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Saturday, January 2, 2010

Heavy Planet's Top 10 Stoner Rock/Doom, Etc. Albums Of 2009

Well, here it is, my Top 10 favorite albums of 2009.

01. Clutch- "Strange Cousins From The West" (Weathermaker)

Clutch has always been one of my favorite bands, and when I heard this album the entire way through for the first time, I knew it was going to be my number one album of the year.  The band continues to redefine themselves even on this being their ninth studio album. I was in the front row for their most recent concert in Pittsburgh and their live performances never fail to impress. If they ever come to your town mark your calendar!

Review:

"I love Aerosmith. I think Toys in the Attic and Rocks are among the most balls-rockin’ long players to ever be laid to tape. But there is a certain title given to the Bad Boys from Boston that they have failed to earn for over 30 years now. This title lay unclaimed for many years thereafter, but at some point in the mid-90's the throne was claimed. Ladies and gents, Clutch is America’s Greatest Rock and Roll Band..."(Read more)

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02. Alice In Chains- "Black Gives Way To Blue" (Virgin/EMI)


When I first heard that Alice In Chains was releasing an album with a new singer, I must say that I was very hesitant. Nobody, I mean nobody could replace Layne Staley's unique vocal. His harmonies with Cantrell were unmatched. Well, I guess I was wrong, what happened was Cantrell went out and found himself a very comparable singer and wrote some amazing songs that were undeniable. The riffs, the harmonies, the gloom and doom along with some great melodies are still all there. Kudos!

Review:

"Fourteen years after their last studio album, seven-and-a-half years after the drug-fueled death of singer Layne Staley, Alice in Chains—easily one of the best and most influential hard rock acts of the ‘90s—is back. And though there are some who will never even give themselves a chance to admit it, Black Gives Way to Blue is a stirring return.

In the words of guitarist/vocalist/band leader Jerry Cantrell, the disc has a “bunch of dark, slow, creepy tunes,” and the mood is set appropriately on the crawling opener “All Secrets Known.” As he does on most of the album, Cantrell handles lead vocal duties; in fact, William DuVall, who stepped in for Staley when the band reformed in 2006, is barely audible. Song two, “Check My Brain,” a more up-tempo number powered by Cantrell’s deep, bending riff, features Cantrell and DuVall harmonizing in a way that recalls vintage Alice . It’s not until track three, “Last of My Kind,” that DuVall takes center stage and shows he is doing a lot more than playing the role of Layne Staley. His vocals are full of fire and personality, virtually leaping out of the speakers—backed by a powerful sonic assault that makes one wonder why Alice got stuck with the grunge label early in its career..."(Read more)

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03. Devil To Pay -"Heavily Ever After" (Lax Wax)

Believe it or not, I just listened to this album on my drive to work a few weeks ago. It has great vocals, crushing guitars and memorable songs. This is the band's third full-length and they just keep getting better.

Review:

"It'd be cool to say that with their third album, Indianapolis' Devil to Pay will finally hit the big time, but I have the sinking feeling that this four-piece will still be relegated to “local legend”/”should be bigger” status. Such is life in the trenches of underground riff rock. I'm sure the band's well aware of its destiny.

Still, it's not for a lack of trying. Sure, the band doesn't help maintain momentum by taking its time between recordings – three years have passed since Cash Is King and six since debut Thirty Pieces of Silver – and chewing through guitarists (new guy Rob Hough is their fourth) can't be good either, but as far as songs go, Devil to Pay has always not only consistently delivered, but they've also gotten better with each release. They may have started off as a more traditional stoner rock band, but they've grown into their own sound, finding the common ground between classic rock, classic doom, and classic metal..."(Read more)

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04. House Of Broken Promises- "Using The Useless" (Small Stone)

This album song for song is your classic in-your-face classic stoner rock album. Features former members of Unida. Great stuff!

Review:

"A band housing three out of four musicians who briefly made Unida such a promising threat to take over the stoner rock universe, before being broken by the most heinous major-label machinations, Palm Desert's aptly named House of Broken Promises attempt to go Garcia-less (as in without missing former colleague, singer John Garcia) on their 2009 debut, Using the Useless..."(Read more)

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05. Kylesa- "Static Tensions" (Prosthetic)

When their last album "Time Will Fuse It's Worth" came out, I listened to that album just about every day for a month. Ditto this one! It was well worth the three year wait.

Review:

"Kylesa must be really, really tired of the Mastodon comparisons at this point. Though the two bands share some superficial similarities—both hail from Georgia and play sludgy-yet-modern metal—Kylesa approach their compositions from a completely different direction. Where Mastodon gird their riffage with prog-rock tinkering and epic pretenses, Kylesa have always gone directly for the throat, technical noodlings be damned. Considering that vocalist/guitarist Philip Cope (who along with fellow singer/guitarist Laura Pleasants is one of Kylesa’s surviving founders) did time in crust act Damad, his current band’s rawer aesthetic makes plenty of sense..."(Read more)

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06. Iron Age- "The Sleeping Eye" (Tee Pee)

I love me some old hardcore/thrash metal, but when you throw in some killer stoner metal riffs in the vein of High on Fire/The Sword. what more can you ask for.

