Yeah, I know what you’re thinking, it’s a bit early to start thinking about the album of the year. It’s only mid-September. But such are publishing and album release schedules that we Decibel footsoldiers are mentally ensconced in winter, like, this year is so over. But the thing is, compiling a top 10 ten or top 20 is an absolute bitch; some years everything sounds great, and in others nothing stands out. And how to you compile the list, on what grounds: Is it like Desert Island Discs-style, 10, 20 you’d pack in a bag and that would be your lot should you run aground in some unpopulated outpost of Micronesia, or is it there some sort of logic, genre box-ticking at play?
Some writers will have theirs done already, fixed up on color-coded Excel spreadsheets. Others need some help, like asking a pair of 66-year-olds what they think of some of the albums which’ll be sure to be prime movers come the final reckoning. Yeah, sure, what can you learn from your aunt and uncle you say, and what are their metal credentials? Well their services to metal have been restricted to back office administration; ticket purchasing (financing a Suicidal Tendencies ticket in ’92 was hugely appreciated), eating spaghetti carbonara without cutlery so not to disturb a phoner with Deicide… Anyway, meet Mary and John McKendry (favorite jams: Vanessa Paradis “Joe Le Taxi and the Stones’ “Honky Tonk Woman” respectively), residents of the ‘burbs, Glasgow, Scotland. In between beer bongs they heard Ulcerate for the first time today, wore a Tombs t-shirt, passed over Vastum and Atriarch, got reacquainted with Mastodon and, aye, quite enjoyed Primordial. It was quite the afternoon.
The Destroyers of All
The New Zealand death crew’s third album is another tour de force for twisting death metal into hitherto unrecognised forms, adding elements of atonal, melancholic post-metal to the usual tattoo of techinically adroit, faceripping DM. It’s quite the doozy, hardly easy listening and one of the albums that requires a total immersion, its non-linear stream of consciousness hardly the immediate verse/chorus crowd pleaser but it’s surely one of the strongest DM releases of the year. File under “taking the genre forward”.
Aunt Mary: I like the tune, the melody. It sounds like I’m at the Edinburgh Tattoo, you know what I mean? I like the drums. It sounds like a marching band until he started singing and spoiled it. Oh no, that’s scary, for a woman of my age that’s scary. Oh that’s bad.
Uncle John: It’s distorted, the voice is distorted, as it if it’s meant to sound to sound distorted. It’s pretty repetitive….
Aunt Mary: Well it’s to sound evil, isn’t it, he’s not going to sing in a high-pitched voice, is he?
Uncle John: No.
Ye Olde Rating: 4/10
Swedish rock atavists Graveyard were definitely not made for these times, looking and sounding instead that they’d been some sort of accident of space and time, and instead of ending up in the early ’70s found themselves living in the here and now, playing some beautifully crafted hard rock and proto-metal for the born-too-late demographic.
Aunt Mary: Can you turn it up a wee bit? Oh it sounds quite like a madman at the start.
Uncle John: Oh I like it, that’s a bit more tuneful, the voice is good, the guitars are good and the drums are good. I could listen to that.
Aunt Mary: Aye, me too, but I’d still only give it a 6 out of 10.
Uncle John: No, a 7 from me.
Ye Olde Rating: 6.5/10
An album made all the more spectacular given Bobby Liebling’s survival against all odds, especially himself, and his ability to put aside his excesses to put together a bang up doom rocker that’s one part reflective Americana and two parts triumphant, bombastic rock.
Aunt Mary: What are they called? He looks like Einstein. From this side he does look a bit mad looking. No, I don’t like that one at all. No, it’s not bad. I’d give that a 7. He’s got a very high-pitched voice. Christ, look at him; he doesn’t go to his bed at half-eleven, does he?
Uncle John: There’s nothing wrong with it! Not bad at all, actually, a good voice. This is all right, I give this a seven.
Aunt Mary: I bet he likes the wacky-backy.
Uncle John: Something a bit stronger I would have thought!
Ye Olde Rating: 6.5/10
Mastodon’s abandonment of the weight concepts and the prog-rock super-cerebral seriousness has made for an album that sounds like their own contemporary metal vision of what FM classic rock could sound like if it was informed by monster movies and LSD. It’s probably too accessible not to make some of their acolytes spit the dummy but the songwriting is pretty much watertight.
Aunt Mary: Oh, I prefer that, that’s the best I’ve heard so far. I like the drums in it as well. Aye, that’s the the best of the bunch for me anyway, I’d give that an 8, it reminds me of another song but not a heavy metal song.
Uncle John: I like it.
Ye Olde Rating: 8/10
Macabre Eternal is death metal’s box office record of the year. Of course that should have been Morbid Angel, you would think, but Autopsy were the old-school resurrectionists who brought their necro death back from the slab without managing to loop in some industrial goth rock bleeps and techno beats and come over “too extreme” for all of us poor death metal fans. Even packing an 11-minute song didn’t diminish Autopsy’s power. Our focus group aren’t feeling it.
Aunt Mary: Oh no, that’s terrible, that’s the worst yet. His voice is the scariest yet. 2/10. I think you’d really have to be into this to enjoy that.
Uncle John: Not for me that.
Ye Olde Rating: 2/10
Redemption at the Puritan’s Hand
Primordial’s epic thunder should at least resonate with the celtic connection here, but the Irish one-time black metal now (sort of) folk metal troupe’s sound has real crossover appeal, avoiding the foibles of the furry metal nonsense and articulates a feeling of melancholy partriotism better than any other metal band.
Uncle John: He’s Irish, is he?
Aunt Mary: I’m waiting for it to do something else… Is that it? Oh, I find that quite boring, to be honest.
Uncle John: It’s just that bit that’s repetitive. I quite like that really.
Aunt Mary: I don’t know what he’s saying; is he singing in English? But I can’t make out any of them to be honest. I’d give them an 8 too. It was very slow in starting but I do quite like this. This is more my cup of tea. Actually, no, I’d give them an 8.5. It’s between this and Mastodon.
Uncle John: Is all of their stuff like this? I’d give it an 8. I think this is my favorite.
Ye Olde Rating: 8.5/10
There you have it, from the mouthes of the elders: Primordial by a nose, Mastodon close second. But they did pass up on Disma, Batillus and found Tombs too “there’s nothing going on”. Fuck making AOTY lists.