So dear readers of The Shaman it has come to that time of the year, when we reflect on the past 12 months we have just lived and hastily bury it in the memory. The good times, not so good and down right fucking miserable times we have lived and as obsessive music fans we all are, the year is often reflected within our music collections. The additions 2008 has squeezed into the already cramped CD racks and overflowing vinyl stacks, and within the Shaman’s realm of Doom, Sludge, Grind, Drone, Stoner, Experimental, Psychedelic, Ambient etc. So let us cut to the chase as I have a box of CD’s to sift through with a crumpled piece of paper in hand and one very serious list to compile. Just one thing…. pardon me for being so self indulgent as to list my own favourites as the best 15 releases of 2008, hopefully next year will see a true Shamanic listing.
15 – Cult of Luna ‘Eternal Kingdom’
One of post-rock/metal’s main players released a new album this year, and a cracker it was too. Seeing the band take a more aggressive heavy stance with their fifth album. Track ‘Ghost Trail’ being a strong contender for song of the year. Sprawling and epic.
14 – Moss ‘Sub Templum’
As thick as Auntie’s McGovern’s porridge after it’s been left in a cold pan for three days, that’s the sound of ‘Sub Templum’. It’s outright plain fucking turgid occult torture doom.
13 – Disfear ‘Live the Storm’
Crusty Discharge styled Punk Hardcore made by some of Sweden’s more prominent dealers of Death Metal, it is highly charged and joyfully pissed off. This is not genre defying nor is it breaking new ground in its field, this record has in spades something very few of its ilk have evident in any quantity, passion. It has a fire within its refrain so brutal it’ll leave a lump of obsidian between your ears.
12 – Nachtmystium ‘Assassins: Black Meddle Part 1’
I remember when American black metal was something of a joke amongst the underground community, how things have changed. It is darkly psychedelic, in way that does not detract from it’s low-fi blackened roots, one of the better black metal records of the last few years. And this, an album made by those from the New Country, with these guys and Wolves in the Throne Room it appears the States are not lacking in decent BM anymore.
11 – A Storm Of Light ‘And We Wept the Black Ocean Within’
If you can imagine doom played through the black unknown at the very bottom of the Marianas Trench by one of Neurosis’s camp then you’ll probably imagine something similar to A Storm of Light’s debut album. If, of course you CAN imagine that!
10 – Earth ‘The Bees made Honey in the Lion’s Skull’
One of drone music’s original pioneers, and still making such relevant and interesting music to this day. ‘Bees Made…’ saw Dylan Carlson and cohorts tripping out on simple guitar lines and an ever strong musical dynamic. It is an evocative record, that whispers smoke through your cranium. Less is indeed more but you need to be a master to make it sound this bloody good.
9 – Coffins ‘Buried Death’
Are you old enough to remember getting excited over dodgy bootleg Autopsy releases in the pages of obscure distro’s. Can you recall getting your mits on a now treasured vinyl Impetigo album. Well these pus-riddled zombie death metal purists hark back to a time when death metal wasn’t a pile of polished shit. When it was a dirty, messy business peddled by dodgy looking gents with suspect moustaches. All hail the old school! All hail Coffins.
8 – Black Mountain ‘In the Future’
Well I’m going out on a limb here and including a group that may seem a little way out of the Shaman’s spotlight but the fact remains that these guys could easily nestle in amongst Rise Above’s rooster. The album displays a depth in song craft and vintage psychedelia that makes it well worth you lot checking out. It manages to attain a very real grasp of that particular 60’s/70’s vintage sound without coming over like a fromage-fest.
7 – Darkthrone ‘Dark Thrones and Black Flags’
So these guys ditched the ‘True Norwegian Black Metal’ slogan some albums back now and they’re total crust punk rock n roll these days. Thing is, weren’t they always pretty damned punk rock n roll? Check out those old albums, those riffs, it’s the same kinda stuff just played with a constant alternate picking as opposed to the unabashed strum and swagger of this album. One thing always remains unchanged with these guys and that’s the big middle finger to just about everyone and everything. So fuck off, go listen to Darkthrone!!
6 – Mogwai ‘The Hawk is Howling’
How many post-rock bands are knocking about these days? And just how many of them have stolen the Mogwai template, watered it down and repeated ad nauseum? Then the original comes along and reminds us that everyone else is just a pretender to their rightful throne. This album has answered those questions about the genre being relevant anymore. Yes, post-rock is still vibrant and interesting and capable of being poignant. Thoroughly moving.
5 – Scott Kelly ‘The Wake’
One man, one accoustic, it is this simple honesty that has produced a record of this emotive power. This album is about as raw, personal and intense as music gets. Music for god’s lonely man indeed.
4 – Cursed ‘III:Architects of Troubled Sleep’
It has always amazed me how this band have been so hideously overlooked. Utterly fucking caustic hardcore by way of a dirty great big Entombed influence. This is damn near essential, and unfortunately also serves as the bands epitaph. We just lost one of the good ones.
3 – Unearthly Trance ‘Electrocution’
Having watched them burrow into that Blackened Doom abyss of those first two records and then witness them make an already excellent formula even bloody tastier on 3rd opus ‘The Trident’ with a developing song writing finesse. So here we are with fourth album and guess what, these New Yorkers have improved yet again. The grasp of dynamics on this record pushing them into Neurosis territory. This is a classic of 2008 and if you get the chance to catch them live…just…do…it!! You’ll thank us all for telling you so!
2 – Enslaved ‘Vertebrae’
Well this band have hinted at making a masterpiece since ‘Below the Lights’ and they’ve finally pulled it off. A magical wielding of prog and their own Norwegian black metal roots into something entirely, well, other. This is Enslaved, and this is a metal classic!
1 – Grails ‘Doomsdayers Holiday’
And here we are, album of the year and maybe a surprising choice, but Grails have created something unique. They’ve taken the instrumental post rock and dark ambient elements and then twisted them to suit their own needs. This album is dark but simultaneously uplifting and has some truly inspired guitar lines running through it’s thick syrupy miasma. It is unlike any album I have ever heard before and that is a feat in our over saturated digital age. A record of timeless beauty so off track you have to admire it. Album of the year, yes I reckon so, not many people can accomplish what Grails have managed on ‘Doomsdayers Holiday’.
And so 2008 has come to a close and we have indeed already entered the chapter 09, and whilst this list may only be my own view I think most of you will agree on at least a couple of these records being in there. So get on the forum and re-write this list of 15!!
As for two thousand and the nine…well we got the Rottingham fest, new demo’s by all those Shaman regulars and of course a new Brutal Truth album, which the band say is closer to ‘Need to Control’, oh fuck yes!!!!!
Scribed by: Andrew Sloan