This is Murs telling you about a festival that every hip-hop fan in the state of California should attend. Seriously, I’m jealous.
The rest of the info can be found on Paid Dues’ official website (http://www.paidduesfestival.com/)
While it’s not official until Mayhemfest sends out a press release, the website for Rockstar Energy Mayhem Festival has done a poor job of hiding their lineup. A look at http://mayhemfest.com/rmf/ reveals that the bands playing will be:
Kingdom of Sorrow
All Shall Perish
Straight Line Stitch
There is an image containing the logos for the two bottom stages right below the logo for In Flames, so unless they've added another band to the main stage the first four (Megadeth, Disturbed, Godsmack, In Flames) should be playing the main stage. Again, this is purely speculation, but it’s the most likely scenario for anyone curious about running order. If that's the case, the others should be spread across the "Extreme stage" and the "Jagermeister stage," with Machine Head and Trivium likely being the side stage headliners. As I’ve mentioned numerous times at this point, the lineup is unconfirmed, and bands can be added or dropped. However, all signs point to these 12 bands playing the North American hard rock festival this summer. For some more official information, the dates for Mayhemfest are as follows:
Jul. 09 - San Bernardino, CA @ San Manuel Amphitheatre
Jul. 10 - San Francisco, CA @ Shoreline Amphitheatre
Jul. 12 - Seattle, WA @ White River Amphitheater
Jul. 13 - Boise, ID @ Idaho Center Amphitheatre
Jul. 15 - Phoenix, AZ @ Cricket Wireless Pavilion
Jul. 16 - Albuquerque, NM @ Hard Rock Casino Presents: The Pavilion
Jul. 17 - Denver, CO @ Comfort Dental Amphitheatre
Jul. 19 - St. Louis, MO @ Verizon Wireless Amphitheater
Jul. 20 - Cincinnati, OH @ Riverbend Music Center
Jul. 22 - Boston, MA @ Comcast Center
Jul. 23 - Montreal, QUE @ Parc Jean Drapeau
Jul. 24 - Hartford, CT @ The Comcast Theatre
Jul. 27 - Holmdel, NJ @ P.N.C. Bank Arts Center
Jul. 29 - Pittsburgh, PA @ First Niagara Pavilion
Jul. 30 - Washington, DC @ Jiffy Lube Live
Jul. 31 - Camden, NJ @ Susquehanna Bank Center
Aug. 02 - Virginia Beach, VA @ Verizon Wireless V. Beach Amphitheater
Aug. 03 - Raleigh, NC @ Time Warner Cable Music Pavilion at Walnut Creek
Aug. 05 - Chicago, IL @ First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre
Aug. 06 - Detroit, MI @ DTE Energy Music Theatre
Aug. 07 - Indianapolis, IN @ Verizon Wireless Music Center
Aug. 09 - Oklahoma City, OK @ Zoo Amphitheatre
Aug. 10 - Dallas, TX @ Superpages.com Center
Aug. 12 - Atlanta, GA @ Lakewood Amphitheatre
Aug. 13 - Tampa, FL @ 1-800-Ask-Gary-Amphitheatre
Aug. 14 - West Palm Beach, FL @ Cruzan Amphitheater
Despite being low on “album of the year” contenders, this section of the guide was one of the hardest to narrow down. There weren’t many pure goth albums in 2010, but doom and melodic death metal both had very strong years. There were throwback albums, progressive works, and ones that fell somewhere in between. Regardless of what type of doom metal or melodeath you like, 2010 had something for you.
The Absence have clearly settled into a groove, as Enemy Unbound features a very similar style to their last two albums. While Riders of the Plague saw the band maturing into a modern riff-based melodeath great, Enemy Unbound is largely the same. As such, there’s not a ton of progression here. Still, there is no band that plays melodic death metal quite like The Absence, and anyone who heard their last album should know that more of the same isn’t a bad thing at all.
Curse of the Red River
The debut album from this heavy metal supergroup is hopefully the first of many. Curse of the Red River is a very solid album, mixing progressive metal with melodeath, doom, and thrash metal. The members are from bands that cover all four of those genres (Swallow the Sun, Kreator, Moonsorrow, and Amorphis), and each member brings their own style to the music. It actually works quite well, and is far more cohesive than most supergroup albums. The death doom vocals work surprisingly well with the thrash and melodeath instrumentation, and due to the contrasting styles of doom and thrash that’s no small accomplishment This is a solid and original album, but it’s certainly filled with untapped potential. That’s really the sticking point of Barren Earth, as it’s hard not to shake the feeling that this is only the start, and really only a fraction of what this group is capable of.
