Friday, December 20, 2019

Mick's Töp 15 Albums of 2019

If the lack of our posts wasn't any indication, it's been one hell of a busy year. My shortcomings have mainly been due to never-ending travel, most of which was for weddings. I did manage to pump out a super fun interview about video game music, but that sapped most of the little energy I had to give. Belly-aching aside, just because we didn't put a ton of content this year didn't mean there wasn't a ton of great music to consume. It was a good sign to me that it was difficult to narrow down a list of the albums I enjoyed the most. Per usual, when it comes to promises for the new year ahead, we will do our damndest to write up what we can. But know that just because we're not writing doesn't mean we're not listening. You at least know you can be 100% guaranteed you'll get Best of 2020 lists.

So without further ado, my Top 15 Albums of 2019:


Thursday, December 19, 2019

Durf's Töp 15 Albums of 2019

Another year screams toward its conclusion, forcing me to once again realize my New Year's Resolution of "write more for that blog you love doing!" has again fallen by the wayside.  My lack of activity here at the Töp is certainly disappointing to me, but given all the satisfaction and happiness 2019 has given me by way of fatherhood, marriage, finding a great job, and fully embracing the Durfette and I's new home in Idaho, it's hard for me to be too angry about it.

That said, it was an absolutely stacked, fantastic year for music (again).  Obviously, given the title of this post, I'm only getting in to fifteen albums, which is a nearly insignificant amount given the sheer volume of great shit that came out this year.  I'm not doing an EP or Splits list (again), which means I just have this tiny space to tell you about Elder's absolutely stunning The Gold and Silver Sessions, or the wonderful doom that both Un and Coltsblood brought to their split very early in the year.  I'm similarly not doing a Non-Metal list, which means you don't have to read what I'm sure would be a lot of words on Lana Del Ray's sublime Norman Fucking Rockwell!, which is probably my favorite album of the year, metal or otherwise.  Maybe next year.  What I do have are fifteen metal albums that have stuck with me through the year, albums that have managed to stand out above the noise and din of (again) another packed year.  Without further pretense:


Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Tom's Töp 15 Albums of 2019

2019 was a year full of surprises. Not just in music, as seen in the graphic above, it wasn't so bad to be a fan of New York teams in blue and orange (sadly only the Knicks completely sucked). The saddest part of baseball season being over is not getting to watch the wonderful Met, Pete Alonso put a hurting on yet another baseball, but it was his personality that was most heavily on display this year, showing that age is probably the only thing he lacks but for our Rookie of the Year the sky's the limit. Or maybe former New York Islander goalie Robin Lehner's work towards acceptance of a mental health diagnosis, that he totally embraced on the way towards winning a Masterson Trophy and a Vezina trophy nomination.

Maybe 2x CY Young Award winning Mets pitcher Jacob deGrom who fought a good part of adversity this season before ultimately staking his claim as the best pitcher in baseball, showing incredible resolve when he didn't have "it". Or maybe Jack Adams trophy winner Barry Trotz who when he took the helm of the New York Islanders in June of 2018 was handed a bag of spare parts and asked to make something of it. Instead of the projected last place finish he brought them their best season since 1983. So when you feel like nothing is possible just remember the stories of these great men and maybe some of the tunes of 2019. There were a number of surprises but no true #1 album emerged for a long time; I was however surprised by what I enjoyed during the year, even if the Brutalitopia output was minimal.

Friday, November 1, 2019

A Link to the Past : Nostalgia Turned Metal

 Video game music/audio is one of the biggest unsung heroes of game development. A good theme can be as iconic as the game itself. Among gamers and non-gamers alike, you would probably be hard pressed to find anyone who wouldn't immediately recognize the themes from Super Mario Bros and Tetris. Even a certain Street Fighter theme has found life as a running gag on YouTube. But whenever I reflect on themes that have stuck with me, I always go back to the heavier, more guitar-driven ones. Even further reflection made me realize the amount of times I've listened to the Mega Man X OST outside of actually playing the game is a tad embarrassing.



Years later, when I would go on to fall into the depravity that is heavy metal fandom, there was something in my brain that kept trying to make connections between the metal I was into and the video game themes I was into. It was a connection that was never cut and dry but at the same time I have never been able to completely disregard it. This abstract idea has bugged me for years and was the impetus for putting this article together. Thankfully, there were other like-minded individuals out there who were more than excited to dig deep into this. These interviews were approached as a free flowing discussion about connections between metal and video game music from the perspective of metal musicians, not necessarily to prove or disprove any theory of mine. But there certainly were some interesting revelations.

Read the interviews after the break!

