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2021-01-31

KING GIZZARD & THE LIZARD WIZARD - K.G.

Klar, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard sind eigentlich auch immer ein Kandidat für mehrere Rezensionen in einem Post. Denn während ich dies hier tippe, sind auf YouTube bereits erste Videos zum nächsten Album zu sehen. Mal ganz abgesehen von den fünf (oder sechs? oder drölf?) Live-, Demo- und Frühphasenveröffentlichungen, welche die Band jüngst zur Veröffentlichung durch jedes Label, das Bock darauf hat, freigegeben hat... Puh, ich kann und will da nicht mehr zwingend mitkommen, deswegen bleibt es hier zunächst bei einer LP.

Um dieses "normale" Studioalbum führt allerdings für den Fan von "Flying Microtonal Banana" kein Weg vorbei. Jene Anfang 2017 erschienene, nach der eigens dafür gebauten Custom-Gitarre benannte Scheibe trug ja den Untertitel "Explorations Into Microtonal Tuning Vol. 1". Doch auch wenn es auf nachfolgenden Alben hier und da weitere Songs gab, die sich arabischer Mikrotonalität verschrieben hatten, ließ der zweite sich komplett diesem Konzept widmende Teil auf sich warten. Bis jetzt!


KING GIZZARD & THE LIZARD WIZARD - K.G. (recycled black wax LP) (2020)


Der sehr nahöstlich klingende instrumentale Opener "K.G.L.W." scheint sofort klar zu machen, was hier Sache ist und bereitet einen perfekt auf ein "Microtonal Banana", Teil 2 vor.

Doch natürlich kommt bei den Australiern immer alles etwas anders als erwartet. "K.G." geht die Idee der Mikrotonalität nämlich insgesamt sehr viel subtiler und vor allem mit weniger nervenaufreibendem Getröte und Wiederholungen an. Im Gesamteindruck scheint das Album vielmehr in der Tradition der leichter zugänglichen Hitschleuder "Gumboot Soup" zu stehen.

Zwar sind auch unausweichliche Arabismen eingewoben, doch spielen sie eine eher untergeordnete Rolle. Und auch die Rhythmen, so anspruchsvoll sie auch klingen, sind viel häufiger im klassischen Viervierteltakt gehalten als man es sowohl in arabischer Musik als auch gerade bei dieser notorisch schräg zählenden Band erwartet.
In erster Linie wollten King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard hier anscheinend einen bunten Strauß starker Songs präsentieren, bei denen das besondere Tuning einfach eines von vielen Werkzeugen darstellt.

Das Instrumentarium ist entsprechend breit aufgestellt und umfasst neben Bass, Gitarre und Drums ein ganzes Arsenal an Tasten-, Blas- und Streichinstrumenten und vor allem jede Menge Perkussion.

Und stilistisch ist das Ganze natürlich schwieriger einsortierbar denn je. Psychedelic Rock, klar. Aber auch zuckersüß balladiges, fast schon jazzfusionistisches, Stonerrock oder das Robotertanzbein schwingende türkische Disco. Was auch sonst?

(Nein, den das letzte Werk dominierenden Thrash Metal gibt es diesmal nicht um die Ohren geknallt.)

Vor allem die elektronischen und sanften Töne setzen Highlights, doch Ausfälle gibt es auf diesem super kurzweiligen Album eh keine. Aufregender, beeindruckender und hochgradig leichtfüßig unterhaltsamer Stoff mit lyrischem Witz, aber auch Tiefgang.

"K.G." ist ein Album, wie es nur eine Band auf diesem Planeten machen kann - und sicherlich eines der ausgefeilsten und besten in der ständig wie ein im Zeitraffer expandierendes eigenes Universum wachsenden Gizzard-Diskographie.


Gepresst auf recyceltem Vinyl - was wohl in der farbigen Variante durch die Zufallsauswahl noch etwas spannender ist - und in Papier statt Plastik verpackt, drückt der Tonträger die ja auch textlich immer wieder deutlich artikulierte umweltbewusste Haltung der Australier aus und ist dabei durchaus ein Hinkucker im Regal.



Hin- und zum Teil auch fast schon wieder Wegkucker (haha) sind auf jeden Fall auch immer die Videos dieser verrückten Truppe. Also: Alles anschauen und spätestens dann dieses Album zulegen!

Kam halt zu spät zu mir, hätte jedoch ganz klar in meine Lieblingsalben 2020 gehört!








AUTOPSY and VOIVOD live albums - Live in Chicago / The Lost Machine

 


I may be late to this game, but of course I didn't miss that two of my favorite metal bands of all time have released live albums last year. And fuck yeah, these are both rippers!

Both are also available on vinyl, but for budgetary and car compatibilty reasons I went for the CDs this time. And there's no reason not to recommend this format, because even in the smaller version these are still beautifully designed items.



AUTOPSY - Live In Chicago (CD) (2020)

For the gory death metal legends this is a first! Given the fact that they rarely cross the Atlantic and I've never seen them in the flesh, a live audio release (There has been the "Born Undead" DVD in 2012, but how often do you watch a DVD, seriously?) was highly overdue.
And it almost didn't happen, because... come on,  you know why. In fact Autopsy had planned a lot of shows in North America, from which they planned to use the best bits for this album, but ultimately they only got to play this one and only show.