The Piper at the Gates of Doom
When you put “doom” in the title of your band and album, you better be good at playing doom metal. Thankfully, Doomshine live up to their name. This is doom metal in its purest form. It doesn’t have My Dying Bride’s emotion or Swallow the Sun’s creative vision, but The Piper at the Gates of Doom is very effective at what it tries to do. That is to say, it’s a heavy and sludge-y throwback to the 80’s doom of bands like Candlemass and Trouble. Fathermore, Doomshine do a great job of paying tribute to their influences without copying them. This is an album all its own, despite being traditional and even predictable. If you like classic doom, you’ll probably enjoy this album. It’s effective at taking the genre back to its roots without ignoring the advancements in production that have taken place since Candlemass’ album lo-fi debut.
Tomorrow’s Dead Days
Enthrope’s debut album is proof that melodic death metal has evolved from the Gothenburg sound of the mid 1990’s. It’s often hard to tell where the genre is at this point, but Tomorrow’s Dead Days throws together a lot of the changes different facets of the genre have undergone in the last 15 years. There are dark metal influences, borderline symphonic sections, strong atmospheric qualities, Scar Symmetry-esque guitar solos, well placed clean vocals, and pretty much every other element that has become a staple in various forms of modern melodeath. It’s actually fairly unique to hear them come together like this, and it’s certainly satisfying. Enthrope has little appeal outside of melodic death metal, but for fans of the genre Tomorrow’s Dead Days a very easy album to recommend.
I’m not sure what’s weirder- the fact that a gothic doom metal band decided to cover a Sting song, or that it actually turned out pretty awesome. Even if the rest of The Foreshadowing’s second album was mediocre, I’d be willing to let it pass simply for that. Thankfully, Oionos is a very solid doom and goth metal hybrid. It’s almost a gothic post-punk album in a way, as it’s clear that The Foreshadowing have been listening to The Cure, Depeche Mode, Joy Division, or other similar bands. However, it’s still heavy and distinctly doom metal. This a doom album that creates a dark and moody atmosphere without overdoing it, and again, there’s a doom metal cover of a Sting song on it. That in and of itself make this album awesome.
A Small Turn of Human Kindness
Not all doom metal is made the same. There are doom albums that are melodic, doom albums that are more extreme, and then are the doom albums like Harvey Milk’s A Small Turn of Human Kindness. This is a rough slude-y album, stuck in the Black Sabbath side of the 1960’s in some respects, but also heavy and modernized in others. Honestly, there’s not much more than can be said. It’s far from an artistic masterpiece, but anyone who likes their metal slow and heavy will find an album that excels at both.
It’s pretty common for bands to say close to their influences on their debut. However, it’s important for artists to branch out from there. In Mourning does exactly that on Monolith, the follow up to their Opeth-inspired first album. Some metal purists may not be able to tolerate the band’s surprising use of breakdowns, but to be clear Monolith is far from a metalcore album. This is a melodic death metal album through and through, but it’s In Mourning’s willingness to deviate from even their non-Opeth influences that makes this such a strong and unique album. Monolith has moments that are completely insane, but they somehow work. This is incredibly raw metal that is melodic and heavy in equal measure, and even the breakdowns work on some strange level. It has its flaws, as some of the transitions seem forced and a few of the songs sound the same, but this is the first melodic death metal album to come out since Scar Symmetry’s Pitch Black Progress to actually push melodic death metal into interesting new territories.
Mar de Grises
Part doom, part death, and part prog album, the latest from Mar de Grises is heavy on atmosphere and full of awe-inspiring moments. Streams Inwards is the type of album that can go from brutal to beautiful and back again through the course of a single track, but it spends most of its time occupying an atmosphere somewhere in between. That may sound typical for atmospheric metal, but Streams Inwards has plenty of unique moments, and the tracks often build into truly remarkable territory. It’s slow and certainly not for everyone, but fans of doom metal and atmospheric music should give this album a good listen.
