TOP 20 CDs
1. The Devin Townsend Project – ADDICTED!
Dev can really do no wrong in this writer’s eyes, so the real challenge this year was deciding which of his two albums released in 2009 would top the other. KI was stellar (and made it to #3 on my list) but landing Anneke van Giersbergen (ex-The Gathering) to handle the female vocals on ADDICTED! was really what earned this record the pole position. Townsend’s sonic palette coupled with van Giersbergen’s stunning vocals crafted a remarkable second chapter to The Devin Townsend Project’s four-part opus that is sure to complete one of the finest collections of music put to disc this decade.
2. Lamb Of God – WRATH
Possibly a tad “mainstream” for some, Lamb of God delivered its magnum opus with WRATH. The band stepped up considerably in its songwriting, musicianship and ferocity while maintaining a savvy ear for melodic hooks. The added spotlight and press attention garnered after nailing direct support on the Metallica tour will only raise the bar for what we can expect from Lamb of God on its next record, too.
3. The Devin Townsend Project – KI
4. Heaven & Hell – THE DEVIL YOU KNOW
5. Goatwhore – CARVING OUT THE EYES OF GOD
6. The Red Chord – FED THROUGH THE TEETH MACHINE
7. Megadeth – ENDGAME
8. Cannibal Corpse – EVISCERATION PLAGUE
9. Between The Buried And Me – THE GREAT MISDIRECT
10. Kreator – HORDES OF CHAOS
11. Baroness – BLUE RECORD
12. God Dethroned – PASSIONDALE
13. God Forbid – EARTHSBLOOD
14. Suffocation – BLOOD OATH
15. Marduk – WORMWOOD
16. Candlemass – DEATH MAGIC DOOM
17. Daath – THE CONCEALERS
18. Slayer – WORLD PAINTED BLOOD
19. Immortal – ALL SHALL FAIL
20. DevilDriver – PRAY FOR VILLAINS
BEST NEW BAND
The ancient Roman-themed side-project of Kataklysm frontman, Mauricio Iacono, combined groove-based death metal with film clips and a few big-name guest stars to rise above the rest of the baby bands this year. ROMULUS stands up to repeated listens and is a stronger outing than the last few Kataklysm records have been, too, so hopefully Ex Deo isn’t just a one-off thing.
As I Lay Dying – THIS IS WHO WE ARE
While many people will likely give this spot to Anvil just on principle (and duly receive an honourable mention from me), As I Lay Dying put together the best overall package with THIS IS WHO WE ARE. Spread over three discs including an all-encompassing documentary, the band’s entire collection of videos and a ton of live clips spanning As I Lay Dying’s earliest performances to Wacken Open Air, Metal Blade continues to provide its marquee acts with top-quality DVD releases that raise the industry bar.
BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENTS OF 2009
1. No time…!!
A new career and a big move to another city put a serious damper on my Metal Rules input in the latter half of 2009. This caused me to miss out on a TON of live shows and left me little time to devote to writing CD reviews or listening to new music.
2. Killswitch Engage – KILLSWITCH ENGAGE
Not horrible but pales in comparison to the band`s three previous releases.
3. Mastodon – CRACK THE SKYE
A few bright moments cannot dilute the fact that this is a pretentious and unenjoyable record.
4. Hammerfall – NO SACRIFICE, NO VICTORY
The power metal formula that Hammerfall has been following is beginning to wear a little thin after seven records.
5. VoiVod – INFINI
The band has now released two albums using Piggy`s leftover guitar riffs. KATORZ was okay but INFINI definitely shows signs of a band struggling for direction after Piggy`s death.
GREATEST HOPES FOR 2009
1. King Diamond/Mercyful Fate Live DVDs
When I interviewed King four years ago, these were just in the planning stages, so it has been a long, long wait filled with technical issues but it sounds like they will finally see the light of day in 2010.
2. Pig Destroyer – TBA
Topping TERRIFYER and PHANTOM LIMB will not be easy but anytime Pig Destroyer has a new record coming down the pipe, you know it will be buzz-worthy.
3. Orphaned Land – THE NEVER ENDING WAY OF ORWARRIOR
Grand in scope and painstakingly arranged, the latest release from Israel`s Orphaned Land is six years in the making and sure to be just as majestic as the band`s last conceptual epic, MABOOL, with Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree, Opeth) producing.
4. Fear Factory – MECHANIZE
Dino and Burton have patched up their differences and replaced Raymond Herrera and Christian Olde Wolbers with Gene Hoglan and Byron Stroud, respectively. The early release of one track—“Powershift“—sounds like the logical follow-up to DEMANUFACTURE and OBSOLETE, so let`s hope the rest of MECHANIZE holds up just as well.
5. Ihsahn – AFTER
Since disbanding Emperor in 2001, Ihsahn has kept metal fans intrigued through a pair of solo releases. On AFTER, his third due in 2010, Ihsahn will undoubtedly mix things up once again to create his own unique—and unclassifiable—style of metal.
6. Triptykon – EPARISTERA DAIMONES
Tom Gabriel Fischer`s return to music after Celtic Frost`s unfortunate implosion last year. Fischer claims the songs are similar in style to MONOTHEIST but heavier. Let`s hope so because we don`t want another Apollyon Sun on our hands.
7. Guns `n Roses Tour
If Axl can hold it together, the Calgary date on January 16th could be this city`s concert event of the year.