Wednesday, December 30, 2009


OK, here 'tis: my year-end list. It was supposed to be a Top Ten, obviously, but there were so many great albums released this year that my top four slots wound up being ties. So...

1. Mastodon
Crack the Skye (Reprise)
Blue Record (Relapse)
2009 was Georgia's year. Atlanta-based Mastodon released a prog-metal epic that holds its own with the most ambitious hard rock of the '70s, combining lyrics that told the most bizarre, convoluted story (it involves astral traveling, the Russian monk Rasputin and more) since Genesis's The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. The music was brilliant, too -- less assaultive than earlier efforts, but just as awesome. No wonder they played the whole album on tour this year. Meanwhile, their friends in Savannah's Baroness issued a sophomore full-length that displayed a rare combination of ambition and restraint, building on the successes of 2007's Red Album without feeling pressured to go as prog as Mastodon, or get heavier for heaviness's sake. Blue Record is unashamedly beautiful.

2. Marduk
Wormwood (Regain)
Funeral Mist
Maranatha (Norma Evangelium Diaboli)
In 2004, Marduk hired Daniel "Mortuus" Olsson as its new frontman, and this year the band released its greatest studio work to date. This is not a coincidence. Like its predecessor, 2007's Rom 5:12, Wormwood builds on the blasting black metal of the group's 1990s catalogue with complex songwriting and more thoughtful lyrics. The same qualities were also present on Mortuus's second solo album, the breathtaking, thoroughly blasphemous (yet deeply philosophical) Maranatha, released under the name Funeral Mist.

3. Born of Osiris
A Higher Place (Sumerian)
Existence is Futile (Relapse)
It was a great year for young bands, too. Revocation's second album, following a self-released 2008 CD, blended technical thrash and shredding guitar solos with addictive riffage worthy of Lamb of God. Born of Osiris, while more unrelenting, is also more progressive, stacking keyboard solos atop complex guitar interplay and raw-throated deathcore vocals.

4. Job for a Cowboy
Ruination (Metal Blade)
Breathing the Fire (Prosthetic)
Job for a Cowboy overcame derision from purer-than-thou metal bloggers and message-board trolls to release a genuinely ferocious death-metal album that, from its blitzkrieg opener to its death-march closing title track, proved they were far more than a MySpace sensation. These Arizonans are serious comers, with chops and riff-carving skills to spare, and in years to come, they'll be a band to beat. Skeletonwitch's second full-length mixed thrash guitars with black-metal vocals and death metal's pummeling force, and their live shows are rapidly becoming a must-see.

5. Immortal
All Shall Fall (Nuclear Blast)
These Scandinavian black-metallers get ridiculed for their excessively Kiss-like corpse paint and pro-wrestling poses in promo pics, but one listen to this astonishing comeback album, their first release since 2002, will call a halt to any and all snickering. The production gives them the epic power they've always sought, while the songs are some of their most aggressive, and yet an extreme-metal way. If your ideal weekend is spent wandering amid snowdrifts, furiously headbanging, you've got a brand-new life soundtrack.

6. Sunn O)))
Monoliths & Dimensions (Southern Lord)
Long legendary in the hipster underground and with art critics, Sunn O)))'s live shows are astonishing, physical experiences, the sheer volume and ultra-low frequencies caressing and punishing the audience. But the band's never really made a studio masterwork until now. Bringing in guests ranging from jazz trombone legend Julian Priester to a full female vocal choir, Sun O))) has assembled a four-track, hour-long epic that's a journey from peak to peak, with no weak moments and some passages of staggering beauty. Is this metal in the traditional sense? No. But it's as heavy as a planet.

7. Converge
Axe to Fall (Epitaph)
People are still calling these Massachusetts-based noise-rockers a hardcore band, even though their jagged, dissonant songs have more in common with Unsane than Sick of It All. And on their latest album, they expand their pool of influences to include Disfear (whose last album was produced by Converge guitarist Kurt Ballou) and Tom Waits. So what the hell do we call them now? For the moment, "awesome" will have to do.