After hearing an album like Underwatermoon, it’s a bit of surprise that melodic black metal isn’t as prominent as its death metal counterpart. Between the raw blackened vocals, the symphonic instrumentals, and the gothic atmosphere, Winterhorde have developed the perfect melodic metal sound and thrown the heavy sound of black metal into the equation. Somehow, they’ve done this without watering down their incredibly varied influences. This is a kind of unique metal album that doesn’t let its heavy side get in the way of accessibility, nor does its accessibility bring down its brutality. Underwatermoon is one of the best metal albums of 2010, and it can be recommended to just about any fan of heavy metal.
Year of No Light
Post-rock and doom metal work perfectly together. Year of No Light’s Ausserwelt is proof of that. This is slow building, almost minimalist metal, but it’s still as heavy as anything else in the doom and sludge metal genres. This is a dark and apocalyptic album, and one that builds seamlessly. Every sound is placed meticulously, and as a result each riff and drum beat is as dark and effective as possible. With that being said, there are some noticeable flaws, as the songs often go on for a little too long. What should be the climax comes a few minutes before the end of a few tracks, and the listener is often left with uninspired post-rock to finish things off. It’s a bit unfortunate because up until those points the tracks are really quite incredible. Still, fans of atmospheric metal would be wise to give Ausserwelt a listen.
Despite a disappointing comeback album for the legendary Atheist, death metal had a strong showing in 2010. There were brutal albums, technical albums, and a few that managed to do both. Black metal had an even stronger year, assuming that you consider its progressive and atmospheric subgenres to be black metal. Hell, there were even a few thrash metal albums heavy enough to make this guide. Point being, whatever type of extreme metal you like, there’s something for you among these ten albums.
Marrow of the Spirit
After exploring their more mellow side on The White EP, Agalloch have returned with their fourth full length album, and their best since 2002’s masterful The Mantle. Marrow of the Spirit is almost the opposite of the aforementioned White EP, as Agalloch have turned their sound into a full fledged black metal assault, using the softer post-rock moments as a way to build to the heavier ones. Those dark and brutal moments are easily the highlights of Marrow of the Spirit, as five of the non-intro songs build to those at their climax. Maybe it’s a little predictable, but Agalloch have enough variety to prevent that from becoming an issue. Marrow of the Spirit isn’t quite a masterpiece, but you’d be hard pressed to find a better atmospheric black metal album released since the last Agalloch record.
An Autumn for Crippled Children
The debut album from An Autumn for Crippled Children combines the despair of doom metal with the extreme sound of black metal. It’s an interesting combination that works flawlessly on Lost. This is extreme metal with strong emotion, and it’s almost ambient in nature, as the band gets the most out of each heavy note. It’s not quite at a My Dying Bride level of despair, but An Autumn for Crippled Children’s heavy black metal sound makes this is a dark album that comes shockingly close to being truly depressing.
With the possible exception of Atheist’s Jupiter, the latest release from Deathspell Omega may be the most technical album of 2010. The band’s absolutely insane instrumentation is mind blowing to say the least, and their raw black metal core is still at large. This is modern black with the precision of technical death metal, and I can’t say I’ve ever heard this kind of instrumental mastery performed with blackened growls and the tin-y black metal drums. It does sacrifice some of the emotion of past Deathspell albums, but not to the same extent as the aforementioned Atheist album. Any metalhead with appreciation for fast and heavy music will not be disappointed by Paracletus.
Axioma Ethica Odini
Enslaved have mellowed out a bit on Axioma Ethica Odini, but the new side of the black/viking metal band only makes them better. Axioma Ethica Odini is a progressive black metal album, similar to Opeth but with black metal replacing the death influences. The clean vocals are actually quite good, and the lighter sections only make the black metal parts more powerful when they come in. If you’ve listened to the last few Enslaved albums, you’ll know that a full on prog album is what the band has been building up to, and Axioma Ethica Odini is that album. Thankfully Enslvaed are excellent at what they do, and any open minded fan of metal would be wise to give one of the best albums of 2010 a close listen.
