Ghost Key was by far the best song of 2009. It showed everything Isis were about. The production on Wavering Radiant was the best ever, and they finally made an album that sounded one hundred per cent perfect. The drummer even noted that this was the first Isis studio recording on which he actually knew all the songs' arrangements while playing. Speaking of which, the drums never sounded better, every beat, every cymbal hit. The reverbed snare sound at 3.19 in Ghost Key got me every time like a black shining star falling into golden water.
The band also used lots of different guitars and amps, some of the guitars being EGC Aluminum Custom Made. The sound of the album was a more developed version of In The Absence Of Truth (as sort of Panopticon was to Oceaniac), being more prog than post. I also managed to see the band live in Zagreb again and they destroyed alright. Too bad they decided to call it a day couple of months afterwards, although it was a rather conscious decision. They toured so much during the decade and played / gave everything they could possibly do, considering the genre(s) they were swimming in. They carried the flag of this whole post metal thing and decided it was right to pull off when they felt there was nothing more important / visionary to add.
Wavering Radiant would remain this glorious swansong of the band and, even if it wouldn't prove to be the favorite album among the fans, it would remain the most proper sounding one in terms of production, playing and the clearance of the sounds.
Mastodon and Baroness were sharing similar affection for their vision of metal, although Mastodon were always more into prog. Crack The Skye was the first Mastodon record I really liked as a whole. Everything worked perfectly on this one, even the ludicrous concept they had again. The production was the best yet and every element had its distinct color needed, to transform the vision into audible element and vice versa.
Oblivion and Divinations were the clear highlights of the album, although the mammoth The Czar was hit all the right prog spots rather successfully. Crack The Skye was a complex, multi-layered record and it contained maybe a song too much. The vocals improved a lot, all three of them, and the newfound harmonies made Mastodon listens much more interesting to investigate. All in all, thinking man's metal got them some new epic heroes.
3. Tim Hecker - An Imaginary Country (Kranky)
4. Sunn O))) - Monoliths & Dimensions (Southern Lord)
5. Jodis - Secret House (Hydra Head)
Wow. I wasn't expecting this. This was a collaborative record between James Plotkin of Khanate and Aaron Turner of Isis, so this was kind of ambient blues record with a significant touch of drone.
Secret House was so vast and atmospheric. Like a music companion to a movie I liked the most in 2009, Jarmusch's Limits Of Control. Everything was so open for any interpretation and those were limitless. Well, limited only by the imagination of a mind.
Aaron's voice was so improved by this point - he sang like never before in Isis, open-ended and passionate. The reverbs and delays were so fantastic one could hear every echo trail clearly. The title track and Follow The Dogs might be the highlights of the album, although Secret House had the similar effect as Bohren & Der Club Of Gore's Dolores had - you got both mesmerized and hypnotized in its embrace, you wished you'd never leave the blue cocoon it gave. I got me more into blues by then so Secret House was the best way of marrying both roots (blues) and experimentation (drone) into this biggest surprising slow droning eargasm of an album.
6. Alice In Chains - Black Gives Way To Blue (Virgin)
This was the best comeback for sometime. Sure, Jerry Cantrell could make another solo album, but that wouldn't have the weight Alice In Chains' reunion did. Jerry found a new singer, who also played the guitar well, so the new album was made.
Black Gives Way To Blue didn't disappoint at all - Check My Brain, A Looking In View and Private Hell were all excellent tracks that could easily top Would, Angry Chair, Them Bones, Nutshell or Man In The Box of the glorious pasts - without the nostalgia effect though. When The Sun Rose Again, Your Decision and the title track were ballad pieces, where the title track was dedicated to Layne Staley and brought some Elton John guest appearances as well. Black Gives Way To Blue was important record and it had all the elements Alice In Chains fans could possibly desire - the big riffs, recognizable vocal harmonies of old and the atmosphere only a Seattle based band of the Nineties could grasp.
The spirit of Layne Staley could live on and he could certainly feel glad for the guys making him such an honor, by making the band alive again and delivering the music goods properly.
I wasn't going to include this one to the list first, but after some more serious repeated listens I realized how important this record was, and how important Josh Homme and the guys were in today's rock n' roll.
New Fang, Elephants and Mind Rraser, No Chaser were the hits, although the whole album had that infectious riffing and the bluesy vibe Mr. Homme mastered with Kyuss and Queens Of The Stone Age. The guitars, pedals and the amps he used were making all us guitar players / equipment lovers wet. John Paul Jones of mighy Led Zeppelin and Dave Grohl together with Josh made Them Crooked Vultures the best supergroup trio one could get in 2009.
The production of the album was awesome and it was nice to hear that together with Isis' Wavering Radiant someone was also enjoying using the tape recorders as well.
8. Monolake - Silence (Imbalance Computer Music)
Robert Henke was doing this ambient minimalistic electronic music and he excelled at it on Silence. It would be the greatest minimal record since Plastikman's Closer. Henke even made a small homage to sir Ritchie naming a track Reconnect, strongly reminiscent of Plastikman's Disconnect with the synth sounds.
Far Red and Avalanche were the more dynamic pieces, that were so good in adding several dimensions production wise; the ambient parts had so much depth they pulled your mind further into the blackness of space, while some elements, such as the drum loops stood right in front of you, not letting you focus on the secrecy of the ambience from behind.
Autechre would already gone too abstractly insane with their newer releases and Aphex got quiet with some other projects as The Tuss, so Monolake's Silence was the right portion of dynamic darkness needed for the electricity to shine.
9. Katatonia - Night Is The New Day (Peaceville)
10. Baroness - Blue Record (Relapse)
This was a metal surprise of the year. Blue Record got me reminded of why were Metallica's and Iron Maiden's records of old so special at the time they were released back in the day. It also brought back the retro vibe of listening to Sabbath's Master Of Reality for example. Baroness had the riffs, the melodies, proper arrangements. Even acoustic interludes. Together with Mastodon they were a fresh breeze of metal, saying and showing there's more to it than just headbanging and triggered drums at 200 beats per minute.
Jake Leg and A Horse Called Golgotha were the highlights, although the whole Blue Record was an easy going one. The vintage-ness of one Thin Lizzy and occasional psychedelic elements were only adding to the uniqueness and the enjoyment of being proud to be a metalhead again.
11. Therapy? - Crooked Timber (DR2)
I honestly didn't believe Therapy? would come back with such a badass album. They were always there during the 2000's. Making good records, but Crooked Timber was finally the one full of hits. Exiles is one of their finest tracks.
These Chicago loonies were really something. They were wrongly tagged as postrock in the past, only because the damn journalists didn't know what to call them. Still they had troubles in calling them, jazz musicians, free experimentalists, the weirdos of indie rock... The list went on.
Yinxianghechengqi wasn't just this song played so fantastically well, it also showed the genuine joy of playing the band always had. At the other hand, Charteroak Foundation was this reflective closing piece that brought back some nostalgic sounds that Portishead were cherishing too on their latest album. Everything about Beacons Of Ancestorship seemed simple, but it was far from that. The only simplicity was the freeness of the spirits to evolve further into lots of hidden territories of music, awaiting somewhere to be found.
The groove could be found in a single triangle or a broken Casio toy synth, and that was the beauty of Tortoise. Prog rock? Jazz kraut? Spaghetti lounge? Yes. Everything was possible and enjoyable with Beacons. Go figure.