This was such a masterpiece of doom music. And Still is. I waited for this album like crazy. The first release date was sometime during the Autumn of 1999 but for some reason it was postponed for 31st january 2000. Maybe it had something to do with the rumors that Kim Larsen and the two guys from the rhythm section left the band even before the release of Martyre.
Anyway, I was amazed and mad with glee when I got it. Just holding the heavy CD with twenty pages of booklet in my hands was enough to know the album would be special. I was also so grateful for some reason when I realized that the opening track Inflame Thy Heart had only first two minutes of verse/chorus and growling vocals, while the rest five minutes of it were pure bliss with the solo of Kim Larsen, accompanied by some caressing keyboard pads.
This album had all the stuff I dreamed of, not only concerning Saturnus, but all the doom metal music ever made as well. The production duties were given to Flemming Rasmussen, the guy responsible for the perfect sounds of Metallica's Master Of Puppets and ...And Justice For All (yup, Flemming was Danish). The production was one of the best and everything sounded perfect - Thomas' growls were just wonderfully strong and the three guitar styles of Kim Larsen - 1. thunderous riffs coupled with leads/solos with lots of sustain, 2. clean guitars with added chorus effect and 3. close miked acoustic guitar - together with powerful Jesper's drumming, were all hitting you in the face only to embrace you next, depending on the arrangement of the song.
Softly On The Path You Fade is a doom hymnic-like ballad all metalheads of the world should hear. (Yeah, this statement sounds a bit like Manowar). Thou Art Free was rerecorded and sounded much better this time - more intimate and caring. Drown My Sorrow was another hit I played endlessly. Maybe I was a sad fucker back then but there were lots of times I just sat and cried to this album for whatever reason/frustration. It gave me this pure cathartic effect every time. No need to mention, I guess, that I still know all the album's lyrics by heart. And drum fills too.
Kim Larsen left the band for whatever reasons but was so nice to me everytime I mailed him. It was a couple of years later when I learned there was such a thing as email. I was this fanboy who wanted to mail all my favourite musicians to tell them how much their music meant to me and Kim was always ace and replied every time. I remember I asked him what gear he was using, and he replied with ESP Horizon being his guitar, Peavey 5150 the amp, Digitech Whammy pedal, along with some cheap delay pedal too. 2000 was the year I got my first electric guitar (more on that some other time) and that was also the first time I started to get info on the amps the guitarists I liked were using. On the other hand, the drummer's style was so good on Martyre I think this was the first album ever where I started to notice the drum arrangements and were playing air drums to the songs (whenever I wasn't playing songs on the guitar myself).
Martyre remains one of my dearest records ever and along with Anathema's The Silent Enigma it stands out as the best example of what European doom metal had to offer during the Nineties.
This one was a surprising one. Only a year after Strange In Stereo came out, these Norwegians returned with a compilation of three EP's (White Rabbit, Let There Be More Light, Epitaph) and some new studio tracks as well.
Karmakosmik was one of those new tracks and a fantastic opener too. It was done in familiar In The Woods style, but with added cosmic depths, more than ever before. There was this time once when I took some acid and put this song on... It was the closest thing of experiencing the infinity, being on a brink of it, with slight return of madness shining from above. The thing that annoyed me a bit during the trip was that something was slightly out of tune, the guitars one with the other or something similar. That's also the song I named this blog after.
Epitaph was this King Crimson cover and I loved it. Intertwined voices of Jan and Synne never sounded better and her dynamics at the end of the song were leaving me breathless every time. The crazy heavily processed e-bow sounds of one of the Botteri twins on the guitar was also one of the sounds I could never forget. It was not long after listening to this cover I started checking out King Crimson's discography from their beginnings.
White Rabbit and Mourning The Death Of Aase were recorded back in 1996 even before Omnio and even though a bit rough as they were, the 70's spirit were all over those two. Metal version of Jefferson Airplane it was not, but a psychedelic heaven with added distortions from the future (80's metal era).
Soundtrax For Cycoz (1st Edition) was this great noisy piece with the guys toying with drum loops and atmosphere. It showed improved Strange In Stereo madness it's too bad there was never a 2nd Edition follow-up recorded. If It's In You was this acoustic piece, a cover of Syd Barret. It was not just a perfect closer, but the most intimate In The Woods song to date too. Just when you thought the band would choke in liquid smoke of hammond organ, voice and acoustic picking, the band would finally burst in laughter and left you catharticly calm. Perfect ending for a perfect band.
3. Radiohead - Kid A (Parlophone)
2000 was a strange year for me. Not only did I get my first electric guitar ever, I managed getting laid too (sweet, sweet sixteen). Maybe those were the two reasons I finally got more open minded, not only with metal but with other stuff in music genres as well.