8. Heaven & Hell
The Devil You Know (Rhino)
The Ronnie James Dio-fronted version of Black Sabbath released its first album since 1992 this year, and it's exactly as doom-haunted and world-crushing as should be expected from guys in their late fifties and older who've been making this kind of music since ... well, since Tony Iommi invented it. Lyrics straight out of the Old Testament paired up with drums like the gates of Hell slamming shut on your head, and riffs that carve the very earth into majestic sculptures.

9. Slayer
World Painted Blood (Sony)
Another gang of old dudes shows the kids how it's done. Slayer wrote the majority of this album in the studio, and the result is a loose, punk-like set of tracks that offer raw, energized performances (Tom Araya sounds almost breathless at times) built around some of their best riffs since the early '90s. The production, by Gregg Fidelman, echoes that of Metallica's similarly organic-but-still-crushing Death Magnetic, minus the mastering issues that marred that otherwise excellent release. The covers collection Undisputed Attitude aside, Slayer's never made a truly bad album, but this one is easily in their top five.

10. Megadeth
Endgame (Roadrunner)
Dave Mustaine's latest iteration of his high-tech thrash band is possibly the best since Marty Friedman left; new guitarist Chris Broderick, formerly of Nevermore, is a shredding machine, firing off squiggling leads left, right and center. Hell, this album opens with a two-minute instrumental that's nothing but a platform for solos. Fortunately, there are songs here, too, from "Head Crusher," which lives up to its title, to the drag-racing anthem "1,320'." Even the token ballad and Mustaine's batshit political rants can't sink this one.


The next time I have new reviews up at AMG, it'll be 2010, so here's eight to finish off 2009.

Arsis, A Celebration of Guilt
Arsis, United in Regret
Tonino Carotone, Ciao Mortali
Necrophagist, Onset of Putrefaction
Neuraxis, Truth Beyond...
Neuraxis, Truth Beyond/Imagery/A Passage Into Forlorn
Neuraxis, Trilateral Progression
Neuraxis, Live Progression

Sunday, December 27, 2009


I just got an email announcing the winners (not the whole list, just the #1s) of the 2009 Village Voice Jazz Critics' Poll (full results to be published in this week's issue), and I'm not at all surprised to see Vijay Iyer's Historicity take the prize. It's a very good album, and there's been a massive congealing of critical warmth around it for much of the year.

I didn't vote for it, though. Here are the albums I did vote for:

Bill Dixon, Tapestries For Small Orchestra (Firehouse 12)
David S. Ware Quartet, Live In Vilnius (NoBusiness)
Joe Morris, Wildlife (AUM Fidelity)
Wadada Leo Smith & Jack DeJohnette, America (Tzadik)
Steve Lehman Octet, Travail, Transformation & Flow (Pi)
NEW, Newtoons (Bo’ Weavil)
Chris Potter, Ultrahang (ArtistShare)
Derek Bailey & Steve Noble, Out Of The Past (Ping Pong)
Wayne Escoffery, Uptown (Posi-Tone)
Tyshawn Sorey, Koan (482 Music)

Saturday, December 26, 2009


I keep seeing this Wal-Mart commercial with two dudes in parkas, gloves etc. rooting around in trash cans and recycling bins outside a snow-covered suburban home. The one asks the other, "What are you looking for?" and his buddy replies, "A hairbrush for a Barbie," or something like that, whereupon the questioner gives the answerer a look of hopelessness. It was only on about the third viewing of this creepy two-character drama that I figured out they were supposed to be hapless dumb-dads (as seen in 1000 commercials, sitcoms etc. over the decades) who'd thrown away vital parts of their kids' presents. When I first watched it, I (and my wife) immediately thought they were homeless, reduced to digging through other people's trash for presents to give their own kids. And either way, what the hell does it have to do with shopping at Wal-Mart?

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Friday, December 18, 2009


These aren't lists I compiled, just lists on which my work appears. All Music Guide has put together year-end roundups by genre, and since I wrote literally scores of reviews for them this year, a bunch of stuff I wrote up wound up on some of their lists. So here are the links.

