Metal Sucks gives Gozu and Red Giant some end of the year props. - Small Stone Recordings
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Metal Sucks gives Gozu and Red Giant some end of the year props.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

2010 has been one hell of a year for yours truly. I got the opportunity to interview several of my musical heroes, including Jello Biafra, Buzz Osbourne, and Mike Patton. In my capacity as MetalSucks’ Official Hardcore Correspondent, I brought the fucking mosh this year and kept you abreast of the goings-on, happenings, and arglebargle of the scene, discovering so many great young bands along the way. And so, I’m pleased to present this latest installment of SCRAPING GENIUS OFF THE YEAR with my Top 15 Hardcore Albums of 2010*

 

15. Ronnie Wood, I Feel Like Playing (Eagle)

The other – and better — album Slash released this year, I Feel Like Playing unites the Guns N Roses lead axeman with the man who incredibly and successfully replaced Mick Taylor. The tabloids have had a field day with Wood over the past few years and, his future with the Rolling Stones temporarily somewhat uncertain, Wood invited a motley crue of rockers — from Flea to ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons — into the studio. What resulted is this diverse yet solid collection of swaggering rock tunes, reaffirming that his solo discography is the most consistently enjoyable of any of the Stones. Free from expectation, Slash unleashes his inner bluesman on cuts like “Forever”, paying homage to Wood and his undeniable influence on hard rock.

14. Grinderman, 2 (Mute / Anti-)

If you told me 10 years ago when I was skillfully macking on pancake-makeup abusing goth girls at clubs like Man Ray and Batcave that Nick Cave and his Bad Seeds would one day be responsible for making sleaze blues like this, I’d have laughed in your Bauhaus lovin’ face. Well, it appears there’s egg on mine, as the quartet’s second album continues in the vein of 2007′s oft-brilliant self-titled compendium of middle-aged peccadilloes. Stained raincoats and midlife meanderings spew from Cave’s meanacing lips as he and the rest of the demented band conjure a Teutonic MC5 from their dank nether regions. Indeed, there’s a wolf in the room, and it wants what’s between your milky thighs.

13. Monster Magnet, Mastermind (Napalm)

The latest from these fantastical space lord motherfuckers closes out the Ed Mundell era with a wallop of hard-driving rock and a dollop of heavy psych. For a group whose sound hasn’t deviated all that much in the last eighteen years, Monster Magnet do it so much better than most of the various stoner rock usurpers and upstarts that have cropped up this century. Buttressed by Mundell’s soon-to-be-missed leads, Dave Wyndorf’s unmistakable and versatile voice carries the record through dirges and headbangers. Representing the latter category, the charged and catchy “Bored With Sorcery” returns the band to the glory of Dopes To Infinity with its best non-single in well over a decade.

12. Mount Carmel, s/t (Siltbreeze)

If you happened to catch The Sword’s recent U.S. tour, you might have caught an opening set from these relative unknowns. Yet where the Texas-based stoner stars worship at the altar of Iommi, this Columbus, OH based act seem to look in Clapton’s direction for inspiration. Indeed, Cream’s psyched-out fuzz-blues machine gets a good tire kicking on this self-titled debut. Yet this is Cream fronted by Robert Plant, which makes for a mash-up of far out proportions. Furthermore, the initial riff of album opener “Livin Like I Wanna” touches up Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid” with a bluesier flair, reminding those who covet the progenitors of heavy metal that the band wasn’t that far off from their psychedelic contemporaries. So fucking good.

11. Hank IV, III (Siltbreeze)

Assuredly not in any way related to Hank Williams — senior, junior, or third — Hank IV are a spunky, noisy, San Franciscan bunch that would make Mudhoney proud. New jacks couldn’t make rock music this sincerely grizzled, and evidently these guys have put in the hours in this and other musical endeavors over the years. Shellac’s Bob Weston produced this storming 8 song, 25 minute LP, which makes the Volcano Suns comparisons all the easier to make for lazy journos such as myself. A punk pedigree shines through cuts like “2X Quit” and the instantly memorable single “Garbage Star.” It bugs the shit out of me that I only just found out about these guys last week.

