Grim Kim's Top 10 Releases of 2009 That You've Never Heard Of
by: "Grim" Kim Kelly
As anyone who's read my stuff on here before has probably gleaned by now, I don't give a fuck about a lot of the bands my beloved bros here at Metal Injection (or most people, for that matter) are into. I don't care about Mastodon, I don't care about Baroness, I don't care about Converge, and I sure as hell don't care about Dethklok. What I do care about, though, is getting the word out on the heavy shit – quality extreme metal bands that are raging away beneath the radar and doing more for the vitality and longevity of our scene than a million Shadows Falls could ever hope to do. Rob asked me to do a quick list of ten "obscure" releases that got my motor runnin' this year, and I was of course happy to oblige. There were dozens of fantastic albums released this year (see Blut aus Nord's 'Memoria Vetusta II' and Cobalt's 'Gin' for prime examples), but these beauties are the ones that "got away" from most people. Do yourself a favor and check these out; listen with an open mind, then come back and fight me about 'em!
Coffinworm – Great Bringer of Night (self-released)
This album has topped every year-end list I've done so far, but I can't resist including it in this one as well because it's 1. their first demo, 2. a band only a handful of people had heard of until Profound Lore snapped them up, and 3. it's the best album I've heard in years – not just this year, YEARS. Viciously misanthropic blackened sludge that crawls along at a dead man's pace towards hell that, if you aren't careful, will drag you right down with it.
Nux Vomica – Asleep in the Ashes (Aborted Society)
"Melodic death metal/Crust"? i thought Metal Archives was putting me on when I first looked up Portland-by-way-of-Baltimore's Nux Vomica, but as soon as the first plaintive chords and hushed vocal samples on 'Asleep in the Ashes' gave way to the ominous tones, frenzied d-beats, and tortured screams of twelve-minute epic "Corpses With Egos," I knew I'd stumbled across something special. Nux Vomica effortlessly combine the best bits of doom, crust, psychedelia, post-rock, black metal, and, yes, melodic death metal to create something achingly honest, and entirely their own.
Diocletian – Doom Cult (Invictus Productions)
Pure black/death brutality from this fairly recent (est. 2004) New Zealand-based bestial war metal cult. These disgruntled Kiwis churn out distorted, down-tuned, chaotic and unapologetically primitive hymns to the oncoming apocalypse, rendering 'Doom Cult' is essential for those who worship Revenge, Proclamation, Sanguis Imperem, and their bloodied ilk. Hell, the album even boasts V. Kusabs from Blasphemy on guitars/vocals – what more could any bullet-belted misanthrope want?
Peste Noire – Ballade cuntre lo Anemi Francor (De Profundis)
Unsettling, unhinged, quirky, out of tune, and starkly beautiful black metal with the usual weird moments – Peste Noire could never be accused of following a "formula," per se, but you can definitely pick 'em out of a lineup pretty damn quick. French black metal is nothing if not interesting, and Peste Noire lead the whacked-out pack with their often bizarre melanges of folk rock, grim black metal, prog, acoustic interludes, birdsongs, French pride, fucked-up nursery rhymes, soaring female vocals, samples, and feral snarls. Ugly, yet beautiful, and all manner of strange things in between.
Ascended – Temple of Dark Offerings (Enucleation)
Filthy, sepulchral death/doom from Finland; Ascended are a young band with old, old souls. Their debut EP is slow, mean, and dreadfully atmospheric, with a bass-heavy, down'n'dirty guitar tone that'll have fans of vintage Entombed and demo-days Morbid Angel popping massive sweatpants boners. This offering absolutely CRUSHES.
Semen Datura – Einsamkeit (ATMF)
Fuck Liturgy – THIS is transcendental black metal. These Germans blend classically-informed black metal with a frostbitten 90's edge and the jagged inhumanity of Deathspell Omega with elements of industrial and experimental music, all backed by a jazz drummer and underlain by gorgeous webs of sweeping post-rock melodies. On paper, it sounds like a recipe for disaster, but believe you me, Semen Datura know exactly what they're doing, and their intriguing take on a stubbornly static genre is nothing short of ground-breaking. Fans of Fleurety, Secrets of the Moon, and Shining, meet your new favorite band.
Grave Miasma – Exalted Emanation (Sepulchral Voice)
More nasty, evil death metal, this time from Ol' Blighty itself, that comes incredibly well-executed and darkly occult in design. This moribund cult may hail from England but their ritualistic dirges and intentionally low-fi recordings place them more in line with the Spanish death hordes (Teitanblood, Proclamation, et al). Those who worship at the bloodstained altars of Incantation and Infernal War, take note – this record is a true triumph of evil.
Argentinum Astrum – Argentinum Astrum (Failed Recordings)
Absolutely suffocating, feedback-addled noise that marries the blackest, the heaviest, and the ugliest that modern metal has to offer, providing a bludgeoning lesson in cross-pollination. Two untitled songs make up Tenneseee blackened doom cult Argentinum Astrum's latest self-titled release (which is actually comprised of two earlier demo recordings compiled onto a new cassette-only release). Okay, so these songs may not technically be from 2009, but how's about this: Fuck You, this album rules and you should go buy it NOW.
Cormorant – Metazoa (Saturnine)
Cormorant is a band that even I find impossible to pigeonhole, and while I'm definitely biased, I think their debut LP honestly ranks amongst the best of 2009. A scintillating hybrid of melodic death, progressive, black, folk, jazz, and galloping heavy metal, 'Metazoa' is an absolutely MASSIVE album that recalls Slough Feg as often as it does Enslaved or Agalloch. For an evolutionary marvel that manages to stay catchy and memorable while exploring all manner of sounds and styles, this one's got some balls to it, too – heavy as fuck, undeniably intense, and maybe even a little too smart for its own good! A band to watch.
Insect Warfare – World Extermination (Earache rerelease)
This album was originally released in 2007 by 625 Thrash, but was for some random reason picked up and given the rerelease treatment by Earache earlier this year. I'm not complainig; the more people are listening to Insect Warfare, the happier I am. This bunch of Texan noise terrorists disbanded for good a couple years ago, leaving a gaping hole in the hammersmashed face of American grindcore (come back, guys; seriously. Please?). This, their first/only official full-length, is a fucking BEAST – a nonstop assault of grinding violence and devastating grooves, fueled by disgust for a corrupt society and pure spite. DEATH TO FALSE GRIND!
Honorable (and still totally essential!) mentions:
Oranssi Pazuzu – Muukalainen Puhuu (Violent Journey) (progressive/experimental black metal)
Pombagira – Black Axis Abraxis (Withered Hand) (crushing UK sludge)
Shadow of the Torturer – Marching into Chaos (Blind Date) (devastating US doom)
Worm Ourobouros – Worm Ouroboros (Profound Lore) (gorgeous US dark ambient/chamber/doom)
Ork Bastards – Final Price (Witch Hammer Productions) (Russian black metal/punk warfare)
Fen – The Malediction Fields (Aural Music/Code 666) (British post-black metal bliss)
Oak – Oak (A389 Records) (nihilistic US black/doom)