Panopticon

#729.6: Dr. Dave’s Late 2018 List

A couple lists arrived late this year, so let’s keep rolling with ’em!  (The lateness of the lists will be addressed next post.)

I witnessed Dr. Dave Haslam play in four bands this year:  1. Mickey Straight 2. Nancy Vicious & the Nasty Bitches 3. The Helen Keller Band 4. Max the Axe.  He has the rock and roll skills and credentials, so pay attention.  Here’s the good Dr. Dave!


 

DR. DAVE’S TOP “TEN” FOR 2018

When I glance over my (extended) list for this year, I must admit to being a little underwhelmed. There are some pleasant surprises, but other than the last few entries of my list nothing much really kicked the pants off me. Mind you, I might have slept on an album or two that I may hold in high regard a year or two from now because that’s how I roll. If last year was the year of progressive doom for me, this year is more all over the place. There are some usual suspects and a few true outliers.

First, a few “close but no cigar” awards go to:

  • Sleep The Sciences
  • Fu Manchu Clone of the Universe
  • Sargeist Unbound
  • Yob Our Raw Heart 
  • Orange Goblin The Wolf Bites Back

tl;dd (“too late; didn’t digest”):

  • Ihsahn Amr  
  • Uncle Acid and the DeadbeatsWasteland
  • Rivers of Nihil Where Owls Know My Name (shit, this one is insane – proggy death metal that all of a sudden drops into slow jazz bass lines and then a sax solo – WTF?  I will be listening to this a lot over the next year…4 and a half minutes into this album – what the utter fuck? WOW.)
  • FailureIn the Future Your Body Will Be the Furthest Thing From Your Mind (LOVE this band – didn’t hear this much, and it’s not as immediately engaging as their last one, but anything new by them is a real treat).

Starting at the bottom…

12.    Judas Priest Firepower

I’ve pretty much avoided Judas Priest in recent years. Of course I respect the hell out of them as one of a handful of bands that invented heavy metal, but I have a bone to pick with them. A band like Black Sabbath has given birth not only to metal itself but to various sub-genres like stoner metal and doom (even thrash, see “Symptom of the Universe”), and anyone familiar with my recent lists knows that I loves me the doom, particularly when it gets pushed in more progressive directions, like Pallbearer and Elder. And I’ve certainly indulged in the stoner over the years. BUT – other than Manowar (a band I have never cared for), Judas Priest is perhaps most responsible for spawning “power metal.”  And therein lies the problem. Power metal is easily my least favorite type of metal (well, besides tungsten, because fuck tungsten). And so, in my own petty, meagre, utterly irrelevant way, I have been punishing them for that. The thing is, Firepower is a really good album. That new kid has learned his lessons well! Respect.

 

11.   DrudkhThey Often See Dreams About the Spring

So this gets a little fucky because, in terms of their discography, this album sits solidly in the bottom half in terms of quality. But it was a nice surprise (they are Ukrainian, and I had no idea that it was even being made, let alone released). They’ve still got the kind of skewed, deliciously dissonant riffage that made me fall for them in the first place, but the last couple of albums have presented a diminishing returns problem.

 

10.   WinterfyllethThe Hallowing of Heirdom

The best thing that ever happened to English black metal (as far as I’m concerned) decided to throw a curveball and release a totally acoustic album full of plaintive, melancholic, beautiful songs based on old English poems and folktales. This is some prime Hobbit-diddling music (if you’re into that sort of thing – I prefer dwarf-tossing and elf-peeping, like my good friend Peeping Tom Bombadil). Definitely Game of Thrones soundtrack-worthy, and it’s great to have on in the background when doing chores, or you want to grade student papers without approaching that particular task like Ramsay Bolton.

 

9.    ClutchThe Book of Bad Decisions

As Tom Morwood once said, “Clutch just don’t make bad albums.”  Agreed!  This album is a bit of a let down still, because I simply haven’t loved it as much as the previous two. But fuck it, it’s Clutch. “In Walks Barbarella” is one of the songs of the year.

 

8.    The Ocean Phanerozoic I: Paleozoic

These German science nerds write concept albums about ENTIRE EPOCHS OF EARTH’S FUCKING GEOLOGICAL AND BIOLOGICAL HISTORY.  I didn’t think they were going to top 2013’s Pelagial, and I don’t think they have.  This album has a song on it called “Age of Sea Scorpions” and all I can picture is Klaus Meine, leather glistening, striding out from the prehistoric sea towards some damp scorpion the size of a Winnebago, which awaits him, on the leafy beach, to do battle.