AllMusic's Favorite Metal Albums of 2009 (I reviewed six of these: Baroness, Converge, Funeral Mist, Immortal, Katatonia and Keelhaul)

AllMusic's Favorite Latin Albums of 2009 (I reviewed six of these, too: Los Amigos Invisibles, CéU, La Oreja de Van Gogh, Paulina Rubio, Los Tigres del Norte and the compilation Sí, Para Usted: The Funky Beats of Revolutionary Cuba, Vol. 2)

AllMusic's Favorite Reissues of 2009 (I only reviewed one thing on this list - the John Coltrane box Side Steps)

AllMusic's Favorite Jazz Albums of 2009 (again, only one thing of mine on this list: Wadada Leo Smith & Jack DeJohnette's America)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Since I'd already turned in a Top Ten for the Village Voice Jazz Critics' Poll, and a Top Ten Metal Albums of 2009 to Village Voice Media (which will show up on the Voice's blog, as well as the blogs of numerous other VVM papers across the U.S.A.), I decided to make my primary Pazz & Jop ballot all-Latin. Here's what I submitted (in alphabetical order, 10 points each):

Bebe, Y.
Bomba Esteréo, Blow Up
Don Omar, iDon
Girl in a Coma, Trio B.C. (there's only one Spanish-language song on the album, but they're Mexican-Americans)
Graciela Beltran, Reina de la Banda
Natalia Lafourcade, Hu Hu Hu
Paulina Rubio, Gran City Pop
Los Tigres del Norte, La Granja
Various Artists, Sí, Para Usted: The Funky Beats of Revolutionary Cuba, Vol. 2
Wisin y Yandel, La Revolución


Check out this cover:

Now look closely at everyone's feet. Does it look to you like they moved Teddy Riley up an inch or two, floating in the air, to seem taller relative to his two bandmates? 'Cause that's how it looks to me. Maybe it's an optical illusion like one of those "which of these lines is longer" puzzles you see online, where the answer is that both lines are the same size. But I don't think so.

Monday, December 14, 2009


10 new reviews up at AMG; check 'em out!

Circle, Triumph
Elis, Catharsis
Wayne Escoffery, Uptown
Hellmouth, Destroy Everything, Worship Nothing
Impetuous Ritual, Relentless Execution of Ceremonial Excrescence
Megasus, Megasus
Mudvayne, Mudvayne
Ramming Speed, Brainwreck
Various Artists, Africa Boogaloo - The Latinization of West Africa
Various Artists, Psychedelic Super Piotr

Thursday, December 10, 2009


[From the Cleveland Scene.]

In recent years, French black metal has earned a stellar reputation within the global metal community thanks to adventurous bands like Deathspell Omega, Blut Aus Nord, Antaeus and Spektr. These groups, working anonymously and refusing interview requests, make complex, philosophically rigorous music that expands the parameters of the genre in almost every respect: Songs are long and multi-part; the usual buzzsaw guitars and pummeling drums are supplemented by industrial/gothic atmospheres; and the lyrics forgo rote Satanism in favor of in-depth questioning of the religious impulse. A five-piece black-metal band from Paris, Merrimack does none of these things. The band's three albums (2002's Ashes Of Purification, 2006's Of Entropy and Life Denial, and this year's Grey Rigorism) offer primitivist black metal that will be familiar to anyone who's heard older albums by Mayhem, Darkthrone or Marduk — the latter of whom Merrimack are currently supporting on tour. And unlike some newer black-metal bands that have abandoned the black-and-white "corpse paint" that has marked the genre since its early-'90s explosion, they appear in leather and spikes, fully painted up. Since this is Merrimack's first trip to the U.S., we asked them what they thought about America's position in the black-metal scene. Singer Jan "Terrorizt" Desaegher provided some surprisingly funny and pleasant responses.

What are your impressions of America? Is it everything you were expecting?
We didn't expect anything special, to be honest. The Western world is the Western world. It's not that different from Europe, except that the people are fatter and the cars are bigger. Nothing too exciting. We have enjoyed some places so far, like the Northeast, Montreal and Austin. The rest has been rather disappointing. But we're right in the middle of [the tour], and many places remain to be discovered and conquered.