It’s amazing how much of a difference one musician can make. The drumming has never been the reason to listen to Fear Factory, but legendary Death and Strapping Young Lad drummer Gene Hoglan makes Mechanize the album of the year for fans of double bass and ridiculous fills. Hoglan is still an absolute beast, and his drumming makes Fear Factory far heavier than they’ve ever been, and even downright brutal. Former Strapping Young Lad bassist Byron Stroud also plays on the album, so it’s no coincidence that Mechanize is one of the heaviest industrial albums released by a band that isn’t Strapping. Fear Factory have truly made their way into extreme metal, and the result couldn’t be better.
Belief is the Death of Intelligence
Blackened crust punk band Fukpig have made an album that repulses and amazes in equal measure. For fans crust know that both elements are essential. The instrumentation is fast and heavy, the production is raw, and the vocals are the type of disgusting growling that even casual metalheads will have a hard time digesting. Again, being accessible is not an option for this kind of music, and Belief is the Death of Intelligence is about as inaccessible as possible, while still containing positive qualities. The instrumentation, in particular, is quite impressive, as is the surprising amount of variety. There are moments where the music will slow down and change up in ways that aren’t typical for crust. Belief is the Death of Intelligence is a repulsive and disgusting album that just happens to be great. There are probably only twelve people in the world who could stand this type of music, but I’d recommend this album to all twelve. If you have the stomach for inaccessible heavy metal with song titles like “Sadism in the Name of God” and “All of You Are Cunts and I Hope You Fucking Die,” then by all means give this a listen.
Majesty and Decay
It’s not often that such a brutal death metal album is as accessible as Majesty and Decay. This is an album that gets its brutality from exceptionally technical and fast instrumentation, but it doesn’t necessarily rely on its technicality to work. The songwriting is strong enough to allow for creative riffs, outside of the album’s technical core, but Majesty and Decay never strays from its brutality. That’s definitely a good thing, and death metal fans wouldn’t have it any other way. However, Immolation have crafted and album that can also convert non death fans, as it keeps the brutality strictly in the music, and not in the production. It’s not necessarily the best death metal album of the year, but it may be the easiest to recommend.
Nile may be the most famous extreme metal band to incorporate Middle Eastern influences into their sound, but they aren’t necessarily the most effective at doing it. Melechesh released an absolutely masterful Middle Eastern black metal album in 2006, and while The Epignesis doesn’t necessarily do much to expand the band’s sound, it’s another technical beast of an album that has enough unique influences to set it apart from the black metal pack. The songs are appropriately fast and heavy, and the Middle Eastern parts still provide a nice break from the insanity that few albums are able to provide. Here’s hoping that Melechesh can improve on their sound and try something different for their next release, but for now their sound is still fresh and there’s no denying their mastery of technical metal.
Prior to Ironbound, Overkill had released fourteen studio albums. Twelve of those fourteen have received at least 3 stars on this site, while none have gotten less than 2 and a half. With that in mind, It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the fifteenth album from this extraordinarily consistent thrash band has earned another 3 stars. Ironbound is more old school thrash metal, but with death metal influences to make it far heavier than any thrash album released in the 1980’s. This is the evolution of heavy thrash, and this classic band that has been around since the genre’s beginnings continues to progress with some of the fastest and most brutal metal released all year.
Scenes from Hell
Sigh have combined everything from psychedelic rock to power metal into their symphonic black metal sound. Scenes from Hell is the album where Sigh takes a break from experimenting and instead focuses on that core black metal. While it doesn’t reach the same heights as some of their past work, it’s actually quite refreshing to hear this side of Sigh, as they play symphonic black metal better than just about any other band in the genre. Scenes from Hell works exceptionally well, and Sigh’s sound is strong and varied enough to work across a full album, even without the experimentation. This is the type of heavy and creative black metal that all but the purest fans of the genre should be able to appreciate.
Due the increasing popularity of indie folk, the folk genre has made a bit of comeback in the mainstream eye. While there were a number of indie folk albums released in 2010, traditional folk, neofolk, and even freak folk had a representative earn a spot on this guide.
There’s a lot to like about Hadestown, the fourth album from folk singer/songwriter Anaïs Mitchell. There is a ton of ambition on this record, partly due to the surprisingly deep story based on Greek mythology. However, what is most responsible for the greatness of Hadestown is the dark atmosphere that Mitchell creates for her emotional lyrics and strong vocals to take effect, making the storytelling just as effective as the story itself. There is quite a bit of variety, as well, throughout the 20 tracks, helped by a number of different indie folk guests. The most notable is Justin Vernon, best known as Bon Iver, who sings on a whopping seven tracks.