 

7.    GhostPrequelle

Let the roasting begin!  Ha. I really only love half of this album (“Rats,” “Faith,” “Witch Image,” the instrumentals). It’s a shame that the band is such a dictatorship, but they wouldn’t be Ghost without it. Tobias Forge’s more saccharine tendencies are let loose on this album, and unless you are in the right mood they can really make America grate again. But it’s intrinsically cheesy, and they (he) were always looking to be bigger, and more, than just a metal band. But if it really is him writing the riffs to “Rats,” then I say hats off to him (not that it’s rocket surgery, but still). There IS too much fluff on this album, and I can’t really object when people say the first album is their best. Now, if “Square Hammer” had been on this album instead of “See The Light,” then this would be a different conversation. Come to think of it, why wasn’t it?

 

6.    Immortal Northern Chaos Gods

An Immortal album without Abbath? How is that going to work?

Quite well, actually.

I loved Abbath’s first solo album (it was my #1 last year), and if this doesn’t quite have the highs of that album, it is, if anything, more consistent. One thing Abbath can do better than Immortal-without-Abbath is groove in mid-tempo, though this album does try to do that in songs like “Gates to Blasyrkh.”  But they basically end up repeating bits from Sons of Northern Darkness. But NCG doesn’t care much about the mid-tempo, and the drummer is the same axe-wielding cave-dweller, and this has blast-beats all over the place. When you are riding in to do battle against the trolls on the back of a huge wolf, this is what you want or your iPod.

 

5.    PanopticonThe Scars of Man on the Once Nameless Wilderness

Not the first time Austin Lunn has featured on my list, and probably not the last. If you’re going to combine black metal with bluegrass/Americana, and do it incredibly well, then at some point you’re going to have a surfeit of material, and start thinking about releasing a double album. But you’ll split the black metal side and the hillbilly pickin’ into separate albums and release them as one package. It’s like if the Odd Couple had to make an album, but instead of collaborating on songs they made their own distinct albums. But they really were in love the whole time, and despite the glaring disconnections they belong together. Just, you know, in separate rooms. But the black metal part is not to be denied because all of the traditionally obnoxious stuff (well, not all of it…) is minimized, and it has a very organic feel, particularly in the drum department. And the countryish stuff on the second album is completely convincing.

 

4.    Lubomyr MelnykFallen Trees

And now for something completely different. Lubomyr Melnyk was born in Ukraine and came to Canada as a wee lad and has earned himself the title of fastest pianist in the world. But if you think that sounds like Yngwie Malmsteen shred-wankery on a piano you’d be missing the mark by a wide margin. The compositions are quite beautiful, and from what I can tell the density of the notes come from each hand playing intersecting arpeggios with the sustain pedal on all the time, resulting in what Melnyk calls “continuous music.” The result is a complex cascade of notes that is more mesmerizing than indecipherable. I can almost feel brain cells re-growing as I listen to this stuff. It’s hard to find actual recordings of him, which is a shame since he has spent time homeless (in Winnipeg, no less), and deserves far more attention as a Canadian musical treasure.

 

3.   High on Fire – Electric Messiah

Matt Fucking Pike. This shirtless metal titan has made many a year-end list either for Sleep or High on Fire. I’m sure the 28-year-old me would have jizzed all over The Sciences, but for several years I’ve preferred to board the High on Fire train, and like Clutch they never disappoint. They really took it up a notch with Snakes for the Divine in 2010, and there are moments on this album that recall the mammoth and indescribably awesome title track of that fantastic album. That can only be a good thing, but I also get the sense that Pike is steadily progressing as a guitar player and songwriter. It’s as vicious as ever, but there’s more science to the heaviosity now.

 

2.   VoivodThe Wake

Snake and Away are doing their thing just fine, but it’s the new guys who own this album. Rocky’s bass guitar tone is mid-rangy but still has balls, and his ear for what the riff requires is impeccable. And Chewy? How do you innovate without alienating the ancient ones? How do you pay homage to tradition without sounding derivative? Chewy has all the answers. Best thing they’ve done since The Outer Limits.

 

1.  SlugdgeEsoteric Malacology

Slugdge has been a small obsession of mine for the past year (along with Failure, and if you don’t know them then you need to get with the program). Hail Mollusca! How can “technical death metal” be so catchy?  Take a bunch of Akercocke, a good bit of Carcass, throw in some Mastodon and Gojira for spice, and you’ll have all kinds of slimy, invertebrate fun. Now that they’ve acquired a human drummer, I can’t wait to see where they go next. Perhaps on the road, and not just in England? Please?