Luckily the band as well as the enthusiastic audience made it a no-brainer to go with this recording. The setlist features both the old and the comeback albums, but has a very heavy overbalance towards songs from the 1989 debut "Severed Survival" - obviously in celebration of its 30th anniversary not too long before. Yet with short and sweet "Maggots In The Mirror" there's also a previously unreleased new track on the menu.

You can really feel that gurgler/drummer Chris Reifert and company are having a shitfun time here. The performance is spot-on - those Cutler/Coralles double leads are the finest in all of death metal -, but still wild as fuck and sick as petting the worms on a rotting rat in your kitchen sink.

Autopsy have always been and still are the ultimate definition of how to do happily stomach turning old school death metal for me. You need proof? Try "Live In Chicago"! 







VOIVOD - Lost Machine - Live (CD) (2020)

With Voivod the need for a live album wasn't nearly as urgent, because there already have been official releases like "Warriors Of Ice" and "Live at Roadburn" (both 2011) or the six  2018 tracks from the "The Wake" Deluxe Edition. And even more important the last decade - with the obvious exception of 2020 - was very kind to us European Voivodians, so I've got to see them almost regularily, even though I didn't even attend every tour.

With that in mind the release seemed like a not really essential luxury to me at first. But then there's the sheer quality of this!
Similar to Autopsy the Canadian sci-fi prog whatever thrashers had planned to compile various shows to a live album. And because this went down in 2019, no shows had to be canceled yet. But in this case their hometown performance in Quebec City was just so perfect that they used it as a whole. The band has an amazing energy and the clear and powerful production is without a doubt the best of any Voivod live recording yet.

Half of the setlist consists of recent stuff from "The Wake" and "Post Society", which has absolutely no problem to stand against the older classics like "Overreaction" or "Psychic Vacuum". As special nuggets this includes the "Nothingface" gem "Into My Hybercube" and of course "The Lost Machine" from "The Outer Limits". And even though I personally could enjoy just one Voivod concert without "Astronomy Domine" and "Voivod", I must admit that as the culmination of this insanely good record and with a lot of audience participation, those mandatory tracks still slay big time.

To be present at this event must have been en a par with the murderous show at the Logo in Hamburg 2018. And this release pairs up perfectly with the "The End Of Dormancy" EP, which contains two live performances (including one special jazz festival brass arrangement) of the other important 2019 Voivod concert in Quebec.

So even though SnakeChewyRockyAway still have to stay at home like the rest of us, they surely gave us some awesome reminders of why we can't wait for the time when live shows will finally be possible again.





2021-01-28

DRUTURUM - Druturum VII: enigmAoFrelativitY

"Geil. Das Anhören dauert länger als das Spielen."

(mein Bruder beim ersten Hören von "Druturum VII")


Ja, das erste Album im Jahr 2021 erschienene Album, über das ich hier schreibe, ist tatsächlich nur wenige Wochen nach "Druturum VI: Tightrope Walkers on the Junction of Memory, Dream and Oblivion" eine neue - wie immer rein digitale - Veröffentlichung meines eigenen Projekts DruturuM!

Der Kompositionsaufwand war diesmal ähm... leicht geringer als sonst. Wir haben Montag Abend einfach eine Stunde lang improvisiert, woraus ich dann nachher sechs Tracks extrahiert habe. Und für "druturum VII-IV" habe ich Dienstag noch ein paar Minuten zusätzliches Bildmaterial für die Videoversion gedreht.)

Das Setup bestand aus einem Tisch, einer Bassdrum, Glockenspiel, Klangschalen, WahWah-Tube und Glöckchen. Nein, das ist definitiv kein Metal, besitzt aber seinen eigenen speziellen Charme, hat atmosphärische Passagen und überraschende Action, sowie hör- und sichtbaren Spaß zu bieten.

Ob "Druturum VIII" noch reduzierter und improvisierter ausfallen oder aus noch mehr Tracks bestehen wird? Das wissen wir noch nicht. Aber da Konzerte ja noch längere Zeit illusorisch bleiben dürften, ist bühnenuntauglichst experimentellen Eskapaden natürlich Tür und Tor geöffnet. Ich mache ich hier allerdings keine Versprechungen bzw. Androhungen. ;)


Alle sechs Tracks von "Druturum VII: enigmAoFrelativitY" kannst Du dir hier auf YouTube anschauen:




Und wie immer gibt's das Ganze natürlich auch auf Bandcamp zum Streamen und Downloaden:






2021-01-24

OVERLORD MAN JESU ! (4 album reviews)



Well, I still got a couple of 2020 releases I want to review. So here's the first bunch of those:





PHARAOH OVERLORD - 6
(snakebite yellow vinyl) (2020)

As the title suggests this band from Finland already has several albums under its belly. It's in fact even a couple more than five releases since the year 2020. Shame on me that they weren't on my radar until now!
Of course I cannot dive into their whole discography now, but just peeking here and there it's obvious that their sound went through many transformations, beginning with a mixture of stoner, space and psychedelic rock / metal.

"6" is something totally different though. While all of the album's five tracks contain metal guitars, the sound is dominated by Moog synthesizers and groovy electronic midtempo beats. In its core this highly danceable synthwave. And also very sinister! That's not only because of some spooky sounds and melodies in the instrumentals, but due to the extremely upfront growl vocals, which immediately felt familiar on first hearing. Yet only when I received the LP I realized that the guttural organ belongs to none other than Isis' / Sumac's Aaron Turner.