10. Red Giant, Dysfunctional Majesty (Small Stone)

Remember before when I wrote that “Monster Magnet do it so much better than most of the various stoner rock usurpers and upstarts that have cropped up this century”? (Even Riotgod, a band made up of Monster Magnet’s rhythm section and Mundell’s presumptive replacement Garrett Sweeny, failed to make this prestigious list.) Anyway, swap out Wyndorf’s vocals for something akin to Metallica’s James Hetfield, and you’ve pretty much got the unpretentious rock-and-roll of Red Giant. Now featuring former Pro-Pain drummer Eric Matthews, the Cleveland band returns with their first release in six years, and it’s a boozy doozy, at times imbued with a bit of Clutch swagger and relentless in its devotion to the almighty riff.

9. Neil Young, Le Noise (Reprise)

After a dodgy assortment of electric car paeans and rock operas, with a couple lip-smacking twangy records to satiate his obstinate AARP member base, the long running singer-songwriter takes a worthy risk in this century’s second decade with world-famous producer Daniel Lanois at the helm. Stripped of a backing band and thrown into the deep end of countryman Lanois’ sonic pool, Young rebounds with eight electric/acoustic tracks of aggro outsider chillwave. His craft and wizened ruminations on love–the album’s most common theme–put all these twenty-something twee-sters back in their place. Le Noise has a wistful and, at times, melancholy wholeheartedness that makes it difficult to poke too much fun at his personality quirks and prior musical missteps, though God only knows what sort of dreck he’ll subject us to between now and 2020.

8. White Drugs, Gold Magic (Amphetamine Reptile)

Welcome back, Amphetamine Reptile Records. The label that brought us Helmet, Cows, and Today Is The Day has discovered an absolute whopper of noise rockitude in White Drugs. Manic, feverish, and spastically angular, Gold Magic is a serious shitfit set to wax (no CD version available). Why label head Tom Hazelmeyer sought fit to make a paltry 300 copies of this delectably nasty record boggles my fucking mind. Uptempo zingers like “Gold Power” honor the AmRep tradition and carry it forward. Also, the disembodied head on the cover seems so pained that it looks like he’s taking a shit through a phantom asshole.

7. The Sword, Warp Riders (Kemado)

Stoner doomsters The Sword, erstwhile darlings of the hipster metal elite, dig deep and discover both their inner ZZ Top and their closet Isaac Asimov for their third album. Swapping out fantasy for the marginally less nerdgasmic realms of science fiction, the band find much-needed inspiration deep in the skies. After the creative doldrums / commercial breakthrough of 2008′s Gods of the Earth, another Age Of Winters rehash would’ve been out of the question. With Matt Bayles (Isis, Mastodon) manning the board, the band makes a sincere play for hard rock hearts and minds without entirely absconding from their obligation to defend Iommi’s dark legacy. We’ll miss you, Trivett Wingo.

6. Bison B.C., Dark Ages (Metal Blade)

Spending a fair share of the past two years touring behind 2008′s outstanding Quiet Earth, the young men of Bison experienced a tremendous amount of attention and praise from stoner metal aficionados. That they’ve produced an album that surpasses their prior one while not departing tremendously from its style is commendable. Simply put, Bison have gotten even better at what they do, with vastly more memorable bits than before. The riffs are as thick and crunchy as ever, and the unit benefits from the tightness achieved during the intervening years. Those of you who are crying that Mastodon only put out an EP’s worth of music this year ought to go back and snag Dark Ages.

5. Wolf People, Steeple (Jagjaguwar)

I feel sorta guilty that I’ve kept this record all to myself the past couple months. But now, I’m proud to share its awesome, breathtaking retro rock/folk/psych/groove with the rest of you. Though easily the softest of my picks this year, it brings you back to a time somewhere in the late sixties and early seventies when hard rock was taking shape. Gorgeous melodies, fantastical themes, and inspired vocals carry this unpretentious, affectionately psychedelic opus. “Tiny Circle” is the best song with a flute I’ve heard all year, and the two-part “Banks Of Sweet Dundee” closer is something that both you and your Dad can agree on. Give him a call and set a date to listen to this together. That’s right, a date with your Dad.

