Presenting the eighth installment in this ongoing, self-obsessed series. A Spotify playlist featuring all available recommended tracks is being built daily alongside the list, and can be found by clicking here.
This album is the aural equivalent of doing 500 press-ups in a row. On a concrete surface, strewn with broken glass. The testosterone given off by 10 seconds of exposure is enough to drive you to wear wifebeater vests and cargo shorts for the rest of your life. Just one song will expand your neck muscles – specifically, those used to gurn and bellow – by up to 300%. It’s hardcore thrown so hard into metal that it might as well just stop pretending and admit it’s the latter. There’s far more Slayer in here than Minor Threat by a factor of infinity plus one. This is better than the rest of Hatebreed’s 21st century output, since their other releases might only cause you to punch strangers and not your loved ones. It’s all a matter of perspective, but I have a perverse fondness for any album that turns me into a whirlwind of raging fists. I mean that literally. The only reason you haven’t heard of it happening is because there are never any surviving witnesses.
Recommended Tracks: “Facing What Consumes You”, “Doomsayer”, “This Is Now”
‘Carpe Diem’ is probably the most easy to listen to of all Will Haven albums. But that’s not really saying much for this bunch of experimental sludge metal noise type people. Their songs give off a sense that they’re being played backwards, which is probably both an acquired taste and a specific form of madness unique to me. Sharing common elements with fellow Sacramento bands Deftones and Far, they are firmly heavier than both while utilising the same atmospheric swamp and odd rhythmic structures. This album saw them sprinkle small bits of electronic noise over the top of their songs and strip back their material to a slightly more accessible level - all without sacrificing their oil-soaked gravel guitars, tightened rubber band bass and Grady Avenell’s ridiculously distinctive howl.
Recommended Tracks: “Carpe Diem”, “Dressed In Night Clothes”, “Moving To Montana”
28. The Decemberists – ‘The Crane Wife’ (2006)
I like including albums like this on my list, for no other reason than that people might say to each other “He likes THEM? That I did not expect.” They would then turn to each other, kiss and establish a lifelong sexual relationship. Because that’s the kind of thing my writing drives people to. The Decemberists have a sound that could only really be called indie folk rock, and sing immensely twee songs penned about folk tales and oddments. The stories they conjure up seem permanently stuck in that timeless age usually occupied only by fairy stories, and there is an innocence to them despite their frequent use of death, violence and lost love. ‘The Crane Wife’ is their most coherent album, centred around two song cycles and lacking some of the self-indulgence that comes with the territory of their musical style. It’s love-it-or-hate-it stuff composed entirely of straightforward instrumentation and structure, and I find something really appealing about that – the closest touchstone I can think of is obscure-indie darlings Neutral Milk Hotel. But you probably shouldn’t judge it as falling on either side of your taste barrier until you have listened to it while reclining on a small wooden boat, drifting slowly along a Victorian riverbank on a slowly dying summer’s day. Get back to me on how that goes for you.
Recommended Tracks: “The Crane Wife 3”, “Summersong”, “Sons & Daughters”
Nivek Ogre’s solo project is industrial only in the loosest sense of the word, with speedy beats and squelching synths covering both the bass and the melody. It’s not quite electroclash or synthpop either, but some unholy union of all three. Bizarrely, ‘SunnyPsyOp’ at times also sounds a little like mainstream r n’b. Oh, I give up. It’s just bloody weird but accessible and poppy at the same time. You don’t care anyway. You’re just sat there, smiling and nodding like some fucking bedazzled dog. What it comes down to is that this might be the only album to which the terms ‘industrial’ and ‘shake your booty’ can both be applied. It’s intriguing and quirky and mental but also friendly, like a scab-covered hobo inviting you back to his corrugated iron shack to drink tea and browse his collection of deformed animal drawings. If that doesn’t intrigue you, you might be visiting the wrong site.
Recommended Tracks: “HiLO”, “JaKO”, “EnDai”
Sunny and glowing emo rock from the masters of the genre, ‘Bleed American’ marked both a renewed pop-punk angle to the band’s sound and the subsequent explosion of their popularity into the alternative mainstream. It’s not a popularity they have managed to quite hold on to, and this album in all likelihood remains their commercial high point. That’s not to say their consistently solid later releases from the decade aren’t worthy of them – indeed, it was more or less a coin toss whether to include this or their latest LP ‘Invented’ which manages to consolidate their later, more rock-oriented sound with that of their 1999 masterpiece ‘Clarity’. But ‘Bleed American’ (or ‘Jimmy Eat World’, if you bought the bizarrely renamed post-9/11 re-release) clinches it, since almost every single track on it is a simple but elegant lesson in how to construct a catchy, touching pop song. If this album is to be believed, the only thing Americans bleed is sunshine and bittersweet glory.
