limited in the drumming department, as blastbeat master Horgh steps in on his second album with the Swedish unit and delivers a powerful performance. Catchy tunes have always been HYPOCRISY’s strong points, as “Valley of the Damned,” “Solar Empire,” and “Weed Out the Weak” show that these guys still deliver. No experimenting like from Catch-22 is found here, as A Taste of Extreme Divinity is enjoyable and excellent straight forward HYPOCRISY that we all know and love.

3. DYING FETUS - Descend Into Depravity (Relapse Records) After years of constant touring and paying their dues on the road, DYING FETUS have finally set themselves apart from the generic SUFFOCATION clones. After releasing the disappointing War on Attrition album, DYING FETUS comes back with a vengeance as a three piece, and in the style of their classic album - Destroy The Opposition. The production is superb and fitting, as John Gallagher’s low grunts and arpeggio sweeps blend with Sean Beasley’s thick and audible bass lines. The drumming skills of newcomer Trey Williams is impressive, as he emulates ex-DYING FETUS drummer Kevin Talley down to a T. If you gave up on DYING FETUS because of their last few albums, now is the time to give them another chance with this one!

4. NILE - Those Whom the Gods Detest (Nuclear Blast Records) Ithyphallic was a huge disappointment with a boring, “so-so” feeling to it, but NILE have awakened from the Egyptian slumber and produced a brutal chunk of intense death metal! Those Whom the Gods Detest delivers a high quality of songwriting that the band has missed since Annihilation of the Wicked. Precise, technical drumming, in-your-face crushing riffs and vocals all pummel your auditory senses with no remorse. When NILE is on top of their game, they are unstoppable. Those Whom the Gods Detest features more coherent riffs, without inserting ridiculous disharmonic solos, and avoids being brutal just for the sake of being brutal. The album clocks in at just under an hour, so multiple listens are required to appreciate every aspect, from the complex riffs, to the different layers and intricate drumming of George Kollias. This is an album not be missed!

5. ABSU - Absu (Candlelight Records) As one of the most underrated bands to hail from the U.S. extreme metal scene, ABSU has released a majestic and epic release with their self-titled effort. Proscriptor takes his role in the band to a new level, as he punishes the drum kit, delivers a demonic vocal performance, and enlists a few nice guests along the way. Ex-MAYHEM axeman Blasphemer lends his talents on a few tracks, and this album is one of the finest and solid discs of the year. Tracks like “Amy” and “13 Globes” should be reasons why this occult metal band’s album should be put on repeated spins. [Read our full review]

6. ASPHYX - Death…The Brutal Way (Ibex Moon Records) ASPHYX has mastered the doom/death metal sound with such classics as The Rack and Last One on Earth, but Death…The Brutal Way is an album that may just match those mandatory albums. The Dutch outfit have reformed, and mainman Martin Van Drunen takes his unique death metal voice to combine with the mid paced, heavy low end songs that HAIL OF BULLETS fans are well aware of. With the ultra thick and sludgy production, this album conjures up feelings from the early 90’s when death metal just started to explode. Death…The Brutal Way is definitely a great blast from the past, and perhaps the clueless youth of today will dig deeper than SUICIDE SILENCE or SCAR SYMMETRY and find hidden gems like ASPHYX.

7. KATATONIA - Night is the New Day (Peaceville Records) The undisputed kings of Swedish doom release another masterpiece with Night is the New Day, and while a little heavier approach is brought forth this time around, the sweet melodies are still in tact. A few songs can be comparable to OPETH, but KATATONIA balances the “heavy/acoustic” ratio better, as evidenced on tracks such as “Idle Blood” and “Liberation”. Thankfully, Jonas doesn’t go back to his horrid screeching (or drumming) as executed in the old days, and his bliss vocals fit perfectly, as they have with all the “clean” KATATONIA albums. [Read our full review]

8. OBSCURA - Cosmogenesis (Relapse Records) OBSCURA is comprised of the ex-members of NECROPHAGIST and PESTILENCE, so it’s no surprise that Cosmogenesis is a fusion of jazz-inspired, bass line driven, technical death metal. Bass extraordinaire Jeroen Paul Thesseling has some slick bass playing on Cosmogenesis, and Christian Muenzner and Hannes Grossmann throw in their NECROPHAGIST style for good measure in “The Anticosmic Overload” and “Desolate Spheres”. Cosmogenesis is a good combination of CYNIC’s Focus, NECROPHAGIST’s Epitaph, and DEATH’s Symbolic, so fans of technicality will eat this disc up.

9. SUFFOCATION - Blood Oath (Nuclear Blast Records) The godfathers of brutal slam death metal return with Blood Oath, and leave no survivors in their path. From the opening title track to the re-recording of “Marital Decimation”, the album is relentless, and never stopping once to give you a chance to breathe. The “Mike Smith/SUFFOCATION blast” is in full effect, as is the ever-so-important bottom end of the thundering bass, which is why SUFFOCATION will always be the kings in “heavy” and “brutal”. While Blood Oath is no classic like Pierced From Within or Despise the Sun, it is, and always will be better than an album by any SUFFOCATION clone out there today. Respect the originators of brutal death metal! [Read our full review]

10. CHTHONIC - Mirror of Retribution (Fontana Universal) By breaking new ground with the Ozzfest tour and recently supporting SATYRICON on their U.S. tour, Asia’s own CHTHONIC has matured to perfect their politically driven, CRADLE OF FILTH-esque album, Mirror of Retribution. Featuring IRON MAIDEN inspired riffs and their use of the oriental violin (er-hu), the band steps up their game with “Sing-Ling Temple” and “Forty-Nine Theurgy Chains.” While they may sound too much like CRADLE OF FILTH in many aspects, CHTHONIC strives to be one of the best up and coming bands that gives worldwide known black metal bands a run for their money. [Read our full review]

There you have it… APESHIT’s top albums of 2009. Was it an exciting year in metal and music for you? What were your favorite albums of the year? Let us know in the comments below!