Super sick shit. Party music somewhere between Carpenter Brut, "Spectre" Laibach and pure joyful evil.








OLD MAN GLOOM - Seminar VIII: Light of Meaning (LP)
(2020) / Seminar IX: Darkness of Being (LP) (2020)

Speaking of Aaron Turner, the man's also active in a certain little group called Old Man Gloom which released not one, but two albums last year, thankfully (and unlike the infamous "The Ape of God") not bearing the identical title.

But even though these are two seperate releases I find it hard not to view them as one double album, because they complement each other way too good. Both are obviously dealing with themes of death and love under the influence of the passing of former friend and band member Caleb Scofield, who still as writing credits on the music of several tracks. His successor is the always busy Stephen Brodsky, who was also Scofield's partner in his other band Cave In.

Old Man Gloom's ultra heavy post hardcore sludge doom... or whatever you fancy to call it is quite a special blend. It's abrasiveness and the couple of minutes of pure noise sprinkled here and there over both albums make sure that many casual listeners will soon flee for their life and probably miss that beyond the brutal repetitive nature reminiscent of Neurosis and Swans both works actually have a very honest beautiful soul, which even shows glimpses of itself in the music and lyricism of songs like "Calling You Home", "Death Rhymes" or "Love Is Bravery".

"You are agrain of sand
You are a drop of rain
A particle of light
And you can never end

You are a grain of sand
You are a drop of rain
So insignificant
And also everything"

What an epitaph!

Even though most songs are built around simple ideas and the prevalence of thick heaviness is almost constantly pummeling you into the ground, listening to both albums is a remarkably diverse journey, not only due to rotation between Turner, Brodsky and Nate Newton as lead vocalists, but also because of the sheer chops, creativity and intensity everyone brings to the table.

I won't tell you which of these seminars is better, because frankly I could never decide. Just get them both, they rule. 








JESU - Terminus
(LP) (2020)

With the return of Godflesh and many other projects going on anyway it has been a while since Justin K. Broadrick graced us with a full length release of Jesu. "Every Day I Get Closer To The Light From Which I Came" came out way back in 2013.

Just like said album this new one is not one of Broadrick's most brutal or heavy works (Godflesh and JK Flesh have that aspect covered I guess), but mostly consists of slow and atmospheric shoegaze, which shows some affinity to doom and post rock, but also allows itself to bathe in dream pop sweetness.

While all eight songs are filled with longing and melancholy, they sound distinct enough from each other to keep the album interesting, which some being focussed on the slightly disharmonic guitar, while others are mostly dominated by electronic sounds. As always almost all instruments were played and programmed by Broadrick, except for the drums on a couple of tracks that demanded a more naturalistic feel and were performed by long-time collaborator Ted Parsons.

Especially with the title track and "Sleeping In" I maybe love the first half of "Terminus" a little bit more, but the songwriting and feeling is excellent throughout the whole album.

The most difficult track to get used to is the effect-laden "Consciousness", which is closest to the extreme experimentalism of the "Never" EP which was also released last year. But other than that EP which I skipped, because I just  couldn't get into it so far, I really dig this track. And it's followed up by even stronger material (what a majestic build-up in "Don't Wake Me Up" - and that sweet-sour final instrumental "Give Up"...), so my overall rating of the whole record should be no surprise:

"Terminus" clearly belongs to those Jesu releases I absolutely adore and is my favorite Jesu album since "Inifinity". (The cover artwork is even more minimalistic now than back in 2009.)

Praise the overlord!










2021-01-14

OUR OCEANS - While Time Disappears

Full disclosure: I may have delayed  writing his review a bit longer than necessary, because had I done it earlier, there would have been less excuse for having left this album out of my favourite albums of 2020 post. Yeah, I know what you're saying: why not just include it there? Well, it either just very slightly didn't make the cut - or there was no fitting category to put it into.

But that's all yesterday's concern now anyway. I'd probably evaluate my favorites different in a couple of months, so you shouldn't take them too serious either. Generally just check out everything I'm recommending, no matter if it gets an extra list treatment or not, right?




OUR OCEANS - While Time Disappears (LP) (2020)


Five years after their self-titled debut here comes the sophomore album of Our Oceans, the Dutch former quartet / now trio featuring members of the ex-instrumental-jazz/metal fusion band Exivious, who of course also received acclaim as post reunion members of Cynic.

Speaking of the latter, 2020 has been an especially sad year for Cynic fans, since it began with the passing of drum legend Sean Reinert and ended with the death of  original bassist Sean Malone. "While Time Disappears" is dedicated to Reinert, while Malone is of course naturally honoured in a way, because I can hardly imagine any bass player being influenced stronger by his unique style than Our Oceans' Robin Zielhorst, who played Malone's original lines as his Cynic successor for years.

Yet while there's no denying that Cynic will always be an integral part of their DNA Our Oceans has formed a very distinct identy beyond it. On the debut their style could shortly be described as emotional singer/songwriter compositions with a musical backbone of post rock with prog and ambient influences. While the playfulness was definitely still there in the execution, in the arrangements a lot of the jazz fusion and prog metal complexity sported by Exivious was cut back in favor of the greater focus on vocals and lyrics, and thus an overall easier accessibility.

In all of these regards "While Time Disappears" is a bit different. And I would attribute most of the changes to Tymon Kruidinier's grown confidence in his singing abilities and the charisma of his performance. This feels a lot like ok, I got this, this will still work if we dial shit up.
As a result this album is a lot heavier and edgier, while at the same time a lot of the instrumental Exivious craze is allowed to flow back into the music. Of course there's also time for the occasional all-around awesome guitar solo.

