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Tales From the Jugular

STAFF AWARDS: Troy Cole, EC, David Loveless, Frank Hill, RAISING IRON, VINAYA

Troy Cole

Top 15 albums for 2009
Megadeth - Endgame
Kreator - Hordes of Chaos
Candlemass - Death Magic Doom
Hypocrisy - A Taste of Extreme Divinty
Paradise Lost - Faith divides Us, Death Unites Us
Artillery - When Death Comes
Alice In Chains - Black Gives Way To Blue
Cage - Science of Annihilation
Primal Fear - 16.6 Before the Devil Knows You're Dead
Slayer - World Painted Blood
God Dethroned - Passiondale
Rebellion - Arise, From Ginnugagap To Ragnarok, The History of the Vikings Volume III
Steel Panther - Feel the Steel
Susperia - Attitude
Heaven & Hell - The Devil You Know

Most Overlooked Release of 2009
Samael - Above

Most Anticipated of 2010
Nevermore
Testament
Death Angel
Morbid Angel
Sebastain Bach

EC
1. Megadeth - Endgame
2. Artillery - When Death Comes
3. Hellfueled - Emmission Of Sins
4. Papa Roach - Metamorphosis
5. Kreator - Hordes Of Chaos
6. Raven - Walk Through Fire
7. Paradise Lost - Faith Divides Us...
8. Killswitch Engage - ST

David Loveless
Top metal albums of 2009:
1. Between The Buried And Me - The Great Misdirect
2. Redemption - Snowfall on Judgement Day
3. Behemoth - Evangelion
4. Katatonia - Night Is The New Day
5. If These Trees Could Talk - Above The Earth, Below The Sky
6. Ahab - The Divinity Of Oceans
7. YOB - The Great Cessation
8. Porcupine Tree - The Incident
9. Cauldron - Chain The Night
10. Steel Panther - Feel The Steel
11. Wolf - Ravenous
12. Isis - Wavering Radiant
13. Riverside - Anno Domini High Definition
14. Enforcer - Into The Night
15. Obituary - Darkest Days

Top metal DVD's of 2009:
1. Iron Maiden - Flight 666
2. Anvil - The Story of Anvil!

HAIL AND KILL
Top CDs:
Tenet-Sovereign
Megadeth-Endgame
Lamb of God-Wrath
Paradise Lost-Faith Divides Us, Death Unites Us
Rammstein-Liebe Ist Fuer Alle Da

Top Embarassments:
Edguy-Tinnitus Sanctus
Divine Heresy-Bringer of Plagues
Skinlab-The Scars Between Us
Los Sin Nombre-Blind Leading Blind
Cage-Science of Annihilation

Bands To Watch In the Coming Years:
Rudra- Brahmavidya: Transcendental I --The titans of South East Asian Death Metal are on the cusp of world conquest.

Decadence- Chargepoint --This female fronted quintet have the discipline and willpower to really establish themselves as one of the leading bands of their genre.

Crown the Lost- Blind Faith Loyalty --Could very well be the most dominating band in the United States today.

Bloodshedd-Spare No One --The most incinerating band in the Philippines are dying for a global audience. Their latest album should turn lots of ears their way.

Scar Symmetry-Dark Matter Dimensions --Four albums down and these Swedes still keep getting better.

Highest Hopes for 2010:
Testament!!!
Overkill!!!
Benedictum!!!
Biomechanical!!!
Kataklysm!!!

Frank Hill
Winner: Megadeth - Endgame
Runner up: Artillery - When Death Comes
Biggest Surprises: Wolfmother - Cosmic Egg, Slough Feg - Ape Uprising, Crown the Lost - Blind Faith Loyalty, Children of Bodom - Skeletons in the Closet
Best DVD:  Anvil - The Story of Anvil!

RAISING IRON
It's kind of funny, I'm going over my 2009 purchases and they don't amount to nearly as many as 2008, but my top 10 of 2009 feels to be a stronger class of metal than last years list. Maybe it's just because this stuff is fresher in mental metal lobe, or maybe because some of my all-time favorite bands released some stellar albums this year. Now don't go thinking I'm playing fanboy, there were plenty of disappointments from some of my faves as well, and some that were just kind of there, so without further ado, here's my top 10 for 2009, and whether or not they make YOUR list, they at least belong in any respectable metal collection – this year we're counting down:

10) Chthonic – Mirror of Retribution: Ok, I know, upon first impression many think they're a Cradle of Filth ripoff, and I have to admit, I'm quite late to the game on these Taiwanese terrorizers, so maybe that's why they've left such a solid impression on me. Yet, their cultural flair caustically comes dripping through each chapter of this concept album, and the seriousness with which the music is played usurps any notion of comic-book contortions.