4. Sweet Apple, Love and Desperation (Tee Pee)

Holy crap, did this one grow on me! With the retro-stoner project Witch, guitar guru J. Mascis proved he could work well with others, but man has he outdone himself here. Pairing that aforementioned band’s bassist with two guys from Cobra Verde (a band best known for briefly backing an interation of Robert Pollard’s Guided By Voices), Sweet Apple euthanize Them Crooked Vultures with some downright glorious hard bluesy garage rock. John Petkovic shines as the band’s frontman, laying down memorable vocal hooks galore on soaring Steppenwolf-esque cuts like “Do You Remember” and more subdued 70s-nodding ballads like “It’s Over Now”. Best in class, man.

3. Harvey Milk, A Small Turn Of Human Kindness (Hydra Head)

Those Pitchforkateers and trust fund beardos who found themselves enamored with the palatable sludge-lite of Life…The Best Game In Town are right to consider this new concept record a slap in the face. Indeed, Hydra Head’s least predictable act responded to their critically acclaimed and (comparatively) commercially successful album ever with one of the most miserable song cycles ever recorded. Too demoralizing to be confounding, it explicitly documents a falling down life–already riddled with regrets and failures–at its tragic tail end. Creston Spiers howls like a mortally wounded beast as life puts the screws to his suffering protagonist. We’re not supposed to like it, which is kinda why I love it.

2. Gozu, Locust Season (Small Stone)

Presumably named after the bizarre Japanese flick, this Massachusetts quartet describe their sound as “GAAHL meets Hellhammer meets Clutch” — and who am I to fucking argue with that?! To say that Locust Season, their magnificent debut, rocks is an understatement. For much of 2010, I’ve been pining for some serious hard rock and been given slim pickings from the mainstream as well as the underground. It sickens me what passes for hard rock these days, from mislabeled screamo to odious cloying fare from Stone Sour. Well, friends, I’m pleased to say that our long national nightmare is over, and we are in Gozu’s debt. Locust Season shows a band at peak form, taut and lean and fucking mean. Josh Homme is on notice.

1. Melvins, The Bride Screamed Murder (Ipecac)

The Melvins have outlasted a couple generations of music journalists over a confounding and lengthy career. If their latest album is any indication, they’ll likely do the same with the likes of me. Complex and whimsical, The Bride Screamed Murder is their strongest since Houdini and the finest offering from the Big Business infused lineup. Unlike 200x’s Nude With Boots, a veritable do-over of the vastly superior A Senile Animal, this new record has a mangled mutant mind of its own. And while it doesn’t completely abandon the hard rock sound of its two predecessors, it presents a mastery of the collective’s craft. Much like The Rolling Stones’ Exile On Mainstreet, it boasts no conceivable “hits,” instead taking listeners on an exhilarating excursion that, while bewildering at times, never feels like a prank or a wank.

Dishonorable mentions:
Black Mountain, Wilderness Heart
Black Sleep Of Kali, Our Slow Decay
Endless Boogie, Full House Head
Ghost, Opus Eponymous
Hellyeah, Stampede
Jucifer, Throned In Blood
Lords Of Falconry, s/t
Quest For Fire, Lights From Paradise
Sweet Cobra, Mercy
Titan, Sweet Dreams

*Oh yeah, and the Top 15 Hardcore Albums Of 2010 are:
01. Bitter End, Guilty As Charged
02. Cruel Hand, Lock And Key
03. OFF!, The First Four EPs
04. Nails, Unsilent Death
05. Born Low, Reincarnage
06. Sick Of It All, Based On A True Story
07. Rhinoceros, They Are Coming For Me
08. Ceremony, Rohnert Park
09. The Acacia Strain, Wormwood
10. Skin Like Iron, Descent Into Light
11. Piece By Piece, s/t
12. Killing Time, Three Steps Back
13. Alpha & Omega, Life Swallower
14. Terror, Keepers Of The Faith
15. Madball, Empire

-GS

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