Friday, August 30, 2019

Crypt Sermon - The Ruins of Fading Light

2019 has been a strong year for doom, the fore bearers Candlemass, Saint Vitus have re-emerged and newer bands like Smoulder and Magic Circle continue to make their presence felt in the underground. But what about 2015 critical darling Crypt Sermon? Their epic ode to traditional doom, a stellar debut and this writer's top album of said year was sure to be followed soon. But life intervenes. Their bass position was temporarily held by Matt Knox of Horrendous and their drummer Enrique Sagarnaga and guitarist Steve Jansson have been busy playing shows with Daeva. So here we are four years later and finally the band has decided to put out their sophomore effort, The Ruins of Fading Light. Again vocalist Brooks Wilson is responsible for the breathtaking artwork as well as excellent pipes throughout the disc. Enter new bassist Frank Chin who was also recruited from Daeva and we have Crypt Sermon circa 2019. Will you want to go back to the Garden or head straight for the Ruins? More after the jump.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Eternal Storm - Come the Tide

"Nuance" wouldn't be the first term to come to mind if you were asked to describe death metal. "Attitude" or "grit" would probably be more common knee-jerk reactions. But in the case of the full length debut from Spain's Eternal Storm, one starts to evaluate death metal more as a craft rather than just an adrenaline-fueled juggernaut. The amalgam that is Come the Tide breathes new life into the genre by absorbing several other styles into the death metal framework, coalescing into a simultaneously heavy and moving listening experience.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Russian Circles - Blood Year

At this point, there are certain things one would expect from a new Russian Circles album upon its release. The three-headed monster that is the the thick bass tone of Brian Cook, Mike Sullivan's crunchy guitar riffs, and the continued underrated brilliance of Dave Turncrantz's drumwork is a beast that has continued to stand the test of time. This tried and true formula, while evident throughout their career, has allowed the band plenty of room to move within its parameters. Each album has carved its own niche that stands alone to anything that came before or would come after. With the newest entry in their discography, Blood Year, the band takes a straightforward approach in terms of delivery; one that is more morosely heavy than blissful but still continues to push their sound in a logical (and welcome) direction.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Tomb Mold - Planetary Clairvoyance

The year was 2017 and a bunch of unassuming Canadians were about to release their first full length LP. Little did the extreme metal underground know that they were inviting in an infestation like nothing they had seen before. The aforementioned release, Primordial Maliginity garnered some press and was the start of something special. 2018 had the band change labels to the insanely powerful 20 Buck Spin and released an album that really changed how people thought of Tomb Mold in general, Manor of Infinite Forms. It was my very own #2 album of the year in 2018 with its cavernous crawls and addictive riffs and seeing 2 great shows performed by the band; one with Of Feather & Bone at Montclair, NJ's Meatlocker and one on a bill with Daeva and Horrendous at Brooklyn's Saint Vitus. Each and every time I saw the band they were in good spirits and especially complementary of NJ's premiere filthy basement venue. So when 2019 was told to be bringing more vile fruits of their labor, I was intrigued, happy and also worried that such a quick turn around could send the band careening into a ditch on the side of the road like Memoriam. Planetary Clairvoyance is the name of the game for album # 3, let's see how it compares.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Pelican - Nighttime Stories

Pelican was one of the first metal bands that I really got into.  Their instrumental post-metal was a pretty easy addition/transition from the post-hardcore bands like Thrice that I was listening to in high school, and their huge riffs and intense sonic landscapes were, ahem, instrumental in getting me into other types of metal as well.  2005's The Fire in Our Throats Will Beckon the Thaw is in my All-Time Top Ten, and each of their albums has had some kind of effect on me upon its release.  That said, 2007's City of Echoes is the last Pelican album I unequivocally love; 2009's What We All Come to Need and 2013's Forever Becoming certainly have incredible moments ("Ephemeral" and "The Creeper" from the former are easily two of the best songs the band has written).  So when word reached that the newest Pelican album, Nighttime Stories, would be released on June 7th, I was excited, but perhaps not as excited as I would have been a decade ago.  Was I just growing apart from one of my favorite bands, one of the bands who shaped my tastes in metal, performers of some of the best concerts I've ever attended?  Or has Pelican lost a step, losing whatever alchemy the band had in the first decade of the century and replacing it with something lesser?

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Dreadnought - Emergence

 
When I was lucky enough to interview the entirety of Denver progressive-doom outfit Dreadnought last July, there was one sentiment in particular that continued to stick with me. It's perhaps the closest thing I've ever heard a band personally divulge in an interview that best embodied the often blanket descriptor of "progressive." They operate under the ethos of "best sound wins." The label of the music is arbitrary as long as it vibes well with all of the members. After hearing doom guitars along with saxophones, flutes, keys, and clean vocals mixed with black metal shrieks, one can't deny that the band doesn't walk the walk in terms of owning this ideology. But the bar was set high with the band's prior release. 2017's A Wake in Sacred Waves intertwined the aforementioned stylings with melodic hooks that kept the experience as catchy as it was mesmerizing. Whenever a band releases what feels like their opus, however, one can't help but immediately wonder what the next step is going to be for them. The next step for Dreadnought is Emergence, an album that sees the band evolve their craft by letting all of their core-elements loose in a free-flowing expansion.