9) Behemoth – Evangelion: Any doubts as to whether they could match the brilliance of Demigod have been laid to rest; the Polish practitioners of blackened death metal stand almost unequalled in their chosen milieu, unleashing a balanced attack buoyed by a strong sense of melody, however stretched and strained it may be.

8) Hypocrisy – A Taste of Extreme Divinity: Finally, Peter Tagtgren stops screwing around with his flagship vehicle and unfurls a disc fraught with all that the band stood for up to the turn of the millennium, and with the infamous Abyss studios' modern production values circa 2009, this album will be a back-catalog reference point in future years.

7) Candlemass – Death Magic Doom: The revered Swedes prove they still have the flame burning in their core, upping the ante with new singer Robert Lowe's second outing, and creating something that's just as much heavy as it is doom metal.

6) Heaven & Hell – The Devil You Know: A fitting title, for if you don't know these godfathers of all things metal, then you know nothing. Iommi, Dio, Geezer, and Vinny prove they still know what they're doing, pulling from Tony's endless well of riffs to piece together another slab of pure heaviness, this time even toppling into doom metal territory; Dio's exotic and unparalleled expressions tightly woven within the framework, all old-hat to the vets, yet filled with the same love and devoted determination to the music as those half their age or more...

5) Nile – Those Whom The Gods Detest: Holy shit, the brilliant Mr. Sanders wheels his solo project ideals at fullspeed, downhill and straight into the Pyramids of death metal, resulting in subtle and ambient tones flourishing along the sides of the river Nile. Yes, it's still Nile…and still technical…and still Egyptian…but the true intent of the project started well over 15 years ago is now fully realized. Nothing left to say, if this were the end (but let's hope not), a fitting one it would be…

4) Immortal – All Shall Fall: Releasing an album that could possibly rival their seven year predecessor was a daunting notion to say the least, but the band don their corpse-paint once more, and with the paradigms of Abbath's I project percolating just under the frozen surface, they come pretty damn close. Here's hoping the wait for the next release isn't nearly as long.

3) Mastodon – Crack The Skye: Wow, this is a band I completely turned my nose up to when it came to their first two releases, but, after Blood Mountain came out, I tuned in just a bit, albeit still remaining rather indifferent to the progsters befuddling brand of metal. Then 2009 rolled around, I caught the video for Oblivion and was blown away, checking out another song left me stunned yet again, so I had to pick this up, and damned if I'm not glad I did, the release is pure bliss, not a stale moment, and though there are several lengthy tracks, they never get boring.

2) Katatonia – Night Is The New Day: Striking the perfect and dichotomous balance between acquiescence and angst, the Swedes deliver. Some die-hards have found this tedious, I find it relaxing...I don't know, this kinda stuff is just in my blood I guess.

1) Amorphis – Skyforger: What a catalog these long-running rockers have put together, save for maybe a few small missteps, they continue to release metal that is otherworldly, and of the highest caliber, and this year saw songwriting perfection…the riffs, the melodies, the heart…its all here in spades; an album that should cross boundaries and find respect from all-comers, metal and nonmetal alike.

On to the honorable mentions, three albums that teetered on the brink, almost made it in, yet for one reason or another didn't pass muster – in no particular order:

1) Leaves' Eyes – Njord: Quality symphonic/gothic/power metal (or whatever the hell ya wanna label it these days!) is increasingly harder to come by, the genre's purveyors rarely offering anything new or relevant, but Leaves' Eyes found a way to at least sound fresh and exciting, playing with exuberance and belief in their craft, still leaving a little bit of room for the radio-friendly inclined.

2) Swallow The Sun – New Moon: I wonder how many Twilight jokes these guys will have to endure on their upcoming US stint. Regardless, another genre that frankly has been done to death (yes, pun intended!), yet this latest from one of Finland's chief exporters of death/doom metal finds fresh ambient flourishes injected into the mix, centering on melody vs. drone, and that's a good thing.

3) Kreator – Hordes of Chaos: I really thought this one was destined to be in my top 10 at the beginning of the year when it came out; Germany's chief thrashers continuing their rebirth begun with Violent Revolution in 2001; Mille cackling with accursed and calloused resolve.

Finally, onto things that were disturbing, the three biggest disappointments from 2009, not necessarily the worst releases, but certainly the biggest letdowns, again, in no particular order:

1) Grave Digger – Ballads of the Hangman: The hype was a'selling, and GD, being one of my favorite power metal bands, I was a'buying, despite being burned by everything post the genius of Rheingold; and really, this isn't THAT bad of an album, the guys trying to reach toward their ‘90's ideals, yet somehow, just sounding ho-hum, I still listen to it occasionally, but damn was I hoping for more.

2) Suffocation – Blood Oath: How is this possible? The New Yorkers follow up their self-titled bloodletting from 2006 with this? Okay, again, like the Grave Digger, it's not that bad, but its just kinda there, played with less heart and more "let's just get through this" compunction; the whole thing feels thrown together, and though there are highlights, this should've been much more brutal.