 

Other random entertainment mentions:

 

The Expanse – it might be a tad pat to call it Game of Thrones in space, but it kind of is, and it’s a hell of a lot more interesting than the last couple of Star Wars movies. Just more evidence that long-form television can kick the shit out of Hollywood almost any day of the year, and the exceptions are increasingly fewer and farther between.

Failure – I remember 20 years ago when you couldn’t cruise the bargain bin of any music store without seeing a copy of Fantastic Planet, and now I’d pay top dollar for one of those things. They are back and mean business, picking up right where they left off. Spacey, arty, but still accessible, they were covered by A Perfect Circle way back when, and they are just as good a band. 2015’s The Heart is a Monster is itself a monster. This band needs more love.

Solo – Don’t know, haven’t watched. Do I want to? Frankly, I don’t know. If it’s too much like The Force Awakens or The Last Jedi then I might just pass. Why is it so hard to use some of that insane Disney money to hire someone that can write a script that is interesting, creative, and compelling, and doesn’t rip off the earlier movies over and over again? Why is it so hard to write dialogue that doesn’t have me rolling my fucking eyes every three minutes? Is that too much to ask? Fun fact: 75% (at least) of any screenplay is people talking to each other. If you can’t do that well, then your script sucks. Pretty simple math, actually. Either start over, or delegate the task to someone with talent.*


* Way to rant about a movie you’ve never seen Haslam!  At least he hates tungsten.

 

 

 

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#459.4: 2015 Year-End Lists, part 4 – Dr. Dave!

One more list for 2015 arrived at the last minute!  Enjoy the rock as prescribed by Dr. Dave Haslam.

DAVE

GETTING MORE TALE #459.4:
2015 Year-End Lists, part 4 – Dr. Dave Haslam!

First of all – it had to happen sooner or later, but when it does it is still a shock. RIP Lemmy. A true lifer for the rock and roll.

10. Paradise Lost – The Plague Within
9. Drudkh – A Furrow Cut Short
8. Panopticon – Autumn Eternal
7. Mgla – Exercises in Futility
6. Iron Maiden – The Book of Souls
5. Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats – The Night Creeper
4. High on Fire – Luminiferous
3. Deafheaven – New Bermuda
2. Ghost – Meliora
1. Clutch – Psychic Warfare

Honourable Mentions:

  • Faith No More – Sol Invictus
  • Lamb of God – VII: Sturm und Drang
  • Failure – The Heart is a Monster
  • Baroness – Purple
  • Elder – Lore

Dishonourable Mention:

  • Slayer – Repentless (without Lombardo and Hanneman they are a shadow of their former selves.)

SLAYER

Thanks Dr. Dave for his list!  Happy new year!

Dr. Dave’s List: Top Ten of 2014

A brief introduction to Dr. Dave: Not only is he one of Sausagefest’s most notable regulars, but he’s a talented musician too.  That’s him playing guitar on “The Maiden Song” from 2013.  He’s brought a completely different crop of bands to mikeladano.com with his Top Ten of 2014.  Enjoy.  (For my top ten, click here.)

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DR. DAVE’S Top Ten of 2014

Due to some disappointing releases from the likes of Mogwai, Interpol, and the Drive-By-Truckers, my Top 10 is heavy on the metal. What might surprise some people is the number of bands that fall close to, if not well within, the orbit of “black metal.” Yes, this most unfashionable of metal sub-genres has a glacier’s weight of the shitty and silly behind it, but in recent years it has evolved into the most creative force in metal. The vocals are always a dodgy proposition, but I don’t care. At a time when I was bored with the same-old blues-based root-5th power chord ho-hum I’ve heard this 87000 times since last Tuesday shtick, the blizzardy blast-beating barrage of newer BM bands came as a breath of fresh air. So, without further ado…

10. YOB – Clearing the Path to Ascend

If only for album closer “Marrow.” As the title suggests, this is as much a spiritual as a musical investment. This is not for the attention deficit disorder crowd – in fact, nothing on my list is. On his playthisriff.com website, Bob Balch of Fu Manchu cites YOB as one of the most requested, and difficult to produce, sources of guitar tablature. Must be all those eerie suspended chords. This is not your Uncle’s doom, trotting out the usual second-rate Sabbath bilge. Dive in or stay home. There is no in-between.


9. BLUT AUS NORD – Memoria Vetusta III: Saturnian Poetry

Along with the mighty Deathspell Omega, BAN forms the ungodly one-two punch of French avant-garde black metal. They have as much in common with Arnold Schoenberg as they do with classic heavy metal, and it shows. This is alien music, unsettled and unsettling melodies trapped in a churning maelstrom of rhythm. Yet from the chaos emerges moments of glorious and triumphant power. MVIII features a real drummer and a more organic feel, and while I prefer MVII, this is still undeniable. It will surely alienate conventional music listeners, and that’s fine. If you want to know what Cthulu has on his iPod, well, now you know.