And while the vocals take a step back when they need to, their importance is still never overpowered. And honestly, how could they be? Tymon's performance is so emotionally upfront and in your face that you just cannot escape it - even if you want to. And I'm sure that his high mars volta-style wailings and the occasional desperately primal screams are not everybody's cup of tea.

No, what he does here is definitely less plain beautiful and at times a lot more demanding for the listener. This whole album feels like a man going through all the motions and the music following them consequently through all extremes.
For sure it's no coincidence that this album has been released by Long Branch Records, the same label which is home to The Hirsch Effekt, who often just use another toolbox of influences to connect honest feelings with complex musical ideas.

However the central takeway while listening to Our Oceans is always the great songwriting which very fluidly takes you through a great musical spectrum.
I especially like how by the end of A side this album makes you think that you know the band's range by now, but then in the second half they just keep proving that you knew nothing with each track, be it the stylistically outstanding hypnotic "Your Night, My Dawn", the almost too uncomfortably honest "You Take" or the extra smooth fusion finale of "With Hands Torn Open".

But ultimately each and every one of the nine songs is worth being singled out. This goes right in the feels, yet also tickles the brain. Just extra-ordinarily well crafted stuff.



2021-01-12

MARTIN RUDE & JAKOB SKØTT DUO - The Dichotomy Of Control

Ihr kennt das. Nach dem Alben-des-Jahres-Post kommen wie immer die Reviews von Zeug, das eigentlich auch darin hätte landen können. Speziell in den Bereichen Jazz und Psychedelic Rock und der Schnittmenge von beiden haben es z.B. ein paar ganz starke Sachen nicht hinein geschafft, weil halt irgendwo Schluss sein muss.

Dazu zählen natürlich die gleich zwei Alben "Odense Sessions" und "Double Sun" der Norweger Kanaan. Doch auch das ebenfalls beim Label El Paraiso beheimatete Martin Rude & Jakob Skøtt Duo hat einen Doppelschlag serviert und neben "The Discipline Of Assent" noch ein zweites Werk veröffentlicht:


MARTIN RUDE & JAKOB SKØTT DUO - The Dichotomy Of Control (LP) (2020)


Die Herangehensweise ist Prinzip beinahe genauso wie beim Debüt, d.h. es wird zusammen in einer langen Session gejammt und auf Edits daraus dann später aufgebaut. Der formelle Unterschied ist einzig, dass diesmal schon während der ursprünglichen Session ein paar Ideen klar formuliert und auch mal in mehreren Takes aufgenommen wurden.

Wirklich hören könnte man diese kleine Änderung allerdings ohne es zu wissen wohl nicht. Denn letztendlich passiert auch hier wieder viel verschiedenes Zeug in kurzer Zeit, und im Großteil davon ist immer noch eindeutig eine astrein improvisierte Basis zu erkennen.
Es gibt wieder traditionell jazzigere Stücke und experimentellere Elektro/Jazz/Psychrock-Fusion-Passagen, allesamt durchgehend mit gewagter Rhythmik.

Im Vergleich zum ersten Album kommen diesmal insgesamt etwas mehr melodische Elemente zum Zuge und es bildet sich ein noch natürlicher ineinander freejazzender Fluss mit auch mal eher erhabenen statt funkig coolen Momenten.

Insgesamt tun sich die beiden Alben trotz musikalisch variierender Ausrichtung qualitativ nicht viel und bilden zwei einander wunderbar ergänzende Komplementärbestandteile eines größeren Ganzen.

Definitiv empfehlenswertes Futter für alle Spiritualpsychfreefunkjazzfreaks.






2021-01-09

HEINRICH DRESSEL - Shapeshifting

Von unserem letzten musikalischen Stop in New York City aus fliegen wir nun mit dem Hubschraubbschrabbschrabbschrbschrbschrb... ganz weit in den Süden, bis wir das ewige Eis erreichen, Schauplatz eines imaginären, natürlich von John Carpenter inspirierten Horrorfilms, zu dem ein deutscher Archäologe unter dem jetzt nicht so super originellen Albumtitel "Shapeshifting" den Soundtrack komponiert hat.


HEINRICH DRESSEL - Shapeshifting (Ice Pick White Cassette) (2020)


Musikalisch hat sich der hinter diesem Pseudonym stehende Italiener Valerio Lombardozzi voll und ganz der zumeist dunklen Seite der Synthwave-Filmmusik verschrieben.

Es ist also nicht weiter überraschend, dass man als Einflüsse hier neben dem bereits genannten Carpenter ebenso Goblin und Vangelis nennen muss. Auch zu den minimalistischeren Sachen von Zombi lassen sich natürlich hier und da Parallelen entdecken. 

Darüber hinaus gibt es auf dieser Kassette für mich eigentlich nicht viel zu analysieren. Dressel schafft es, dass man Titel wie "MacReady Rescue Team", "Attempt To Escape", "OB6 Research Station" oder "Hypothermia" für sich mit kopfcineastischem Leben füllen kann. Und darum geht es doch, oder?

Super Musik, astrein produziert, und gut aussehen tut das handnummerierte, limitierte Ding auch noch. Sehr gut!






WHITE HILLS - Splintered Metal Sky

The White Hills are alive with the sound of Manhattan.