3) Primal Fear – 16.6: This just borders on sell-out, the guys whipping simplistic songs together off the cuff, formulaic and sugar sweetened, the edge all but taken off to avoid injury. Everything just reeks of elementary prognostications, no effort given; and even though there are a few decent melodic rock outfits out there, there's no need for Primal Fear to stoop to a level that many have to REACH for – you're far better than this guys!

There you have it, another year of highs, lows, and in-betweens in the metal world, let's hope 2010 doesn't disappoint!

VINAYA
Top 15 Albums of the Year (in no particular order, except for the top two!):
Raven: Walk Through Fire
Jorn: Spirit Black
Slough Feg: Ape Uprising
Heaven and Hell: The Devil You Know
Stratovarius: Polaris
Wolf: Ravenous
Saxon: Into the Labyrinth
Ravage: The End of Tomorrow
HammerFall: No Sacrifice, No Victory
White Wizzard: High Speed GTO
Cauldron: Chained to the Night
Mob Rules: Radical Peace
Megadeth: Endgame
Primal Fear: 16:6
Praying Mantis: Sanctuary

Also cool, but made up (mostly) of re-recorded classics: Torch's "Dark Sinner"
Coolest (kind of) new talent: White Wizzard, Cauldron

Coolest reissue/archival release: UFO's "Official Bootleg Box Set: 1975-1982" A cool alternative disc (six, actually!) for those of us who can't get enough of "Strangers in the Night" and the group's awesome BBC live recordings. Michael Schenker and Paul Chapman both turn in some great performances on here, and the sound is mostly superb.

Conversely, the band's new release, "The Visitor," was just plain weird (and weirdly blusier than ever). Another weird release: Martyr's Fear the Universe."

Great Shows seen:
Brooklyn Thunderfest (Ross the Boss, Raven, White Wizzard, etc.) @ Club Europa, Brooklyn, NY
Michael Schenker Group @ Blender Theater, New York, NY
Ravage, Armory, Revocation, etc. @ Ralph's Rock Diner, Worcester, MA
Enforcer, Cauldron, etc. @ Muddy River Smokehouse, Portsmouth, NH

Thoughts on 2009: Seemed to be a lot of "give the fans what they want" releases coming out, especially from more traditional genres. On one level, this is nice, but I can't help but feel that something more adventurous would have been welcome. Many of this year's releases overall leave me satisfied, but not particularly fulfilled.

Looking forward to: New releases from Grand Magus, Accept and Gamma Ray.




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RANDOM ACTS OF METAL
. Anvil. Bathory
. Lost Horizon. Nightwish
. Rebellion. Symphorce
. Nazareth. Majesty
. Advent. Fozzy
. Liege Lord. Ravage
. Dr. Butcher. Cage
. Pelican. Black Sabbath
. The Graveyard Boulevard. Tad Morose
. Stalker. Murdercycle
. Lacuna Coil. Soul Reaper
. Dew Scented. Tesla
. Node. Shiva
. Death Angel. Killik
. Scala Mercalli. W.A.S.P.
. Outworld. Epica
. Graveland. David Shankle Group
. Edge Of Forever. Highlord
. Dragonspoon. Ungodly
. Bonfire. Metal Church
. Final Dawn. Aina
. Unearth. Otep
. Scavenger. Chris Caffery
. Marshall Law. Jamie. St. James
. House of Shakira. Six Feet Under
. Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Sonata Arctica
. Loudblast. Strikelight
. Suidakra. Icarus Witch
. Angtoria. Antares
. Kaamos. Derek Sherinian
. Pure Inc. Meshuggah
. Magica. Ramesses
. Fastkill. Burden Of Grief
. Green Carnation. Dynamic Lights
. Leaves Eyes. A Lower Deep
. Painmuseum. Loits
. Dragonia. Penetrator
. Ignarus. Arthemis
. Dechrist. God Forbid
. Dogs Of Winter. Virgin Steele
. Decapitated. End of Level Boss
. Pile of Heads. Intronaut
. Dissection. Phoenix Mourning
. Cataract. Cult of Luna
. Jotunspor. Unsilent Phenomenon
. Smohalla. She Said Destroy
. Skid Row. Skyforger
. The Ruins of Beverast. Jeff Walker und Die Fluffers
. Pump. Enochian Crescent
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. Venom. Cheva
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. The Gathering. With Passion
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. Zyklon. Five Finger Death Punch
. Fight. Keep of Kalessin
. Temple Of Blood. Echoes of Eternity
. Spheric Universe Experience. Heresi
. I Shalt Become. Mortiis
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. Armory. Kreator
. Celestia. Medieval Steel
. Wolfgate. Eighteen Wheels Burning
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