Black metal seems connected to pre-Christian or early Christian ritual and philosophy, which makes it a natural outgrowth of European countries where history goes back a long way. Do you think black metal can flourish in a country as young as the U.S.?
I don't know if I really agree with your statement. If you're referring to all these pagan bands who miserably try to get connected to the invincible cult of black metal and its abominable aura of discomfort, disgust and danger, then I have to clearly disagree. Black metal is attuned to the darkest side of spirituality. Period. Nations don't matter much when it comes to black metal. Good bands can come from all over the world: France, Sweden, France, Sweden or even France. It doesn't matter.

This is your first U.S. tour. How have audiences been treating you?
Generally, the response has been very good. Some audiences were really violent and motivated. Some others were sadly a lot more lazy. But be sure, every city visited has been submitted and conquered.

Black metal has been undergoing a lot of changes in recent years, particularly in France with bands like Deathspell Omega, Blut Aus Nord and others. Yet Merrimack remains committed to a more primitive, older-style sound. Why is that, and what is your opinion of the changes in the black-metal scene, both in France and worldwide?
Black metal, like any artistic movement, is bound to evolve. There's nothing wrong with this. We've added some new elements to our music on our latest album, and more will probably come. We respect bands who dare to evolve, with the ability of doing it right. Let me tell you, they're not numerous.

Some of the bands you're touring with, like Black Anvil, play black metal but don't maintain the visual style. How important is corpse paint in 2009, and what is Merrimack's feeling about it generally?
We stick to it; we're traditionalists. It's up to every band to see for themselves. We won't despise a band just because they don't wear corpse paint. This would be far too superficial. As long as the right aura is conveyed, there's no reason to complain.

Sunday, December 06, 2009


I saw him do the trick in the clip live in New York many years ago. Unfortunately, if his current show (see illustration below) comes to NYC (and I have no doubt it will) I will probably not get to see it. Such is life.

Friday, December 04, 2009


The print version of Jazziz is a quarterly now, but they're putting out online editions in between. The newest one is here, and the cover story is mine. The interface is a little weird, on my laptop at least; I can zoom in on a page but not scroll up and down to read the story. Just in case others are having the same problem, here's the text of the piece.


Sonny Rollins is the definition of a living legend. A professional musician practically since the bebop era, he made his recorded debut in 1948, backing vocalist Babs Gonzalez. Over the last six decades, he’s seen every major movement in jazz come and go, from the hard bop ’50s when he recorded such landmark albums as Saxophone Colossus, Tenor Madness, Freedom Suite, Way Out West and the two volumes of Live At The Village Vanguard, to the avant-garde of the ’60s, which he explored on Our Man In Jazz and East Broadway Run Down, and the fusion which marked some of his ’70s releases for the Milestone label, and the post-bop classicism/modernism that has marked his output since the ’80s.

Rollins has frequently served as a bridge between musical schools of thought and between generations, as when he recorded with Don Cherry and Henry Grimes in 1962 and 1963, the same year that he made an album with Coleman Hawkins. In more recent years, his band has included veterans like bassist Bob Cranshaw and drummer Al Foster, alongside younger men like pianist Stephen Scott and guitarist Bobby Broom. In many ways, from his saxophone style – which encompasses melodicism, a deep sense of swing and the blues, and an openness to the avant-garde – to his skill at combining players and picking repertoire, Sonny Rollins is a prism through which all of modern jazz can be seen and heard.

This interview was conducted on September 1, 2009, just over a week before Rollins’ 79th birthday and shortly before he was due to begin his latest string of live dates.

Are you surprised to be one of the last men standing from your generation of jazz players?
Well, I’m not entirely surprised. Human beings never know the deepest secrets of the universe. We don’t know about life or death, when it comes, when it doesn’t come, but during my lifetime, there was a period when I stopped doing detrimental habits to my body. I got on health foods, I began exercising, I stopped smoking, stopped using drugs, lifted weights and so on and so forth. So I consciously made an effort during my life to respect my body, so am I surprised I’m the last one? Maybe, but in another sense I made a conscious effort to respect my body.