Northwest singer/songwriter Damnien Jurado has been a local favorite since his magnificent debut in 1997. Now on his ninth studio album, Jurado has improved with each successive release. While still a solid album, Saint Bartlett breaks that trend. At times, this album sound like a watered down version of Damien’s older material. To new listeners, the songs here will likely sound a lot better, as much of the album’s problems can be traced to covering old ground. However, there is still a great deal of emotion to the music, and Jurado’s excellent songwriting still shines through, even if it’s not quite the masterpiece he’s been building up to.
Light of a Vaster Dark
The unsung kings of modern freak folk have returned with an album that only Faun Fables could create. This weird psychedelic work of art is par for the course for Faun Fables at this point, and fans of the band and listeners who enjoy the more experimental side of folk will be at home here. Light of a Vaster Dark is an album that could only come out in modern times, which is a bit or rarity for such a simple genre. That in and of itself makes it worth listening to, but the multilayered lyrics and almost avant-garde arrangements make it a must for folk and experimental fans.
Kiss the Anus of a Black Cat
Hewers of Wood and Drawers of Wood
Despite the band’s strange name, Kiss the Anus of a Black Cat actually write some beautiful music. Hewers of Wood and Drawers of Wood isn’t the most poetic folk album out there, nor is it the most emotionally gripping. Still, there is a lot to like here. Neofolk is rarely this gorgeous or accessible, and the band certainly deserves praise for not falling into to the lyrical traps of the genre. This is the kind of neofolk album that could actually appeal to fans of more traditional folk music, while still being enjoyed by the metal fans who found the neofolk genre through Death in June’s lyrical similarities to that of black metal.
I Speak Because I Can
I’ve written many times about the “human element,” an integral part of music that proves to the listener that there is a genuine human being behind what they are hearing. In folk music, it’s pretty much essential. Folk is a genre where two people can play the exact same song in the same way, and evoke completely different reactions from the listener. For every indie folk artist who has that element, there are 30 that ruin their music with effects and forcefully catchy hooks that take that element away. Laura Marling is an artist who has the human element. It just so happens her music is also catchy. Marling plays a very simple style of indie folk, one that any folk fan has heard before. She can occasionally be heavier than her contemporaries (as on “Devil’s Spoke”), and she plays with tension much better than most. However, what really sets her apart is the passion in her music. The listener knows that there is an human being putting a piece of herself into this music, and in folk that’s often the most important thing an artist can do.
The Magickal Folk of the Faraway Tree
The Soup & the Shilling
The Soup and & the Shilling comes packaged with two discs, the first of which compiles the band’s first two EP’s. Both EP’s are great, but it’s safe to say that anyone who has heard those will be more looking forward to the band’s first full length album. The second disc is that full length album, and while it’s a little tamer than the experimental psychedelic folk of the first disc, the new songs are mostly excellent. There are a variety of different styles and moods at play, something that isn’t always easy to do on folk records. It’s actually quite amazing that this band is as obscure as they are, as their sound is both unique and accessible. The Magickal Folk of the Faraway Tree have established themselves as an excellent group that should appeal to both fans of folk and experimental music.
The Boy in the Back
The Boy in the Back is an album I discovered through a forum thread posted by Pickering Pete himself. Online plugs from unsigned artists aren’t often the most effective way to discover quality music, but The Boy in the Back is an exception. This criminally brief (under 30 minutes in length) folk album may be a little slow for some, but Pickering Pete has put a large part of himself into these tracks. There is undoubtedly a human being behind this album, and one that is not afraid to display who he is. It’s really quite refreshing to hear, and as such it’s an extraordinarily gorgeous album.
The Golden Archipelago
The Golden Archipelago is beautiful. It may not be as catchy or original as other Shearwater albums, but there comes a point where simple beauty can make up for an album’s shortcomings. It has strong atmospheric quality rarely found in indie folk, and but again, The Golden Archipelago is more about the feelings it evokes than anything else. The lyrics aren’t always up to what Jonathan Meiburg is capable of, and it’s certainly not as original as 2008’s Rook. Regardless, this is a great album, assuming that you’re willing to just sit back and enjoy the music.