8. ORANGE GOBLIN – Back From The Abyss

Damn. For years I figured Time-Travelling Blues would forever remain my favorite Orange Goblin album. Then they came out with Eulogy for the Damned and challenged that assumption. This does the same thing. They’re not a radically different band now, they just delve deeper into their talent and influences and deliver more accomplished material. They’re hitting a middle-aged stride. Better come along for the ride. And hopefully they come back to these parts – they’re a must-see live band.


7. OPETH– Pale Communion

Wasn’t overly impressed with their last one, but this is killer. They’re not really a metal band anymore, and that’s okay. Any fan of 70’s prog should be all over this like Bill Cosby on a drowsy lady. I’ve always preferred my prog with a healthy helping of balls, and this delivers. Proof positive that metal boasts some of the most versatile and forward-looking musicians of any genre, anywhere, anywhen, anyhow.


6. MASTODON – Once More Round the Sun

As with Orange Goblin, I figured the Highway to Hell, Moving Pictures, Gretchen Goes to Nebraska, Queen II-rule would still apply – namely, that the album that first got me into the band would always be my favorite. Once More Round the Sun may, in time, dethrone Leviathan as my favorite Mastodon album. Obviously I’m not one of those dicks who argue that because they’ve gained mainstream popularity they’ve gone soft and toothless. Their use of melody has been honed to a razor’s sharpness, and they swing like pretty much no other metal band can. They are capable of anything, and where they will go from here is anybody’s guess.


5. TRIPTYKON – Melana Chasmata

Thomas Gabriel Fischer is best known as the force behind Celtic Frost. While I missed the boat on his latest project’s initial album (Eparistera Daimones), this one has had me by the short and curlies for a month now. Oozing with menace and dripping with spite, this is a lurching, gargantuan slab of primordial darkness. Album opener “Tree of Suffocating Souls” is ridiculous, but it’s the relatively subdued “Aurorae” that really hooked me. A brooding slow-burner, it adds layers and intensity in a post-metal fashion that builds to a neatly twisted guitar solo.


4. PALLBEARER – Foundations of Burden

I can understand why even some metalheads don’t cotton to the doom. It’s slow, it’s gloomy, it’s repetitive. And then comes Pallbearer, four guys from Arkansas, and everything you think you know about doom can be deposited in a small sack and buried six hundred and sixty-six feet beneath Ozzy’s decapitated bat. The melodic richness of “The Ghost I Used To Be” is a perfect example of where doom is going now because of these guys.


3. WINTERFYLLETH – The Divination of Antiquity

The most quintessentially English black metal band, Winterfylleth combines the charging rhythms and regal melodies of Iron Maiden with the blast beats and tremolo picking of black metal to create a supercharged English folk music for the 21st Century. It’s about the riffs with these guys – slight alterations in fingering create micro-melodic textures within the dominant keys, creating the “blizzardy” tremolo-picked sound of black metal. These guys have it down to a science. “A Careworn Heart” is a lot more relaxed, but you will get the drift.


2. AGALLOCH – The Serpent and the Sphere

For my money, the emergence of “post-black metal” has been the best thing to happen in metal this century, other than the “post-metal” of Isis and like bands. So, not surprisingly, Isis and Agalloch are my two favorite bands to emerge since 2000. The Serpent and the Sphere isn’t the instant classic that Ashes Against the Grain and Marrow of the Spirit were, but this is an epic addition to a nearly flawless discography nonetheless. These forest-dwellers from Oregon have perfected the folksy, pagan, post-rock mutation of black metal like no one else. Lyrical and uplifting while still rooted (distantly) in a style of metal known for the ugly and evil. As usual, it’s the build-up and crescendo that is the goal. “Plateau of the Ages” brings it, and then some.


1. PANOPTICON – Roads To The North

Blackgrass? Blue Metal? I don’t know what you’d call it, but genius Austin Lunn has combined his love of grim and frostbitten Norwegian black metal with the bluegrass of his native Kentucky, resulting in an album of unbridled originality. He’s an incredibly versatile guitarist, an insane drummer, and lays down some of the best bass ever heard on a black metal album. I envy this dude in a serious way. In order to fully grasp it, you have to hear all three parts of “The Long Road” in succession, all the way through. You can hear the black metal in the bluegrass parts and the bluegrass in the black metal parts. Fucking genius. Album of the year, regardless of genre.