Do you miss playing with some of those guys, or is there a different kind of satisfaction in leading a band of younger musicians?
Well, of course, I was so fortunate to play with a lot of the real giants of music, and was really blessed beyond belief, and I still think about these people. I was very close to them, so I just have to think about them and it’s as if we’re together playing again. So there’s a certain metaphysical connection that I maintain with a lot of these people, like channeling them in a sense. But on the other hand, I still have a lot of music that I haven’t completed in my own path, so I’m still practicing every day, studying, writing, and playing with younger musicians. And they’re not as great as people I’ve played with, no, but I don’t really think of it as a comparison.

When I saw you play a few years ago, you had Bob Cranshaw and Al Foster, who were older guys, but you also had Stephen Scott on piano, who was a younger guy. So it was kind of a mix of generations.
Yeah. I like to have – younger people are good, because they have a lot of energy usually, and they don’t have as many…if you have an older musician who’s been around a while, he’s going to want more comforts on the road and so on. Which he deserves. But younger musicians are more amenable to coming out and playing and traveling without getting tired and all this kind of stuff. So as long as the musician is capable, he’s got to have some qualification to play with me, it’s fine. I’m glad to play with young guys. I’m happy, because as I said, they’ve got a lot of energy where some of the older guys have earned the right not to be always be that gung ho. Though that doesn’t apply to me, because I’m always gung ho. Some musicians feel they’ve reached a certain point and they’re still into their music, but they’re not eager beavers. Now, I’m a guy who’s an eager beaver even though I’m a veteran musician. But some of my colleagues near my age aren’t, necessarily. They know their work, they come and do it and they’re very skilled, and that’s it. I’m not like that. I’m a guy that knows that I have certain things I’m trying to accomplish and I’m steadily changing trying to improve myself trying to get to this lost chord, so to speak, which I’m searching for.

When you’ve been playing as long as you have, there can be a temptation to fall back on favorite phrases, which you don’t seem to do. How do you avoid that?
Well, one way I avoid it is that I’m not that skilled a musician to be able to – you know, it takes a certain skill to be able to play the same way every night. That takes skill. And I don’t have that skill, I can’t play the same thing every night. So it’s just my lot in life that I’m going to change, and what I play isn’t going to be the same. I’ve experienced times in my life where, I remember one time I got off the bandstand many years ago, and I heard this woman telling her boyfriend, “I didn’t like that. All I liked about him was when he played Way Out West,” this album that I’d made. So people want you to sort of repeat what you’ve done. And there’s a temptation – a legitimate one – to do something that people will like. You’ve endeared yourself to them by this music. But I have to suffer the blows of my erstwhile fans because I can’t play the same thing all the time, and at that time I was consciously trying to go in a different direction, and actually today some many years later I’m still doing that. I’m hearing new music that I’m trying to grasp. And it’s not what I played before, you know?

You experimented with avant-garde forms a little bit at the beginning of the 1960s, but never went as far into it as John Coltrane did. What made you decide that wasn’t the path for you?
[Laughs] Well, actually you hit on the exact period that I was giving you an example from. That was when I was playing with that group, with Don Cherry and Billy Higgins. That was the same period. This is another curse, maybe, but I’m a person that, I’m a very eclectic musician and I hear different things, I like lots of different kinds of music, and I’m not always on one path straight ahead, I’m just amassing a lot of information. Throughout my career that’s what I’ve been doing. I’m fortunate I’m still here to have amassed the information that I have, and it’s coalescing now into something where I see the light at the end of the tunnel. But even back then I might have been examining styles or different movements of the music, but I wasn’t sure that I wanna stay right here, you know what I mean? So that’s why I didn’t sort of follow one path at that point.