Strand of Oaks
Folk singer/songwriter Timothy Showalter can be a little deceptive. On first listen, Pope Killdragon sounds like a fairly generic folk record. It’s slow, even a little boring at times, and there’s really nothing new on the surface. However, Showalter has incorporated subtleties into his music that reward careful listening. His lyrics take surprising twists, and there are some genuinely haunting and atmospheric moments. Again, it’s nothing new, but listeners willing to focus on the lyrics and how they contrast with the music will find a find surprising deep experience here.
The Tallest Man on Earth
The Wild Hunt
Possibly the most hyped folk album of 2010, the sophomore album from The Tallest Man on Earth is absolutely worthy of the attention it’s been getting. This Swedish folk artist (real name Kristian Matsson) has a voice strikingly similar to Bob Dylan’s, but the man’s real talent lies in his ability as a songwriting and lyricist. His lyrics reach the rare level of working on their own, even outside of the music, but they’re even better in context with Matsson’s musical arrangements. He’s a talented and varied guitar player, but he shows his skill by writing parts that work with the lyrics and changing as the mood of those lyrics changes. He doesn’t succumb to the instrumental simplicity of the genre, as he’s willing to branch out and play some very complicated riffs when the song calls for it. The Wild Hunt is a little on the short side, but there is so much talent and emotion packed into these 35 minutes that it’s an absolutely essential listen.
It’s hard to write about experimental art without sounding pretentious. Experimental music is obviously a niche genre, but I have a strong appreciation for artists who attempt to deviate from the norm and try something new. Casual listeners might find the albums in this guide a little on the weird or even pretentious side, but those who delve deeper into the art form might have a different opinion. With the success of Animal Collective’s wonderful Meriwether Post Pavilion last year, I can only hope that more listeners are willing to give experimental music a chance.
The Human Animal
Considering how corrupt the music industry has become, it's rare to find a modern label who’s name can act as a stamp of approval. With the sheer number of quality ethereal albums they’ve released over the last 20-odd years, Projekt Records continue to be the exception to that. Android Lust, an industrial darkwave artist who first joined the label with 2002’s excellent The Dividing, is the kind of original artist that is keeping labels like Projekt honest. The Human Animal is an album for industrial fans who want something unique and creative. It’s not beautiful in the way that darkwave often is, nor is it catchy or particularly heavy. However, it has a distinct ambience about it, and it does an excellent job of combining electronic and industrial sounds with stringed instruments and melodic guitars. It can be haunting, but The Human Animal is a kind of non-commercial album that is more for people who appreciate the art of music and the genres that the songs covers.
Dirty Granny Tales
There are weird albums and then there is Didi’s Son. Dirty Granny Tales, the insane artists who have this mess of an album, are a completely demented avant-garde group that capture the essence of a dark cabaret performance on album. There are elements of opera, folk, swing, orchestral, and even black metal, all of which are implemented in strange but interesting ways. It’s weird as hell, and not always coherent, but Didi’s Son is incredibly unique and entertaining. I’d love to see this adapted to an actual stage show, although I’m not sure I’d be able to keep my sanity in check watching it.
Pulse of the Earth
Pulse of the Earth is admittedly a bit of a disappointment. Coming six years after their last album, a trip-hop and darkwave masterpiece, Hungry Lucy’s fourth studio albums is a little on the safe side. It’s still very good, and the music is anything but generic darkwave, but it’s hard not to compare it to the band’s better work. It’s still incredibly catchy for the genre, while still being dreamy, ambient, and even psychedelic, and as such it still has the band’s trademark sound in tact. Pulse of the Earth is definitely worth picking up for fans of darkwave, and once the disappointment wears off Hungry Lucy fans will find a legitimately great album beneath it.
Kayo Dot may never live up to maudlin of the Well, the former band from Toby Driver, but the avant-garde metal band’s third album is another weird trip into uncharted territory. Billed as the first “goth fusion” album, Coyote takes elements from 80s and 90s goth and darkwave music, and infuses it with heavy metal, jazz, and plenty of other random styles. Labeling it as a new genre is a little much, as it’s really is just avant-garde metal with a gothic twist, but Coyote is an interesting album nevertheless. It’s weird enough to satisfy any fan of heavy experimental music, and it’s certainly one of the more original darkwave-influenced albums in some time.
