Normally at the end of each year I'll pick out ten or so things that have come out and present them in no particular order, but this year I've been enveloped by three releases so strongly that I had to pick out an actual overall "best" of 2009. So what were those three releases? Well, in third place....
PORTAL - SWARTH
Portal's latest full-length, Swarth, sees Australia's finest antique death metallers fly off on yet another tangent. The music contained on this disc is technical death metal that sounds primitive and raw, with production that makes your first listen sound as hypnotic as any early nineties Black Metal, but is clear enough that after each following listen you can pick out more and more details. Lovecraft inspired metal that actually makes you feel as if you are living in that age instead of just being lyrically influenced.
In second place:
LIFELOVER - DEKADENS
Sweden's Lifelover are a band that I have followed for a while, and on this EP they have delivered their best set of songs yet. Lifelover take the isolation of Black Metal out of the forest and into the cities, creating a sound that is only in part influenced by black metal but ends up sounding more black metal than most other things I've heard this year. I have spoken to a lot of people who hate this EP though, a lot more than like it. Good.
Vocally, a tortured performance from () but Non's drumming being a high point for me, excessive use of the cymbals and amazing drum rolls.
This EP was my best release of the year, then my second best, then the best so many times, and the only thing that made it number two in the end was the fact that it's only an EP and as such a full length album "won" this year. And that album is...
Patchie's #1 release of 2009:
AMESOUERS - AMESOUERSit was a bit of a no-brainer really wasn't it? It was released in April, I first heard it at the end of March and this is what I said about it then:
Set to divide opinion in the world of Black metal is the eagerly awaited debut full length from France's Amesouers.
Described by the band as "a kaleidoscopic soundtrack for the modern era", this is 11 tracks of music that encapsulates everything from shoe-gazing post-rock (how I hate that term), through chanson-style French pop, to - yes- howling Black Metal, quite often in the same track.
They may seem like odd bedfellows, shoegaze and Black Metal, but it works.
I don't know how, but it does.
Black Metal has often been about the alienation and isolation of the northern countryside; what I feel here is an album about the solitude of modern city life.
Many attempts have been made by BM bands to become a bit more modern and urban, but I've always felt that they've failed...not here though.
I'm going to put my neck out and say that this is my favourite release of 2009 so far, and there will have to be some fucking strong albums coming out over the next 8 months to knock this off my top spot.
Like I say, the eclectic mix of styles present here won't be to everyone's tastes, but if you like black metal, and you like the introspective nature of the likes of Ride, Cocteau Twins et al then give it a try.
French metal doesn't begin and end with Trust you know.
Since then i've listened to this album at least once every week, and I have got more and more from it as time has passed. Blending so many styles without sounding forced can't be easy, but Amesouers manage it here, this album really drew me in and made me feel like it was the soundtrack to a film about a busy city and it's dark underground.
Church of Misery - Houses of the Unholy
Sabbath-infused madness from the Land of The Rising Sun, Church of Misery finally grab doom by the throat and carve out their own, unique sound.
Gig of the year as well.
Heaven and Hell - The Devil You Know
Dio, Butler, Iommi and Appice in a return to True Metal Greatness. What did "The Prince of Darkness" do this year that was worthy of attention? Oh yeah, a World of Warcraft advert.
Sarke - Vorunah
Ted and Sarke combine to bring an LP of modern metal infused with old style soul and wit. Stands on it's own without being a Darkthrone side project.
jesu - Infinity
Beautiful, textured, rich, and in parts back to the heaviness that JKB's fans have been crying out for such a long time for. One track encompassing everything we love about jesu.
The Devil's Blood - The Time of No Time Evermore
Full length from Holland's spookiest retro rockers. Alongside new tracks, a couple of tracks from the demo get an airing here, with ultra-clean production and amazing vocal work.
Beherit - Engram
The first "proper" Black Meal album from Beherit for 15 years, and a total kick in the skull to pompous, overblown "symphonic" BM. Holocausto conveying his (un)usual vocal delivery. Only knocked out of third place by Portal!!
Also well worth your dirty money this year was:
Count Raven - Mammon's War
The Gates of Slumber - Hymns of Blood and Thunder
Tietanblood - Seven Chalices
Fenriz' Red Planet - Engangsgrill
sunnO))) - Monoliths and Dimensions
Baroness - Blue Record
Kylesa - Static Tensions
Candlemass - Death Magic Doom
Megadeth - Endgame
Greymachine - Disconnected
Gravedigger - Ballads of a Hangman
Jesu - Opiate Sun
Olde Crone - S/T
Death In June - Lesson One: Misanthropy
Death In June - Black Angel live!
Urfaust/Joyless - Split EP
Disappointment of the year: Shrinebuilder. On first listen it sounded immense, second listen only lasted two songs. It's still on the shelf. I'm prepared to be proved wrong and I'll admit it here first.....