Recommended Tracks: “Bleed American”, “A Praise Chorus”, “Sweetness”
25. Neurosis – ‘A Sun That Never Sets’ (2001)
I use a lot of adjectives in my writing. You may have noticed this. A lot of them are rough hyperbole spun out beyond reasonable lengths in order to kickstart the correct image or atmosphere. But when I refer to this band, and more specifically this album, as ‘primal’ – I mean exactly that. Towering slabs of stone carved out with guitars and drums, intricately indented with shamanic vocals that wail from the depths of some forgotten age. It’s music shaped by old earth, fresh blood and burnt offerings that grows organically into a vast pillar of flame, dwarfing the listener against a backdrop of pulsating red stars. This is tribal metal in every sense of the words, noise created by tapping into some internal Neolithic wanderer before being rudely translated via modern instrumentation. Closing track “Stones From The Sky” chants out a neverending melodic crush that is brought to an abrupt close by piercing shrieks of machine noise, an effect roughly approximate to the culture shock inherent in ending this album to return to the 21st century.
Recommended Tracks: “A Sun That Never Sets”, “Watchfire”, “Stones From The Sky”
I spout off a lot about peculiar genre classifications and how they link in to people’s perceptions of bands. One of my lovely little bugbears concerns Coheed And Cambria and whatever piss-soiled music hack decided to describe them as ‘emo’. Whatever interpretation of the term you pick up on, its only real link to this band is that it is constructed of the same basic modern Latin alphabet letters as the band’s name. Coheed And Cambria are a bizarre hybrid of prog rock, pop-punk and modern alt.rock, all jammed in together with Claudio Sanchez’s at-times gender defying vocals. They are a prog band in more than just a sonic sense as well, with all their albums linked together as part of a huge semi-incomprehensible sci-fi story. ‘The Second Stage Turbine Blade’ is their debut release, and was picked over a couple of other excellent albums this decade purely because it sounds more raw and fuzzy. And we like raw and fuzzy here at ATCB. From an initial gobsmacking blast in the first four tracks there is some meandering loss in quality, but the album as a whole has hiked its way further up the list just by simply not sounding like anything else out there. That’s something else we like at ATCB.
Recommended Tracks: “Time Consumer”, “Devil In Jersey City”, “Everything Evil”
23. Skinny Puppy – ‘The Greater Wrong Of The Right’ (2004)
The fact that many Skinny Puppy tracks are actually coherent pieces of music feels almost like an afterthought – contrasting pieces of industrial noise and fractured vocals somehow synchronising into an accidental whole. With ‘The Greater Wrong Of The Right’ this chaotic element was downplayed somewhat, allowing the listener a glimpse into what a world would be like if they chose to become a more straightforward industrial act with metal bits thrown in. The answer? What it lacks in innovative soundscapes it more than makes up for with powerful and precise songcraft. Previous records such as ‘Rabies’ and ‘The Process’ dabbled with this, but for the first time they sounded as though they could play an alt. mainstream festival slot and not walk off to a sea of bemused faces. There are still random sounds aplenty from cEvin Key, and Nivek Ogre’s voice remains a heavily processed random lyric generator. But if you were to try to convert an average unbeliever to the world of Skinny Puppy, this LP is definitely your best chance of doing so without destroying their mind like some Lovecraftian tentacle-faced nasty.
Recommended Tracks: “I’mmortal”, “Goneja”, “DaddyuWarbash”
I have raved about these guys on the august pages of this site before, but here’s a chance to do it again. They’re a threepiece stoner metal act who pitch concise blasts of groove-ridden riffage in your face, topped with almost Motown-esque female vocals and monolithic drums. Oh, and their lyrics are about sorcerors and dragons and stuff. Which is always great value. ‘The Master Alchemist’ is their debut release, and manages to deliver a refreshing pure rock roundhouse kick from a hefty army boot inscribed with secret arcane sigils. I have a serious thing for excellent albums that clock in around the twenty minute mark – this does so, and the only reason there aren’t more on the list is because hardly anyone seems to be able to write short, punchy tracks in the 21st century. Invasion certainly can, and for that reason and a multitude of others they deserve your attention.
Recommended Tracks: “Conjure War”, “Spells Of Deception”, “Evil Forest”
Godflesh were an act who didn’t believe in stagnating or sitting on their laurels as God-Emperors of wreckingball-heavy industrial metal, and ‘Hymns’ displays this with ease. It’s a stripped-down battlefield of stabbing guitars, nauseatingly churning bass and drums that can switch between precisely clipped and primordially tribal at the blink of an eye. All this is overseen by Justin Broadrick’s voice, sometimes falling like a wounded angel deep in the mix and sometimes bellowing with barely restrained violence over the top of it. Musically it carries elements of previous releases – the metal hypnosis of ‘Songs Of Love And Hate’, the melodic underpinning of ‘Selfless’ – but as with all of their LPs it is definitely a unique shuddering beast. One of the most interesting aspects to ‘Hymns’ (interesting for Broadrick nerds, at least) is how it is an overt stepping stone towards his later work as Jesu. Some of the songs could flawlessly slot into a Jesu album, and indeed the closing track carries that name. It is therefore ironic that said closing track is as punishing, brutal and rending a song as Godflesh ever produced. It’s a leaden battering ram that crushes your limbs and leaves you unable to do anything but writhe in anticipation for the next blow. “You’re fucked. You’ve lost.” spits Broadrick at the end, over and over. Since this was the last thing released by Godflesh before disbanding, he was 100% correct.
Recommended Tracks: “Defeated”, “Regal”, “Jesu”