Das genre-fluide Duo aus Dave W. und Ego Sensation hat die Quarantäne in New York genutzt, um - wär hätte das gedacht? - ein Album mit New York in der Hauptrolle aufzunehmen.



WHITE HILLS - Splintered Metal Sky (black & white splatter vinyl LP) (2020)


"Splintered Metal Sky" wird ganz klar von elektro- und industrial-inspirierten Tönen dominiert. Tatsächlich sind zahlreiche Samples von Feldaufnahmen Teil der zumeist roboterhaft repetiven Musik.

Das Songwriting bleibt gewollt fragmentarisch, es sind also keine groß ausladenden Refrains oder Melodiebögen zu erwarten. Die größten Farbtupfer steuern diverse Gastmusiker bei, wie bspw. der Backgroundgesang der libanesischen Sängerin Yasmine Hamdam in "Rats".
Hamdam hat genau wie die White Hills im exzellenten Jim Jarmusch-Film "Only Lovers Left Alive" sich selbst gespielt. Und wie der Zufall (oder wohl treffender die Band) es will, ist auch der Regisseur und Sqürl-Gitarrist auf zwei Stücken dieses Albums mit von der Partie.

"Splintered Metal Sky" hat einen sehr interessanten, klaustrophobisch urbanen Charakter und leidet für mich eigentlich nur an zwei Faktoren:
Der erste heißt "Alphaville" und stammt von Imperial Triumphant. Das hat erst einmal gar nichts mit dem Psychedustrial Rock hier zu tun, setzt allerdings seiner überwältigenden retrodystopischen Interpretation des Molochs eine unüberwindbare Messlatte für alle new-york-spezifischen Konzeptalben. Das zweite Problem ist, dass vieles hier an alte Swans erinnert, allerdings natürlich ohne jemanls deren enorme Brachialität zu erreichen.

Also im Grunde läuft beides darauf hinaus, dass bei mir Assoziationen geweckt werden, bei denen White Hills klar als die kleinere Wohnzimmerversion dastehen.

Doch vielleicht ist genau dies auch richtig so. Wir stehen quasi mit den beiden im Apartment und beobachten aus dem Fenster den Big Dirty Apple im Lockdown. Gerade durch den recht laut gemixten Gesang hat das Ganze schon etwas direktes und privates. Cyberkaffee und Stahlbetonkuchen bei Ego und Dave. Bitte esst alle von eurem eigenen Teller! Ihr wisst schon, wegen Covid! - Hä? Wie bitte? (Draußen ist gerade die Bahn vorbeigelärmt.)

Letztendlich ist dies wie so oft bei den White Hills: nicht unbedingt weltbewegend, nicht jede Idee bis zur kompletten Reife entwickelt, aber dennoch durchaus sehr cooles Zeug. Also verkehrt macht man hiermit nichts.

Bonuspunkte gibt es vom mir dafür, dass das sehr ansehnliche Vinyl bei mir pünktlich vor Weihnachten am 24. Dezember eintraf. Ho ho.






2021-01-08

MUSIC 2020 - my favorite albums




Ok, this is a little bit different than in previous years. Normally my process of compiling the TOP something of my favorite albums of the year starts as soon as I review my first record. Immediately after I've written about a release I put it into my list.
Of course for most of the year this ranking remains quite loose and often when I add an album I also change the position of another one. Only at some point roughly around the beginning of November it gets more serious as I re-listen to everything on my list from the bottom to the top and decide if #53 is really better than #54. At the same time I'm also starting to write paragraphs about the albums which will definitely make the cut.

And all that wasn't possible this year as November struck me hard with personal drama which hardly allowed me to write about or listen to anything.
When I finally started to look after my blog again - mainly as a much needed diversion from all the other stress - I concentrated on the suplementary music lists, which I had partly already prepared before November.

You can read them here:


But for this main course I have nothing at this point (beginning of January) - and there's no way I'm starting to work my way through all of it in the usual way now.

I thought that maybe I should just do a couple of shorter rankings divided by musical style: metal, jazz etc. The problem with that idea is that I'm particularily fond of albums which push and blur the lines between genres. But hell, what the fuck. In the end this is all about recommending shit I loved this year, so I'll just try it kind of that way in various chapters, but without the strict ranking part or something like a properly laid out plan.



Before I finally start here's the inevitable disclaimer:

This post totally represents my personal subjective taste and only features albums that are actually part of my collection. I have heard - or am aware of - many more great releases, including a huge pile of stuff on my wantlist, which I didn't have the mood or money to get yet and hopefully will get to harvest at some point in the not so far future.

So some artists like Blues PillsEmma Ruth Rundle & Thou (ordered colored vinyl, but the retailer didn't get enough copies), JesuKing Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, My Dying Bride, Napalm DeathPsychotic WaltzSumacUlcerate or Ulver (and whoknowswho I just forgot) might or might not be part of this as well, if I hadn't slept on their new stuff to date.





I. BEHOLD THE TOWERING TITANS OF TWENTY-TWENTY!



Yeah, let's get those right out of the way! These records exist beyond genre categorizations. They dwarf the world around them and will still last when we're all long gone.