Yeah, because there was Our Man In Jazz, which I love, and East Broadway Run Down was another one that was pretty out there, but then you moved back into more traditional forms and shorter songs.
More traditional, exactly. And I did something around that time that was a little – I was also examining that movement in jazz. I didn’t leave it in dismay or disgust or anything, I really absorbed much of what was happening at that time that I could absorb and that appealed to me, and it’s part of what I do now. I might play some conventional songs, and of course the solos are always different all the time and they include a lot of this information from the ’60s that you’re talking about. I’m getting something together – my whole point, what I want to do, my whole plan, hopefully my destiny, is to absorb all these things that I’ve done all these years in music and be able to put them into a coherent style or form and play. That’s what I’m aiming for. It will include everything I am. Because I’m not just avant-garde, I’m not just straight ahead, I’m not just sentimental, I’m all of these things. And I’m trying to get them together, because they’re part of me. That’s what I want to portray in a coherent style.

It’s interesting to me that you were listening to guys like Albert Ayler, Archie Shepp and Pharoah Sanders at the time, because the impression I get is that a lot of older players really rejected that movement at the time, and seem to have seen free jazz as a threat to what they were doing.
Well, I guess that shows what type of musician I am or where my scope is. I know that when Ornette Coleman first came to New York and created the sensation that he did, a lot of the critics were surprised to learn – a lot of them learned very recently – that I used to practice with Ornette in California, before he came to New York. They were very surprised to know that. It didn’t fit their conventional wisdom of who they thought Sonny Rollins was supposed to be. And quite recently, with the passing of the drummer Rashied Ali, who used to play with Coltrane? Rashied and I played together. He was in my band for a while. A lot of people didn’t know that. A lot of guys who think they know Sonny Rollins, his career and style and output and stuff like that, they were surprised that Rashied Ali and I played together. So this is sort of the ignorance of conventional wisdom.

You seem to be a very melodic improviser. Can you tell me how you go about constructing a solo, and is there a point where you kind of get out of yourself while playing?
Well, you’ve touched on two things there. The melodic player – I guess I grew up listening to melody. I love melody. My first impressions musically were Fats Waller, he used to sing a lot as well as doing other fantastic things, and I grew up in the age of the movies. So we used to go to the movies every week and we’d see these Hollywood productions with these musical scores. I remember very early on seeing Swing Time with Astaire and Rogers, and the music by one of my all time favorites, Jerome Kern. I remember those melodies very well – they stick with me, and I just love melody. I had an older brother who played classical violin and an older sister who played the piano and stuff like that, but I got a lot from the movies. I always liked melody. So that’s where that comes from. As far as my out of body, that gets into something else that might be beyond the scope of this conversation. A woman is writing a book about people that studied yoga, and I’m one of the subjects. And for my part of the book, I had to sort of recount my life when I studied yoga, and I remember that I used to be able to float. I would be meditating and my spirit or my soul, my mind, whatever you want to call it, would float up to the ceiling and sort of float around. I mean it was an exhilarating experience. So there’s a lot of ways to leave your body. But when I’m playing, I leave my body in the sense that when I’m really in the middle of a solo, I try to forget all the things I’ve learned about the music, I try to forget where I’m at, the audience, everything. Be oblivious to everything. So I leave my body in that sense, and the music is playing me. I’m not standing up there thinking, ‘Lemme play this next, and I’ll play this after that.’ I’m not doing that at all. I’m just there, and the music is playing through me, so to speak.

You seem to have a tremendous library of standards committed to memory. How many songs do you rehearse with the band before starting a tour, and how much does the set change from night to night?
Since I have such a tremendous, humungous repertoire of material I’ve done over the years, I really can’t have that all available to me with any band during any set of performances. So what we do, I have a set list of maybe – and this depends on the fact that I have some guys in the band that have been there a while. I have Cranshaw, so I can go back. So I have maybe twelve songs that the band is doing currently, and I try to work on those. They come whatever I think of at the time, I have no standardized setlist. It’s whatever I think of at the moment. I like to have more than that, because sometimes I might think of a song we haven’t played in a long time, but I have to restrict myself to that because it’s just impractical to have a group of six musicians who know my whole career of 50 years plus. So I’m restricted to maybe 12 or 15 songs that I can call whenever I get ready to go onstage, and have them know it. Musicians don’t necessarily like being surprised by a tune, so I try to be aware of that.

