While 2009 was an incredible year for me, its music will go wholly unremembered. To prove my point, there is not a single album on this list that will make it to my top 10 albums of the decade (coming soon).
2009 brings a few major themes that you will see here:
- Female vocals – Anneke Van Giersbergen is everywhere. Theatre of Tragedy pulled the surprise of the year, the Gathering put out yet another solid effort, and Metric made it to the list as well.
- The resurgence of Devin Townsend – Devin is in the middle of a journey in creating four albums with his newly formed Devin Townsend Project. Every time I write him off he proves me wrong.
- Prolific musicians dominating – Devin Townsend and Steven Wilson are the closest thing we’ll come to a Frank Zappa in a long time. How long can they go on for? Then there’s yet another great album from Megadeth, (hed) P.E., and Hypocrisy… these guys all just keep going.
On to the list…
- The Devin Townsend Project – Addicted Devin combines a mixture of metal, pop, techno, and Anneke Van Giersbergen’s beautiful voice to make an album that is truly addicting. It’s short (especially if you discredit the two minutes of fade at the end), it’s not the most musically articulate, and it’s probably not going to last forever with me — but I can’t stop listening to or loving this album — and that’s why it’s my #1.
- Porcupine Tree – The Incident Musically, this is the top album. Steven Wilson, who I’ve raved about for years, has done it again. There are beautiful melodies, incredible solos, and even flashbacks to prior albums. The rhythm is rarely broken up, and the album strengthens to the end. Also note that it’s a two-CD set, but I am primarily focusing on the first album.
- Theatre of Tragedy – Forever Is the World My surprise of the year. Nell Sigland does a fantastic job and lays a sweet track over some melodic-yet-sludgy heavy music. Countless bands have tried doing what Theatre of Tragedy has done, but none have succeeded to this level.
- The Devin Townsend Project – Ki Devin putting out four albums at once sounds like a complete train wreck, but there’s a reason why it’s working – organization. When he was writing, if he was in a chipper mood, he could write something for Addicted. When in an introspective mood, he could switch to Ki. No more do we need to deal with the roller coaster of sociopath emotions that Devin goes through during a single album. In 2009 and 2010, I’ll be able to choose which Devin I want to hear for myself.
- Hypocrisy – A Taste of Extreme Divinity This is the first album on this list that I can crush in the weightroom. It’s not as catchy as my favorite – The Arrival – but it still slams in a year that needed a lot more slamming.
- Chickenfoot – Chickenfoot This album is total proof of what a fucking douchebag guitarist Joe Satriani is. He spent nearly his entire life doing solo guitar wanking in front of a bunch of lonely losers, but this is what you get when he actually joins a BAND and plays REAL music with other people. In one album, he did more for music than he did his entire, selfish career. The album is catchy, fun, old school (even sometimes lame), and a total winner. Welcome back, Sammy Hagar.
- Dream Theater – Black Clouds & Silver Linings I almost didn’t even give this album a shot. Their past few albums (since Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence) have been THAT bad. I’m glad I listened, because this is a great prog album that got a ton of airtime for me. Three amazing songs within, I’ll let you figure out which ones they are.
- (hed) P.E. – New World Orphans WHOA. What in the hell is this? I’ll tell you what it is – some unbelievably intense hip-hop slammed funk metal that breaks every barrier you have ever known in music. When Amazon says EXPLICIT LYRICS, they mean it. These guys hate women, the government, corporate America, organized religion, and sing about enough conspiracies to make your head spin. Furthermore, they’re from nearby Huntington Beach – But I don’t know if I’d ever go to a local show. I’d probably fear for my life. Just listen to the hit Renegade and you’ll be absolutely hooked. These guys can rap, groove, and most of all, piss you off to no end. This album should be higher on the list for the simple fact that it introduced me to the band, which has tons of music I was able to go through. But at the end of the day, it’s low because there’s too much ridiculous bullshit between the fantastic tracks on the album (Nibiru Intro? Planet X? The idiocy in Flesh and Blood at 3:10? come on…) Note that this is the part of the list where it starts becoming difficult to listen to albums all the way through – not a good sign for the year. Every album, starting here, starts to get a bit tired about halfway through, and that’s NOT a mark of excellence for me.