Nikola Vranjkovic lent me this album and I fell on my ass when I heard it. By selling million copies of OK Computer they did the opposite thing of doing ten new Karma Police songs and did this hermetic record full of electronic warmth and analog heaven. Idioteque was and still is my favourite Radiohead song, Everything In Its Right Place and In Limbo being close enough. The ballad-like How To Disappear Completely contained some of the most interesting sonic textures, and it surely helped them evolve doing all the production experiments later.
Every track on Kid A was ace and Radiohead will always have my respect for having balls to do such a record.
4. Ulver - Perdition City (Music To An Interior Film) (Jester)
This was a calmer one. After the lucidness of William Blake's plates, the wolves announced this by releasing the Metamorphosis EP. Perdition City was imagined as this inner listener's soundtrack to the city at night, its buzzing neon lights and the noises they were making while the listener was crossing the desolate streets alone. They managed doing one.
This record was more of an open-ended record where Ulver began studying vastness of silence and all the stuff they could do with it. This silence fascination was confirmed later when they named a couple of EP's with it. It worked great because the previous Garm's works, be it Ulver, Arcturus or whatever, were so busy with stuff it was finally a relief to have so much space in music to be left open.
Nocturnal touch was helped by some saxophone playing - the urbanity of the city urged for heavy use of electronica too. Porn Piece Or The Scars Of Cold Kisses was the best example where they clashed the warmth of Rhodes piano with some electronic bleeps, glitches and loops, while some strings were backing all those up from the background. The Future Sound Of Music and Lost In Moments were also good examples where the nothing/everything differences worked, culminating with Nowhere/Catastrophe in the end and the major scale used in the chords, confirming the rich black sarcasm Garm was always good at.
Perdition City was a new chapter and a new beginning for Ulver. The likes of The Wire magazine loved it too.
This one was more of an urban answer to the previous How To Measure Planet?, which was more of a cosmic album. There was a huge SLOW DOWN sign in between the lines of all the lyrics on this album, concerning the consuming society and growing technology making everything in the world faster and thus impossible to keep an eye on.
Analog Park, Amity and especially Saturnine were the absolute highlights. Those three remain one of the best they've ever done. Herbal Movement and Bad Movie Scene were more relaxed ones while Shot To Pieces showed that this band could still rock if they wanted to.
Anneke was beautiful as ever, cutting her hair and dying it fiery red. Her voice showed more strength too and after this album the band would finally leave the label that was dragging them down for some time already.
It was rare that I liked any mainstream pop band at this time (except if it was Bajaga), but Coldplay were the first ones I really liked. A very special someone gave me this album and I was instantly hooked. Coldplay played only slow songs and ballads and that's what got my attention in the first place.
This record made them popular but it wasn't until next one they'd get a planetary hype. Don't Panic and Yellow were the obvious favorites, but I liked Spies, High Speed and Sparks as much. The beauty was in simplicity and the songs were so simple you could play them on a single acoustic guitar. The voice of Chris Martin was very convincingly light and caring. He didn't get his full singing potential just yet, but those miniature flaws in raw production and few slips here and there made this record even more enjoyable and precious.
An ultimate record for a nice evening with your loved one.
This was officially released in 1999 but it was released at the tail of 1999 and I discovered it a bit later so here it is with those 2000 companions.
This was one of those stranger records. It was definitely Radiohead influenced but with more ethereal/shoegaze touch of Icelandic vastness with icy mountains and cold blue seas.
There's a funny story when Lazar had a meeting with Cvele, and he was a couple of minutes earlier on the meeting spot. He had this album on his mp3 player and soon he discovered that the hopelessness of this record had dragged so much of itself onto him during those couple of minutes, Lazar suddenly lost willing to live, not to mention the Saturday-destruction-night-fever mood he was into just a couple of minutes before playing Agaetis.
That story might help you picture the state it would drag you in. So... This one is not appropriate for downer situations, only if you're feeling too cheerful. Either way you might want to destroy yourself.
Sigur Rós came out of blue (Radiohead chose them and Godspeed You Black Emperor! to be their support bands when they were promoting Kid A) and made a world a more beautiful place. Every track on Agaetis Byrjun was a good one, although the majority of fans preferred Starálfur, Svefn-G-Englar or Ný Batterí. And this was only a beginning.
8. Borknagar - Quintessence (Century Media)
This album was so heavy it was unhealthy. Sure, those solos of Danny Cavanagh and Kim Larsen had some sustain to them, but compared to Electric Wizard's riffs they sounded just, well, dead. Cause Electric Wizard's riffs had those sustains the whole fucking time. The riffs were so massive it sounded like the earthquake was shaking this fifty floored building for quite some time in slo mo, only for the building to discover it actually enjoyed it. And started to dance to it itself. I could only imagine sir Tony Iommi messing his pants a little upon hearing four bars of I, The Witchinder. I know that Lee Dorian of Cathedral did when he signed them for his own label.
This was the meanest fuzzed out slow doom one could get from the Brits. They gave us Black Sabbath, so the doom went full circle again with this one.