Do you have a vision for what Road Shows, Vol. 2 will be? Will you release complete shows in the future, or continue to pick individual songs from multiple performances?
I’m not certain. I tried to pick Volume 1 from performances without delving too deeply into the archives because I don’t like listening to myself, so I didn’t want to go too deeply. I just picked something that was fairly accessible, I didn’t have to listen to a whole bunch of stuff. In the future, if there is a complete performance, a whole concert, that might be the way we might go. I’m not sure how it’s going to go. I’m not sure what Volume 2 will entail, actually.

And are you planning to go back into the studio soon?
Yes, I want to go into the studio as soon as my schedule is over this December. I’d like to go into the studio and start on a new project.


I got my invite to vote in this year's Village Voice Pazz & Jop poll today. I've already submitted a Top Ten for the paper's annual Jazz Critics' Poll, plus a list of the Top Ten Metal Albums of 2009 that'll be syndicated throughout the Village Voice Media chain, and now I've gotta come up with a third list? Really not at all sure how this one's gonna break down, but here's the pool of albums I'm pulling from:

The Answer - Everyday Demons (The End)
Baroness – Blue Record (Relapse)
Bebe – Y. (EMI)
Bomba Estéreo – Blow Up (Nacional)
Gui Boratto - Take My Breath Away (Kompakt)
Born Of Osiris – A Higher Place (Sumerian)
Cannibal Corpse - Evisceration Plague (Metal Blade)
Chickenfoot – s/t (Redline)
Converge – Axe to Fall (Epitaph)
Don Omar – iDon (Machete Music)
Franz Ferdinand - Tonight: Franz Ferdinand (Domino)
Funeral Mist - Maranatha (Norma Evangelium Diaboli)
The Gates Of Slumber – Hymns of Blood and Thunder (Rise Above)
Girl In A Coma – Trio B.C. (Blackheart)
Graciela Beltran – Reina de la Banda (Fonovisa)
Greymachine – Disconnected (Hydra Head)
Ayumi Hamasaki - Next Level (Label)
Heaven And Hell – The Devil You Know (Rhino)
Immortal – All Shall Fall (Nuclear Blast)
Isis – Wavering Radiant (Ipecac)
Job For A Cowboy – Ruination (Metal Blade)
Judas Priest – A Touch of Evil – Live (Epic)
Katatonia – Night is the New Day (Peaceville)
Khanate - Clean Hands Go Foul (Hydra Head)
King Midas Sound – Waiting for You (Hyperdub)
Natalia Lafourcade – Hu Hu Hu (Sony)
Lamb of God – Wrath (Epic)
Los Tigres Del Norte – La Granja (Fonovisa)
Marduk – Wormwood (Regain)
Mastodon – Crack the Skye (Reprise)
Megadeth – Endgame (Roadrunner)
Obscura - Cosmogenesis (Relapse)
Orthodox – Sentencia (Alone)
Revocation – Existence is Futile (Relapse)
Rick Ross – Deeper Than Rap (Def Jam)
Paulina Rubio - Gran City Pop (EMI)
Skeletonwitch – Breathing the Fire (Prosthetic)
Slayer – World Painted Blood (American/Sony)
Suffocation – Blood Oath (Nuclear Blast)
Sunn O))) – Monoliths & Dimensions (Southern Lord)
UA – ATTA (Jetstar)
Vader – Necropolis (Nuclear Blast)
V/A – 5 (Hyperdub)
V/A – An Anthology Of Chinese Experimental Music 1992-2008 (Sub Rosa)
V/A – Ghana Special: Modern Highlife, Afro-Sounds & Ghanaian Blues 1968-81 (Soundway)
V/A – Sí, Para Usted: The Funky Beats of Revolutionary Cuba, Vol. 2 (Waxing Deep)
V/A – Swedish Death Metal (Prophecy Productions)
Warbringer – Waking Into Nightmares (Century Media)
Wino - Punctuated Equilibrium (Southern Lord)
Wisin y Yandel – La Revolución (Sony)
Wolf - Ravenous (Metal Blade)

Thursday, December 03, 2009


Whether you're a Nick Cave fan, someone who hates his work, or someone like me, who pays almost no attention to the dude and can generally take or leave his stuff (I don't think I've listened to a whole song of his in over 15 years, though I liked the movie The Proposition well enough), this scathing essay is well worth reading. This is criticism done right - plenty of evidence is marshaled, and it's witty without pretending wit is enough.