First of all I'm of course starting with the one I try to sneak into almost every best-of-list this year. LAIBACH's "Laibach Revisited", part of their giant 5-LPs-plus-extras box set of the same name, could very well be the most laibachian Laibach release of all times. These radically reimagined early 1980s' classics of the Slovenian collective bring together various eras of their sound in the most impressive way. Other than the rest of the box this double album is also available separately as a digital release.
(But even if you own that box, I still strongly recommend to extend it by former Laibach member Sašo VOLLMAIER's short supplementary album "Kind of Laibach", on which several of the same tracks are reprised as themes of heavy piano compositions.)


If you look at the parts of the sum, NEPTUNIAN MAXIMALISM's three-albums mammoth release "Eons" is already impressive. But there is better drone out there, there is better doom, better psychedelic music, and there's certainly better jazz.
Yet the uncompromising primeval grandiosity in which the Belgian collective weaves dark and light, Sunn O))) and Sun Ra, Alice Coltrane and Swans and so much more together in this highly avant-garde and monolithic debut is just as mighty as it is unique. I've read that many critics - even though they love this work - find it hard to access, but that's not my experience at all. Maybe it's challenging if you're not acquainted with certain elements like the strong free jazz influence. Personally I find it extremely easy to immerse myself into the cosmos of "Éons". The artwork and packaging of both the CD and vinyl version is fittingly stunning.

Even though this article is supposed to be about studio albums and this one has already been at the top of my favorite live albums category, the vast relevance of TRIPTYKON's Roadburn collaboration with the METROPOLE ORKEST just has to be acknowledged here again. Because Thomas Gabriel Fischer's "Requiem" is not just a great live documentation of some show, but a monumental doom legacy which sets a new high standard of artistic integrity for any metal band working with a classical orchestra in the future.    

The hardest working band in Scandinavian rock music, MOTORPSYCHO, has put out a new double album this year and naturally "The All Is One" once again sees the Norwegians rocking heavy, masterly, tasteful and just larger than life. Especially the album inside the album "N.O.X.", which could almost have been written by Magma, is another pinnacle in Motorpsycho's oeuvre. Be prepared to shake your whole body with your mouth wide open in amazement!

It's hard to imagine that 2020 has seen another record from Norway, which albeit leaning stronger towards jazz fusion not only shares a lot of spirit and influences with "The All Is One", but is partly even superior in its musical language. Enter
HEDVIG MOLLESTAD's masterpiece "Ekhidna"! Anyone who has ever seen or heard the prog/jazz/blues/rock/metal guitar player with her regular Trio knows that she's a virtuoso - here she also proves that she's just as stellar as a composer and arranger.

I don't think that I've purchased any album old or new this year, which sounds anywhere near the ambitious collection of intelligent earworm songs that is "The Quiet Earth" by THE ACADEMY OF SUNI still find it hard to label this diverse work from Nick Hudson, who also co-created my favorite - and totally different - download-only album of the year. Post punk meets 80s synth pop meets singer/songwriter piano artrock? Partly akin to Cohen, Bowie, Cave, PalmerBush, Amos, but never losing its own identity in the process, this album is pouring  with artistic vision.

Wow, this section has already grown longer than expected and there are still some candidates clearly worthy of being featured here. But let's close this with the hands-down best fucking metal album of the year!

On "Alphaville" IMPERIAL TRIUMPHANT marry Voivod, The Residents and New York City within a context of abrasive, excessive, uncomfortable, disharmonic, jazzy black metal and adorn it with cineastic choirs, classical influences, barbershop vocals, teiko drums and whatever else fits into their unscrupulously brutal retrofuturistic concept. This knots your mind and just absolutely slays!





II. BASH AND BRUTALIZE MY BLACKENED SOUL!



Imperial Triumphant already set the brainfucking tone for the following bunch of 2020 favorites. Apart from certain jazz artists my preferred more is more music these days mostly manifests in the shape of black metal being soaked in avant-garde for maximal synaptic overkill. Music that mangles and mindfucks fucks you, but does it in a cathartic way, before it spits you out innocent like a cleansed baby.


ORANSSI PAZUZU as guests on many end-of-the-year lists are an obvious opener here. And what can I say (again and again)? The hype around these Finnish black metal meets psychotic psychedelic masters couldn't be more justified. "Mestarin Kynsi" is a sick, hypnotic and innovative masterpiece and definitely ranks among my top 5 metal releases of this year.

There have been albums however that went much further into diverse sonic worlds, where part of the evil madness is that you can never be sure what sounds and influences might come into play at any given moment.

French prolific multi-instrumentalist hermit Asthâghul aka ESOCTRILIHUM seems to thrive under covid quarantine conditions. "Eternity Of Shaog" is yet another multi-faceted collision of demonic spheres. The album is more "musical" than and not as maelstromy as its predecessor "The Telluric Ashes of the Ö Vrth Immemorial Gods" though. So if you're missing that element of super exaggerated cacophony here, you might find some of it in the following avant-garde black metal project from Brazil...

Yet what BRÍI has put onto tape in four mammoth tracks on "Entre Tudo que é Visto e Oculto" goes far beyond an amalgam of extreme metal and brutal noise, as it just as importantly embraces tangerine dreamish ambient, meditative robot voices and trance-enducing club beats among lots of other crazy influences which come together much more fluid than you would expect.

Dialing down the atmospheric evil a bit and jumping right into the ball pit of blatant silly fun while still keeping the music top-notch, there's no way around IGORRR's "Spirituality And Distortion". Death metal, breakbeat, cembalo, chanson, opera, polka, accordeon music... If it's seemingly impossible or too stupid to mix - Igorrr has it on this double album and it rules!    