This record was so weird. It sounded like Frank Zappa gathered metalheads and made them do a record. Without guitars. In Norway.
Jester records (Ulver's own label) could give some hint of what would this sound like, but it was impossible to tell unless you heard the thing for yourself. There was something undeniably funny about the whole concept of this album - the dialogues, the music details in between those lines... It was like Cords.Wires was more of a radio drama than a full rocking album. On a radio on Mars aired for the Earthlings.
Brothers Of Space and By Five O'Clock Tea were those funnier ones (Terrorizer even played Max Cavalera Five O'Clock Tea and he replied he would buy the whole album if it all sounded like that song), but Sugar And Fear and especially Making Room For God were darker beasts, adding melancholic black edged shades to the songs.
Even Arcturus and Ulver fans were puzzled with Bogus Blimp and even the band themselves couldn't make anything similar to Cords.Wires anymore - it was that unique.
I loved this hidden jewel so much at the time it came out. It was a quick fix for all of us Katatonia lovers (who liked both Brave Murder Day and Tonight's Decision), Anathema freaks who showed affection for some Opeth and Saturnus as well, and who wanted to listen to new records by those artists every year.
Of Times And Unknown Waters was the song off Prophecy sampler I got hooked on the first minute I heard it. Guest appearances of Kim Larsen of Saturnus and Markus of Empyrium made me wet a bit too.
Still Lost In The Autumn Of Eternity had this black metal-ish feel and it is only now, six or seven years later when I realized this song was a huge influence on me while I was writing the song This Mist Around Us for Consecration. (Sagnet Om) Manden Med Den Sorte Hat was this acoustic piece written and played by Markus Stock and Kim Larsen, while Dark Summernights Of Eternal Twilight was this great ten-minute track of spoken word a la Saturnus/Anathema crossed with Katatonic/Opethian riffing/screams of their long past days.
This whole album was a definitive listen to all lovers of black/doom crossover that Katatonia established with Brave Murder Day, played by these Danes in the desolate moors in autumn while drinking dozens of beers and still getting the riffs grabbing you with their hooks.
Another record that was released at the tail of 1999 which I discovered a bit later. This one was a monstrous motherfucker. This was the slowest funeral doom taken to the most experimental extremes.
The feeling of listening to it was like as if you were gazing at the abyss only to discover that there was not one but trillion zillion abysses. Gazing back at you.
With three songs timing around forty-four minutes, the highlight was Secret Of The Secret, with the opener Dissident being close to perfect too. Only the closing one was a bit too much to handle in one psychedelic bite. Nevertheless, paranoia and insanity never sounded more appropriate.
13. Fleurety - Department Of Apocalyptic Affairs (Supernal)
This record was so weird. It sounded like Frank Zappa gathered black metal heads and made them do a record. With guitars. And saxophone. In Norway.
14. 16 Horsepower - Secret South (Glitterhouse)
This was actually a 2014 intervention to the list. I knew 16 Horsepower from mid 2000's and I somehow remembered this album but it never struck me that hard to listen to it properly until recently
This album is like a gothic country. Darkwave folk. Alternative americana. Bauhaus meets Bob Dylan. David Eugene Edwards is a special kind of songwriter from Denver, Colorado and it took me a while before I started to get into songwriters and the importance of lyrics in songs in general. Or perhaps, lyrics before music, the music being a vessel to a story that singer has. Secret South is kind of a doorway to this music, to the South of the States in general. The True Detective show also helped a lot to feel the atmosphere and darkness of the South. That show is probably the best show I've ever seen and that reminded me of sir Eugene and the proper reason why I should listen to his records again.
The song Splinters is very powerful track, showing the darkness and the beliefs / struggles Eugene has. 16 Horsepower and especially Secret South were surely a starting point for many metallers that took interest in folk, such as Agalloch. Or Ulver maybe. Tenhi? Surely so. Swans too. Yes. Probably Nick Cave too.
Folklore will be another good 16HP album, too bad it will be the last one. After that David Eugene Edwards would start a new band named Woven Hand. Not so folky and country, but darky yes. Yummy.
15. Godspeed You Black Emperor! - Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven (Constellation)
This was the first album I heard the term post rock was attached to. Didn't have idea what it was about, but saw this band being mentioned in magazines as The Wire more often (brother was getting some issues occasionally) and being mentioned in the same sentence with Sigur Rós.
This was much like the closest thing to a soundtrack I ever heard. More of an inner kind of soundtrack. This experimentalists from Montreal, Canada married rock, indie smelling strings with samples and apocalyptic moods of Swans. The result was a masterpiece of instrumental music divided into four songs lasting over ninety minutes.
Even though I liked Slow Riot For New Zero Kanada better eventually, that one was only an EP. And Antennas was this full-blown orchestra of what these visionaries had to offer. And the Earth wept in gratitude.