Sunday, December 8, 2019

The Album of the Year Is...

It's that time of year again, stockings are hung, trees are trimmed, turkeys and a few other critters that frequent holiday dinner tables are looking for a prime hiding place, and us bloggers and columnists who write for the Doom Charts are putting the finishing touches on our year end best of lists. I struggled in naming my number one album this year. The top 11 records in my countdown all at one point during the year were serious contenders for Album of the Year for me. This week as I finally sat down to write up my top 25, I discovered that there were still six albums that I wanted to name number one. So, how did that all shake out, keep on reading. For albums 1-25 I'm only providing the band, album title, my favorite track from the record and the Bandcamp link. For the top 10, I am providing a brief write up this week. 

25 Clouds Taste Satanic - Second Sight
Favorite Track: Second Sight.

24 Howling Giant - The Space Between Worlds 
Favorite Track: Cybermancer and the Doomsday Express.

23 Skunk - Strange Vibration 
Favorite Track: The Black Crown.

22 Spiral Guru - Void 
Favorite Track: Holy Mountain.

21 MIIST - All the Useless Spinning
Favorite Track: Philosophy of Pessimism.

20 Arrowhead - Coven of the Snake 
Favorite Track: Ghost Ship.

19 Saint Vitus - Saint Vitus
Favorite Track: 12 Years in the Tomb

18 Baroness - Gold & Grey
Favorite Track: Tourniquet.
Not available on Bandcamp.

17 Witcher's Cred - Awakened From the Womb...
More Cow Bell!!!
Favorite Track: Witcher's Creed

16 Goatess - Blood & Wine
Favorite Track: Blood & Wine

15 Candlemass - The Door to Doom
Favorite Track: Astrolus - The Great Octopus

14 Magic Circle - Departed Souls
Favorite Track: Hypnotized.

13 Crypt Trip - Haze County
Favorite Track; 16 Ounce Blues.

12 Monocluster - Oceans
Favorite Track: Ocean in Our Bones.

11 Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard - Yn Ol I Annwn
Favorite Track: The Spaceships of Ezekiel.

10 The Pilgrim - Walking Into the Forest  Put this album on, light up (providing you live in one of the eleven states or a country where that's legal), kick back and relax. Let your cares melt away as The Pilgrim takes you on a mystical journey. This is a transcendent album, it's damn near a high without the drugs, it's so smooth and mellow, calming. It's my favorite record to blow of stress.
Favorite Track: Brainstorm.

9 Merlin - The Mortal
Merlin's follow-up to the well-loved album The Wizard from 2018 is this year's The Mortal. My initial reaction was, "Not as flashy, or adventurous as the previous release." However, The Mortal is a solid, well-rounded effort that proves a satisfying listen with each successive spin. Filled with plenty of the usual sonorous saxophone, the band added flute, accordion, trumpet, and omnichord to the mix this time around, to successful effect. The atmospheric opening eventually yields to Jordan Knorr's vocals accompanied by a sensuous, sexy sax played by Stu Kersting. Doomy riffs pervade throughout the album, filling tracks such as side two opener The Mindflayer, the album closer, The Mortal Suite, the bouncy Basilisk, etc. I ned to rethink my initial position on this record. Indeed, it's more adventurous than The Wizard, takes more chances, pushes the envelope further... whatever cliche you want to think up fits. But what it all means is, Merlin dropped another damn fine recording on the Doom community, and we're better for it.
Favorite track: Basilisk.

8 The Well - Death and Consolation
A little three-piece from down in Texas - drums, guitar, bass. Stop me if you've heard this story before, LOL. Actually, don't. The Well, hailing from Austin, Texas, two and a half hours up Highway 10 from Houston where another little three-piece from Texas made its name, just dropped its third long-player in 2019, Death and Consolation. The band shows growth and progression on this effort. The band sounds together, obviously the product of playing together the past few years and gaining road experience. Guitarist Ian Graham emerges a bit more vocally, to my ears anyway. It seems his is the dominant voice on much of the album, whereas on previous releases vocal duties were split more evenly with Lisa Alley (bass). The band has moved away from longer, meandering jams that appeared on earlier albums, favoring concise songs, with just two tunes checking in at more than five minutes in length.
Favorite Track: This Is How The World Ends.