While many indie rock bands are starting to fall into one of a few different trends, it’s refreshing to hear a band like Menomena. Mines is an album done in the Portugal. The Man and TV on the Radio style of indie rock. That is to say, it’s an album that works as both an experimental and indie album. It’s unique, creative, and often weird, but it’s still simple when it needs to be, and it’s almost always catchy. If there’s one thing that can be said about Mines, it’s that it’s completely unpredictable. On first listen, the direction this album takes is truly surprising, and it rewards careful listening the second and third times around. Choosing whether this albums better fits in the “Experimental” or “Indie” section was difficult, but deciding to include it in this guide was anything but.
Athiest and Cynic fused death metal with jazz brilliantly in the 1990’s. However, it’s taken until 2010 to hear a black metal band mix free form jazz into their sound. Shining (not to be confused with the more famous Swedish Shining) happen to be that band, and Blackjazz is that album. The technically of death metal is a better match for jazz than the raw noise of black metal, but Shining makes it work here. This is heavy free form jazz with down tuned guitars and growled vocals, and there are even some psychedelic elements thrown in for good measure. It’s one flaw is that is relies a little too much on its central idea, as it would be hard to recommend Blackjazz purely as a jazz or black metal album. The music isn’t as technical as that of most quality jazz artists, and the black metal elements are really pretty generic. However, that complaint really more minor than it sounds. Blackjazz is much more of an experimental album than a black metal or jazz one, and on that level it’s brilliant. This is a truly original album, and one of the most avant-garde releases in years.
Norrøn Livskunst is proof that weird music doesn’t need to sound random. Solefald have made a very calculated album, but that only adds to its weirdness. If Norrøn Livskunst wasn’t expertly written, it simply wouldn’t be listenable. This odd combination of black metal, jazz, acoustic rock, and prog is beyond insane at times, but again, it’s listenable. Few avant-garde bands are weird as Solefald, but few are as a fun and even accessible to those who don’t mind the genres they mix. The lyrics are mostly written in høgnorsk, a 1917 form of Norwegian, although it’s debatable whether that tops the four languages used to tell the story in In Harmonia Universali. If you’ve actually made it through this paragraph with your interest peaked, you’ll likely enjoy the insane but wonderful mess Solefald have created.
My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky
The long overdue comeback album from the criminally overlooked Swans reminds me a lot of the comeback album Dinosaur Jr. released in 2007. The Dinosaur Jr. album didn’t necessarily elevate the band’s sound, but it marked a return to their roots without sounding dated or repetitive. Swans’ My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky does mostly the same things, as it’s simply more of what fans of the band have loved for the past 25 years. It’s nothing new, and yet it sounds oddly modern. Maybe that shows the strong influence Swans have had on modern art rock, but more than anything it’s just great to hear some new music from one of rock’s hidden gems.
Avant-garde rock is rarely as beautiful as it is on Yugen’s Iridule. This is an album with numerous influences and sounds, but they all blend together nicely. Yugen plays expertly with volume, not just in a literal sense, but also in terms of where the influences are placed. There are always loud and soft sounds contrasting each other, and often those are different from the ones the listener might expect. The point is that Iridule is a unique album that is both beautiful and chaotic, and as strange as it is, the band always seems to have a grasp on what they’re doing. This is a masterful album, and one of the highlights of experimental music in 2010.
Two of the best EP’s of 2010, Zola Jesus’ Stridulum and Valusia have been compiled and released as a single full length album. It’s not easy to find in this format, but regardless of how you hear it any fan of beautiful, trippy, and haunting music should give this collection of masterful psychedelic songs a listen. Zola Jesus has often been compared to Siouxsie & the Banshees, and that’s actually a pretty accurate comparison. Like Siouxise, Zola Jesus has a beautiful haunting voice, and she possesses an incredible talent for songwriting. These lo-fi tunes are brilliantly written, riddled with tension and atmosphere, and it’s worth noting again just how incredibly haunting Zola Jesus’ voice is. Stridulum II has moments that can potentially leave the listener shaking, and any album that can do that deserves to be listened to.