Of course as every year some of the most insane releases bear the hallmarks of Otto Kokke and René Aquarius, who have unleashed sick shit not only as Dead Neanderthals, but also in other bands and projects. Excluding the new year's eve EP "Cosmic Slime" here, my favorite neanderthal-related recordings are the following tape trinity of lunacy, with each and every album being a top contender for the number one spot of sick sick sickest shit of 2020:


At its core there isn't much new or "out there" on
"Nightmare Traversal" by CRYPTAE. Most of this is just pure rotting, fundamentalistic old school death metal with a pinch of grindcore. But the distortion is so excessive, its sound is so misanthropically ferocious that it initially feels like something completely different and alien. What a frenzied and oppressive beast!

Another duo featuring René Aquarius is PLAGUE ORGAN. Their fourty minutes long one-track album "Orphan" can probably only be loved or despised as a nerve-racking abomination. The description "meditative sounds and ominous drones mixed with throat singing, buried under a relentless annoying thrash rhythm" can only theoretically scratch on the surface of what this really is. If you pull it off to get into the zone, this album can take you to unexpected places.

"Sleep Forever"
, a collaboration of both Dead Neanderthals members with black metal musician Vitriol (Ulveblod) under the moniker MILTVUUR takes you to one particular place. Combined with horror synths, black metal guitars and samples this is probably the most disturbing display of the classic Neanderhal sax & drums extreme free jazz. 
As I said in my review: Satan's cover version of John Coltrane's "Ascension". A Butterfahrt through hell. Terminal buffet with well done children roast inclusive. 





III.  ISN'T HALF OF THIS ALREADY ABOUT THE J-WORD?


Jazz is definitely my number one music when it comes to adding classic albums to my collection. So most of my jazz discoveries of 2020 are actually from the 1950s up to the 1970s. But of course there is also some awesome new stuff, with most of my favorites (of which some have already been discussed above) being some kind of fusion or genre crossers.


The most bonkers - and thus the best jazz record to continue after the abysmal madness of Miltvuur - certainly is
"Allt Är Intet", a heavy jazz/noise/prog fusion tour de force to end all avant-garde jazz records by the immensly unique Swedish/Norwegian/Ethiopian quintet THE END. Especially the vocal acrobatics of this album are not from this reality.

If this was an all-genres TOP list like in previous years the following three masterpieces would still all have made it into the TOP 10:

After decades of being led by now ninety-six years young sax and electric wind instrument whirlwind Marshall Allan, the SUN RA ARKESTRA has finally released a studio album! "Swirling"  honors all those years the master has watched the legendary free jazz big band from the Jupiterian distance with vivid and fresh interpretation which surely make him proud.

Jazz mostly in instrumentation, while the atmospheric and hypnotically repetive nature of the three longtracks on "Three" also opens doors to post rock, psych and ambient, you're pretty safe just calling the style of Australian trio THE NECKS "post jazz". Anyone who feels somehow receptice to musical trance should give this one a listen!

With each of its four pieces backed by a different drummer jazz/dub/funk/experimental giant BILL LASWELL has gathered a true spiritual free jazz rock fusion supergroup on "Against Empire". Pharoah Sanders, Herbie Hancock and Red Hot Chili Pepper Chad Smith are only the biggest household names on this amazingly rich tapestry of musical perfection.

Urgent, deep and serious in its topics, yet sprawling infectious positivity is "Shaman!" by IDRIS ACKAMOOR & THE PYRAMIDS. Led by the saxophone veteran, who also plays the keytar and does spoken word and lead vocal performances, this double album is a catchy firestorm breathing the Africanisms of Sun Ra and Alice Coltrane as well as exploding in soulful funk.

And speaking of soul...





IV. BATHE ME IN BEAUTY AND SOOTHE MY SOUL!  


I have no idea how I would have endured the struggles of this shit show of a year without music to catch me. This section is dedicated to the best records to embrace you with waves of longing, melancholy, beauty and/or transcendence. And for the first one we'll stay in the world of jazz for one last time:


The misleading thing about the term "doomjazz" is that it doesn't necessarily describe a jazz subgenre, but rather a form of ambient soundtrack or slow post rock music. The grand masters BOHREN & DER CLUB OF GORE however have never gone as full-on jazz as on the long-awaited "Patchouli Blue" before, while still cherishing those twinpeak-ish qualities which make you want to slowdance with Audrey Horne at the Roadhouse. Almost too beautiful to be true.

Ominously droning and definitely darker than "Pachouli Blue" - but then also heavenly illuminated when it wants to be - is ANNA VON HAUSSWOLFF's magical organ-only instrumental album "All Thoughts Fly". When it comes to visceral excapism there are only few who can take it up with Anna, whose band Bada also released one of the best doom/drone/psychedlic albums of year with their self-tiled debut.

Related in its long-winding droning approach and its love for the details in the timbre of its instruments, yet aiming even more at a meditative effect  is "Ajaeng Ajaeng" by the experimental composer EYVIND KANG. While pieces like the title track, which only consists of two Korean court music zithers roaring and crackling around each other for half an hour, may seem challenging at first, this turns out to be an enormously soul-cleansing and peaceful experience.

So far all these have been instrumental albums. If you need a human voice to tell you that everything will be ok, none is more believable than that of epic post rock singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist A.A. WILLIAMS. Even though "Forever Blue" features some surprsingly harsh passages (partly with help of Cult Of Luna's Johannes Persson) this whole debut LP is a thing of perfect strong and vulnerable emotional beauty.