7 Wizzerd - Wizzerd
Wizzerd's self-titled debut really should rate higher than number seven, but when you have six number ones, what do you do? So number seven with a bullet. The record is a concept album. The first track, which consumes al of side one on the vinly edition (and is not available anywhere else), is titled Druggernaut and tells the tale of an hash-filled asteroid that crashes into a dead world and brings life to the planet. The next few tracks spin the tale, and then there is a song tied to each of the five band members/characters in the tale, plus one titled Wizzerd, who is the villain of the piece.
Favorite Track: Warrior.

6 Church of the Cosmic Skull - Everybody's Going To Die
On Black Friday, I mean Cosmic Friday, The Church of the Cosmic Skull surprised the doom community by hurriedly releasing the follow-up to 2018's breakthrough album Science Fiction, titled ominously Everybody's Going To Die. The new album is less ABBA and a little more doom in general than the previous effort. To me this band sounds like someone tossed ABBA, Black Sabbath, Jon Lord, a copy of the Principia Discordia and the Buggles into a random gene splicer and Church of the Cosmic Skull was the result. The new album still has the killer harmonies, but there is a little more crunch to the riffs this times, and a little more edge to Brother Bill's vocals.
Favorite Track: Everybody's Going To Die.

5 Roadsaw - Tinnitus The Night
The mighty Roadsaw returned to the scene after nearly eight years between albums. They dropped a monster on us with Tinnitus The Night, ten tracks of face-melting, interstellar, stoner rock, space boogie. Highlights, for me anyway, come near the end od each side of the vinyl version: side one's closer Peel has an incendiary guitar solo at the finish, and track 9 and album closer Midazolam and Silence are a wonderful back-to-back one-two punch comedown after the frenzied intergalactic trip the rest of the album takes you on.
Favorite Track: Silence.

4 Legba - Hell
Legba is one of the best kept secrets in the doom/stoner/psych scene, and that's unfortunate.
This band deserves to be heard on a massive scale. Each of their three albums have been epic, and Hell may be the best of them all, methodically driven, with alternately clean and growled vocals, enough synths and airy spaces to lend a bit of light to the consuming darkness.  Hell briefly occupied the number one position in an earlier draft of my top 25 countdown, but in a revision was bumped down to four. As I noted, the top six albums are fairly interchangeable.
Favorite Track: Beaten Dead.

3 The Neptune Power Federation - Memoirs of a Rat Queen
Al hail the Imperial Priestess Screaming Loz Sutch!!! The new album from the Neptune Power Federation, the band's fourth and third with the Imperial Priestes behind the mic, takes the form of a travelogue - a time travelogue that is. Each song tells the tale of a particular point in time through the eyes of the Imperial Priestess as experienced the events. Listeners are given the location and a date, and in the case of the European gatefold edition that I managed to pick up a lyric sheet, and are left to piece out the details for themselves, such as Can You Dig? Isle of Man, 625. That date certainly refers to Edwin of Northumbria's arrival. He would shortly convert to Christianity and conquer the Isle, and apparently the High Priestess bore witness. The only location and date I couldn't work out had the dateline "Station 825C1, 2203."
Favorite Track: I'l Make a Man Out of You.

2 Green Lung - Woodland Rites
What an amazing album! I really thought this was going to be my number one record of the year right up until the final week before assembling my list. That's when I flipped. Still, this record is deserving of high honors. By the time 2019 concludes the band's debut album should hit one million streams on Spotify. That's crazy for a self-released record. But it is such a rich album, steeped on doomy goodness, replete with fuzz guitars aplenty, witchy lyrics (I can't get enough of May Queen and Into the Wild myself), and calls to "let the devil in."
Favorite Track: Into the Wild.

1 Bright Curse - Time of the Healer
Awarding the number one spot proved a Herculean task for me this year. The top six albums in my countdown are AL deserving of the top honor, but only one album can be named number one and that album is Bright Curse's Time of the Healer. Why? Well, this album did the little things that made it stand out from the pack, the use of the "Shamanic Flute" in Smoke of the Past, the extended percussion solo before the denouement in Time of the Healer, the inclusion of the trumpet on Laura. Sure, other bands use non-traditional instruments in their work, I'm loking at you Merlin, and do it exceedingly well, but something about this record captivated me enough to push it narowly ahead of the competition this year.
Favorite Track: Smoke of the Past.

Check back late next week and I'll try to post additional write-ups for the other 15 albums in the countdown, and I'll share an additional five albums that just missed my top 25.

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