A. Darryl Moton
Metal has been absorbing influences from other styles for decades–it’s part of what’s kept it interesting over the years. The PacNW post-grunge post-hardcore crowd (Botch, Blood Brothers, Harkonen/Helms Alee) threw bits of so-called “math rock” in. The Deftones have been blatantly copping from the Cocteau Twins and the Cure as much as they’ve pulled from Meshuggah (yeah, yeah, they’re “pop,” I know, but they’re still arguably the only interesting band in mainstream rock). Bands like Slipknot and Soulfly have pulled off the unlikely coup of successfully infusing brutal metal with pop (and, say what you will about Slipknot, but they’re a damn sight more brutal than Deafheaven or Wolves in the Throne Room)–dragging drum’n'bass with them. Post-Bad Brains/MDC/Suicidal Tendencies hardcore/metal fusion groups have been all over metal forever; their descendants–Trash Talk, Trap Them, Nails, Baptists, Xibalba, et al–are blowing up the scene just as much as Deafheaven. And yes, Jesu (especially the self-titled full-length and “Silver” EP), but that even stretches back to the last Godflesh album.
Let’s not forget the Bill Laswell-curated explorations of the early 1990s (Painkiller, Praxis, Buckethead)–shoot, Praxis’ “Sacrifist” careened from blast-beat industrial grindcore to ambient dub to jazz-bo noise rock, sometimes within the same song.
I dunno–this feels more like a “black metal in a post-deafheaven world” piece to me. I like the new Alcest album, much like I enjoyed the Deafheaven album, but I don’t think anything truly revolutionary is going down here–to me, it’s pretty much the same thing that metal’s been doing since Black Sabbath made blues slower and louder.
Okay, I exaggerated a tad (sorry, I didn’t bother to count simply because it wasn’t that big of a deal). But a clean 40% of a “best-of” list is still pretty considerable. I wasn’t hating–again, I enjoy black metal, too–but rather felt that other forms of metal (outside black or death) are somewhat underrepresented here. Again, I still think it’s a great list.
I think Reese brings up the best points, though–particularly about how heavier rock seems to have vanished everywhere outside of dedicated metal circles. Torche and Baroness (/Kylesa, Pelican, et al) at least get the nod. I was downright SHOCKED when Helms Alee–a band that has consistently pulled great reviews and accolades from scene darlings like Torche, Isis, and the Melvins–finally managed to scrape some Pitchfork coverage this year.
While I also see the point re: connective threads, I do respectfully disagree. I’ve always informally speculated the affectation intrinsic to black metal makes it easier for so-called “indie” type (although I’m not fond of the term “indie,” primarily because it’s been bandied about so wantonly that it hardly has any meaning any longer). As with hip-hop, the zeitgeist gravitates toward the ostentatious and theatrical because it’s easier to consider said musicians as Others, keeping them somewhat marginalized. To put it another way; it’s easier to accept something as extreme as black metal because it’s so far along the other end of the spectrum that people can look at it as a caricature.
I’m going off on a tangent that I’m entirely too mentally fatigued to continue with any competence. Thanks to everyone for their pleasant, unexpectedly constructive replies.
Oh–and Michael, I always meant to thank you for covering Hydra Head’s demise. I shed a tear when they went under and would have been pissed if Stereogum hadn’t mentioned it.
I realize this comment is late to the party, but I’ll weigh in:
First, my gripe: I like black metal, too, but nowhere near enough for me to pull 75% of a “best metal albums of the year” from the subgenre. (If this warrants reply, Mr. Nelson–what has the independent music scene so enamored with black metal? I mean, it’s fantastic, don’t get me wrong–but there are so many other interesting things happening in metal that focusing so much on it doesn’t make sense to me. Granted, I’m just one man, but I can’t be the only one noticing the obvious bias.)
Apart from that, this is a fantastic list–FAR more interesting than the main ‘gum “albums of the year” list. I think the Nails album is ranked far too low–it is, far and away, the best album on here. I’m not mad at the Deafheaven, though–I don’t think it’s worth all the jizz people seem to be spilling on it, but it’s pretty damn good. The Subrosa and Windhand albums were pretty solid, too.
I’ll throw my hat in with the “Where’s Pelican?” crowd–they really returned to form this year. I’d also throw in the Jucifer album–which is my favorite metal album in years–but they’ve never seemed to get traction from the hipster crowd.
i have no problem with people choosing to be herbivorous, and don’t give people shit about it.
i wish herbivores would allow me the same courtesy about my dietary choices.
The Slayer/Ice-T collaboration is, as I recall, structured around a cover of The Exploited.
My memory on this is hazy, and I’m pretty feverish right now–I know the last part of the song is straight-up covering The Exploited, but I think the first part of the song (before the “L.A. ’92!” part) is also an Exploited cut.
I loved the hell out of the “Judgment Night” soundtrack. Thought the Sonic Youth/Cypress Hill song was perfect–stoned, weird, and just silly enough.
Boo-Yaa T.R.I.B.E. were definitely NOT nonentities–they had a fantastic debut (“New Funky Nation”) and were just as good on their instruments as Faith No More. Loved the hell out of those self-proclaimed angry Samoans.
I’ll give it to you: the last thing I ever expected from Stereogum was a write-up on one of the best unheralded bands of the 1990s. Big ups to you, Mr. Breihan (although I will always prefer “Jesus Wept” to “Bliss Album”).
I was music director of my campus radio station when this album dropped. With all the weirdness and uncertainty of a fucked-up, morally ambiguous, ever-changing post-11 September 2001 world, this album with its quirky serenity brought me peace and comfort, and I’ve always turned to it for that over the years.
this is the best comment of all time. so motherfucking true.
This list is…awesome.
“Spawn” soundtrack: check (the Slayer/ATR track alone is worth it). “Batman Forever” soundtrack: check (every song on that thing is golden, including the early, Kravitz-penned Brandy song). Prince’s “Batman” soundtrack: check. “The Crow” soundtrack: check (although I’d have switched #1 and #2).
The “Batman & Robin” thing is a bit of a head-scratcher, and likewise for “Men In Black” (that soundtrack was mediocre at best), but the rest of this list is great.
My submissions are the soundtracks for the following films:
“The Crow 2: City Of Angels”
“American Splendor” (The Chocolate Genius cover of “Ain’t It Peculiar” is brilliant)
“Tales From The Crypt: Demon Knight”