Man, consequent escapism is hard! Somehow Williams' melancholy is still rooted in this world.
What if I really want to go full fairies and fantasy? Enter MYRKUR's "Folkesange"! Giving herself fully to Scandinavian folk music (and pausing black metal for this release completely) the Danish artist exhales a feathery light clarity,  while the compositions still feel grounded in ancient substance. 




 


V. YEAR OF DOOM, YEAR OF GLOOM 



No, you cannot fully blind out how bleak and dark 2020 was. So fuck it, let's fully immerse in doom and related sounds of angst!


Since I already snuck Bada into the text above we'll have to start this with the most existentially desperate sludge and doom chunk one could carve out the year. "Monad" by the Dutch two-basses-plus-drums trio FARER (ex-Menhir) pulverizes your body in slow motion and thrusts the remaining particles into the void, where they will suffer for the rest of eternity.

One of my earliest purchases of the year and still justifying my unconditional love for it is INSECT ARK's instrumental doom/drone album "The Vanishing". Yet another band without the usual guitars (Dana Schechter plays bass and lap-steel guitar instead) the duo's nightmartish sound among many other influences merges swansy grooves with the broad Western feel of Dylan Carlson.

Moving away from metal or even rock entirely the Polish sounds craftsman SAMUTEK delivers the soundtrack for an imaginary remake of "The Blairwitch Project" with the aesthetics of "Mandy", taking place inside the pitch-black jungle of Malaysia in the experimental dark ambient and drone collages of "Omamy". If phantasmagoric paranormal horror isn't a fitting mood for our times, then what the flute is?

A beast stylistically related to Farer, but leading its ultra-distorted sludge/doom premise to a conclusion closer to the epic form of SubRosa, while being unapologetically grim and punishing are VILE CREATURE. I
nfused with a personal and politically aware hardcore spirit "Glory, Glory! Apathy Took Helm!" features one of my favorite metal songs the year with the second of its two title tracks. Feral!

A bit of a stretch in this section which doesn't necessarily scream for classic sword-wielding heavy metal are CIRITH UNGOL. But come on, these cult legends were predecessors and trailblazers of death and doom and above all their first studio full-lenth album after almost thirty years is one of the strongest comebacks imaginable. It's not rocket science, it's meeetaaaal, but boy, everything about "Forever Black" is fucking phenomenal!

And of course I'm also transitioning to my final segment....  







VI. ONLY ROCK WILL PSYCH US NOW!




Here are my standout recommendations in both hard and psychedelic rock, with both directions oberlapping here and there anyway:


It's no surprise that DOOL's "Summerland" has always been safe among my absolute favorites since its release in April. Even without even trying to write a second "Oweynagat" the Dutch dark rock band around charismatic leader Ryanne van Dorst stays on the top of their game. It's a shame that none of this material could be promoted live so far. With the traction of Dool's fantastic shows this album would surely gained a lot more of the attention it deserves.

There's no way to say Dool and then keep quiet about "Through The Hollow" from the band which has even stronger connections to the legacy of The Devil's Blood. Featuring none other than Farida Lemouchi on vocals MOLASSESS (now with an extra S at the end!) have released an incredibly strong debut double album filled with mesmerizing hypnotic occult rock that embraces Selim's memory, yet still finds its own voice.

Gathered in covid-proof distance around a car on a graveyard, as you do these days, LUCIFER continue on their path deeper into classic hard rock of the 1970s on their aptly titled third full-length "Lucifer III". Johanna's vocals still get better with each release, but on this one especially the crispy, powerful, yet still very vintage-spirited production fills my ears with joy. Not to forget that every song on "III" is a memorable hit.

My review of CAMEL DRIVER's "\ /" (aks "Camel Toe" or whatever you prefer the title to be) is probably one of my greatest writings hits of the year. And why not? Word about the bone dry, yet extremely fluid mixture of fuzzy power trio stoner rock, prog metal, post rock and Arabisms the Northern German instrumental group displays here, has to be spread far beyond the Baltic Sea desert. 

A titanic hybrid of D. Manhattan, Thanos and Conan dragging a ridiculously oversized sword behind him on a cold rock somewhere in the midst of space. One of the most noticeable and most fitting cover artworks of this year adorns the double album "Ummon" by the ultra-energetic French spacerock trio SLIFT. Injected with heavy doses of stoner rock, doom metal and punk the drive and rawness of this essential psych release severely (yet lovingly) kicks your small mortal ass.

Radar Men Against The Machine! The ever shapeshiftig Dutch RADAR MEN FROM THE MOON aka RMFTM once again morphed their sound and the result on "The Bestial Light" is the most urgent and aggressive the band has ever been. That's not only due to two drummers supporting the heavy bass and psychotic guitar licks and riffs, but also the result of adding a seriously angry shouter to the mix. This album is an excellently pissed brutal hate chunk with an unmistakable robotik kraut note.

After these two punishments let me end this whole long thingy with a comparatively rather mellow psych release by the Finnish band PERMANENT CLEAR LIGHT: "Cosmic Comics" masterfully moves from rubbersoulish Beatles worship over kraftwerkian synth rock to classic prog and jazzy vibes. An album just as dreamy as beautiful as diverse and intriguing.






And here's a YouTube playlist which features most of the albums and also stuff from my previous MUSIC 2020 segments.