Review:

"Finally Austin, Texas hardcore/thrash warriors Iron Age are back with their second full length album. Where their first album Constant Struggle was an album filled with hardcore/thrash that was heavily inspired by bands like Cro-Mags and Leeway and oldschool thrash metal, they made a pretty huge change in their sound and appearance (for the people who’ve seen them recently, they changed from a clean cut hardcore band, to a gruff looking bearded stoner/metal band)..."(Read more)

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07. Elder- "Self-Titled" (Meteor City)

This album was the best stoner/doom offering of the year thanks to Meteor City which is alive and very well.

Review:

"This is the first official full-length release from Boston's Elder and it's a heavy-duty monster for sure. My initial response is that it reminds me a lot Sleep's Holy Mountain. Perhaps it's more like an album that would have followed had Sleep became heavier and gone a more progressive route. I dare say that Elder have a greater knack for subtlety than Sleep and they be a little less self-aware as well. From the opening notes of "White Walls" I could feel my self being sucked in by the thick, dark sludge being created. They take a basic approach to their music, but that works wonders as they just dip down low and start hammering out the skull-crunching rhythms..."(Read more)

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08. Javelina- "Beasts Among Sheep" (Translation Loss)

Every once in a while I like to listen to something a little on the edge of insanity, that would be this album. It has intensity and crushing riffs and combines them very well.

Review:

"Their team may be down in the World Series as of Nov. 3 (Cliff Lee can’t pitch ‘em all), but Philadelphia’s finest purveyors of thickened thrash, Javelina, are just hitting their stride. On their second offering for Translation Loss, Beasts Among Sheep, they rip, tear, growl, feedback and scream their way through eight tracks (nine if you count the bonus) of righteous workingman’s fury, with just enough doom awareness to keep away from being a basement version of Slayer or whichever modern Slayer clone you’d want to compare them to. They’re like Thrash Sabbath..."(Read more)

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09. City Of Ships- "Look What God Did To Us" (Translation Loss)

I really like what Translation Loss Records is doing these days and this band is one of their most promising. Blending atmospheric, swirling soundscapes with crushing heavy guitars and angst-filled vocals what is there not to like? Just sit back and chill.

Review:

"City of Ships’ first full-length, provocatively titled Look What God Did To Us, is a loud order to shut up and listen groaned in ten different segments. It’s an avant-garde look at what a fusion of post-hardcore and post-rock could produce if executed properly, and, also in the process, a re-introduction of a still largely unknown musical niche the band would do well to fine-tune in years to come. Now everybody knows projects like these are hit-or-miss; melding genres together is a tricky business and so many Frankensteins have come up short, but thankfully City of Ships’ brand is a largely successful combination..."(Read more)

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10. Wo Fat- "Psychedelonaut" (Brainticket)

Wo Fat take their cue from bands of the seventies and freshen it up with their own brand of Sabbath-inspired fuzzed-out trippy psychedlic stoner rock. Killer shit!

Review:

"Back from the swamp these "Rednecks" will stomp all over your face!
Like predators out hunting, Wo Fat spins right thru your body like some kind of Murder weapon.

It's been almost two years since Wo Fat from Dallas, USA started harassing the big Record industry and with the debut "The Gathering Dark" made them a name in the scene. On the second release "Psychedelonaut" these Kentucky fried chicken eating trio take us on a speed boat trip on the Mississippi and just like the debut it kicks major ass!..(Read more)

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Honorable mentions:

Goes Cube- "Another Day Has Passed" (The End)
Tombs- "Winterhours" (Relapse)
The Company Band- "Self-Titled" (Restricted)
Baroness- "Blue Record" (Relapse)
Shrinebuilder- "Self-Titled" (Neurot)
Fu Manchu-Signs of Infinite Power (Century Media)- If I would have created this list in June 0f 2010, this album would probably have been in my top 10. I previously had stated that I had been a bit disappointed in the album, but now I cannot get it out of my stereo. This album is bit more Stoner Doom than Stoner Rock, which when it comes to Fu Manchu anything they do is brilliant. Songs such as "Signs of Infinite Power", "El Busta" and "Web Foot Witch Hat" are legendary.


Most Over-rated:

Them Crooked Vultures- "Self-Titled" (DGC)

First of all, before anyone gets pissed off, I must start by saying that I was never a fan of Queens Of The Stone Age. I just do not like their herky jerky rhythms nor do I like Josh Homme's voice. I tried so hard to listen to this album the whole way through but just couldn't do it. I felt like the album lacked a bit of heaviness. I wish that Dave Grohl would have wrote some songs in the same line as he did for the Probot album. Some killer groove-laden stoner rock with a seventies feel would have been awesome, not this herky jerky QOTSA sounding bullshit.

Well, there you have it. Wishing everyone an awesome 2010!
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