Some killer lines:

"The notion that Cave is being ‘ironic’ has been used to excuse many of his worst indulgences, up to and including his pimp’s moustache. It is simply not true."

"It’s his transformation into an antipodean Elvis Costello – growing old, mild and respectably bourgeois along with his audience – that really makes me mad. Not because I believe that Cave has sold out or betrayed his musical talent – he had precious little to begin with – but because the deference paid to him and to his work grows in inverse proportion to its increasing mediocrity, to its juvenile silliness and self-parody."

"As vocalists [Cave and Kylie Minogue] match each other for emotional blandness, though Cave is certainly the more tone-deaf of the two, and the music is a syrup of over-processed strings – an ersatz folk arrangement. The accompanying video, which appears to have been filmed with a generous smear of Vaseline on the lens, presents the viewer with the unedifying spectacle of Cave fondling Minogue’s breasts and thighs as she lies in a shallow pool of water, a snake curling its way between her legs."

Go read the whole thing. It's a good one.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009


From the SF Weekly:

Though the members of Marduk have been heroes on the Scandinavian black metal scene since forming in 1990, the band hasn't done a full U.S. tour since 2001. Now is the perfect time to see the group, though, as its latest album, Wormwood, is its best ever. Combining the blast beats and furious guitars of earlier discs Nightwing and Panzer Division Marduk with the compositional complexity and lyrical sophistication of frontman Mortuus's side project, Funeral Mist, the group is at a creative peak. And live, Marduk is ferocious, hitting the crowd with a mix of classic songs and new material that's unrelenting and savage, yet disciplined. (Mortuus drinks blood from a horn at the same point in the set every night.) Black metal doesn't always come off live, but Marduk delivers the goods.

From the St. Louis Riverfront Times: It's sort of sad that old-school band names — i.e., Paul Revere and the Raiders, Little Anthony and the Imperials, Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers — have gone out of style. Why? Well, because after umpteen lineup changes, which have left the band with exactly one founding member, Dave Mustaine and the Megadeths kinda has a nice ring to it. Here's the thing, though: This is the best Megadeth lineup of the 21st century. New guitarist Chris Broderick is a shredding machine, and the album the band's promoting, Endgame, is the best one it's released in over fifteen years. The songs are terrific, the playing is breathtaking, and Megadeth just seems newly energized. So don't miss this tour, 'cause there's no guarantee Mustaine won't have fired everybody by this time next year.

From the Cleveland Scene: The best band on a tour that hits Peabody’s tonight probably won’t even perform. Hypocrisy, a long-running death-metal band led by legendary producer Peter Tägtgren, has been forced to sit idle because its frontman can’t enter the U.S., though his bandmates are already here. It’s a shame, because Hypocrisy’s catalog is solid, and touring guitarist Alexi Laiho can be counted on to deliver shred-tastic solos on demand. Fortunately, the headliners, pagan metal act Ensiferum, rock the crowd quite capably with their polka-thrash drinking anthems. Kataklysm singer Maurizio Iacono’s side project Ex Deo (which also had to miss some dates because of visa issues) plays death metal with lyrics about ancient Rome, which is sort of cool. And Blackguard is one of the “pirate metal” bands that are sprouting up like weeds lately.


Ten new reviews up at

American Sixgun, The Devil in Your Bones
Brown Jenkins, Death Obsession
Sonny Burgess & The Legendary Pacers, Gijon Stomp!
Dark Funeral, Angelus Exuro Pro Eternus
Erik Deutsch, Hush Money
La Oreja de Van Gogh, Nuestra Casa a la Izquierda del Tiempo
Priestess, Prior to the Fire
Tyshawn Sorey, Koan
Squash Bowels, Grindvirus
The Year Of Our Lord, Dead to You