- The Gathering – West Pole After the departure of Anneke (she is seriously somehow connected to every album on this list!), one would think this band was done for. Not so! Silje Wergeland is somehow a fantastic vocal replacement, and this album is a grower.
- Megadeth – Endgame Megadeth strikes again! This is one that entire metal community can pretty much agree on, and I see it being the BraveWords #1 album after all the votes are tallied up. The riffs shred, the vocals blast, and the drumming throws down bombs. Bring this one to the football weightroom. Dave Mustaine is a metal genius and I have an incredible amount of respect for him. I should have this higher, and I should be a bigger Megadeth fan… but alas, I am not.
- Metric – Fantasies Call me gay if you must, but this is a great album. It’s catchy and sweet, yet still brings out a few explicit lyrics. If you liked the radio single “Help I’m Alive”, take a gamble on this album – you’ll most likely be happy with your decision. This is yet another female-fronted band.
- Clutch – Strange Cousins from the West Disappointment of the year. Clutch is my second favorite band behind Opeth, and I hold them to standards that I’m not sure they can achieve any longer. This album, quite frankly, is annoying and absolutely sucks compared to their rest. I DEMAND better out of Clutch. Strange Cousins, in my not so humble opinion, is UN-FUCKING-ACCEPTABLE. Track 4, Abraham Lincoln, is UNLISTENABLE. I’m disappointed in you, Clutch; you have let me down. But I still own it because I love you dirty bastards. Maybe it’ll grow when I calm down.
- Insomnium – Across the Dark Hey, I almost forgot that I’m a melodic death metal fan! This is a fun, new album that mixes death metal with a touch of progressive. Sign me up. I’m happy to have found this band, and will start backtracking to their older stuff. A well-hidden secret that few metalheads know, and I’m happy to have made the late 2009 discovery.
- Katatonia – Night Is the New Day This is largely a placeholder. Katatonia fans are raving over this album, and while I love the band, I never got into Night is the New Day. 2009 was reserved for happy music for me – stuff like Devin’s Addicted and Volbeat, and this album is just a downer. However, some day I’m gonna be down in the pooper, and this album will be there, ready for me to wallow with it. Until then, it sits at #14 patiently waiting for me to figure it out.
- Anneke Van Giersbergen – Pure Air
A number of albums could have gone here, but the choice here was clear. Anneke’s done so much, with her appearances in Addicted, her live album with Danny Cavanaugh (In Parallel), and this album, she deserves lots of credit. Such a beautiful voice. A great year for female vocals indeed.
Honorable Mentions: Ensiferum – From Afar, Sacred Oath – Sacred Oath (young guys playing old school metal – cool), Immortal – All Shall Fall, Paradise Lost – Faith Divides Us, Death Unites Us, Anneke Van Giersbergen & Danny Cavanagh – In Parallel
Top Songs of the Year:
- Chickenfoot – 8 – My Kinda Girl
- The Devin Townsend Project – Addicted – #5 – Hyperdrive!
- Porcupine Tree – #14 – I Drive the Hearse
Shoulda Woulda Coulda List: Volbeat‘s entire discography. Guitar Gangsters and Cadillac Blood would have been #3 in 2008, a huge feat. I discovered these guys late, thanks (as always) to my friend Brian, and they got TONS of my airtime this year.
Too late to add: Redemption – Snowfall on Judgement Day. Not bad so far, but I just listened to it for the first time today on the 31st.
??? List: Heaven & Hell – The Devil You Know (just could NOT get into this album, despite the extreme talent on it)
Overall, BAD year for me. That’s fine because I was due. Not every year can be spectacular – when you highlight everything, you highlight nothing.
Coming soon – My Top 10 Albums of the Decade. Rock out in 2010. Consider this my return to blogging.