Category Archives: mk’s 2009 Non-Metal Top 10

mk’s 2009 Non-Metal Top 10

OK, this year has been a lean year in the non-metal stakes. I couldn’t even muster 10 together. Good news is there are some controversial picks in my 10 which will create much debate I’m sure.

9. Firewind – Grand Union

Gee. Steer plays a mean guitar in Carcass, but with Firebird we get to hear his sweetening vocals, and damn their good for the sound. Oh and the guitar work is still smooth, albeit a completely different sound. He’s capably backed up by virtual nobodies (well, when compared to Steer anyway) in Smoczkiewicz (bass) and Witt (drums). There are mind you, a couple of odd balls in Worried Mind and the closing track Caledonia which seem to be a departure from the rest of the album. Had read a bit about this band’s work, but never been really interested.

8. Crucified Barbara – Till Death Do Us Party

This is actually better than I thought it would be. I know this will alienate others in the BigBlack Headquarters, but I’m thinking a Peste payback is warranted anyway. Despite some cheesy song titles and lyrics, the hard rock sound of the all female band rocks along at a nice pace. Nothing groundbreaking, not surprisingly – think The Donnas and you’ve pretty much found their clone……but better. Still, not one to dismiss without a listen or few

7. Chickenfoot – Chickenfoot

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a fan of Hagar’s raspy vocals, so for me it has been way to long between drinks hearing him sing. Thank Keyryst he sold that Cabbo Wabbo tequila shite and realised he still should be singing. Anyway, that aside, this is surprisingly a great listen. I say surprisingly as despite the quality of all band members I did have questions as to whether they could put together a tasty piece of Rock. To me they have done that in loads. Satriani’s keeping things in check and hasn’t t done the Marty McFly at the high school dance – plenty of cool licks without going overboard. You can also easily hear Anthony at the bottom end and well, Chad is just Chad – nothing here extending his abilities but a solid effort indeed. Then there is Sammy of course. Lyrics could be considered a bit ‘old-hat’ – everyone has sung about their girlfriend before, so nothing new really, but musically they have kept their collective street creds well and truly intact.

6. O.S.I – Blood

If I didn’t know the background of OSI, I’d have probably guessed it. Look a large who’s who here but even without Steve Wilson appearing on Blood, there is still a close relationship in parts to the Porcupine Tree sound. For the cattle alone in this band and this release (Mikael is on it – what more excuse do you need), I think it worth some of your attention. Very chilled out.

5. The Devin Townsend Project – Ki

Wow!! Is my first reaction. I was expecting this to be different and a little nervous of whether I would like this or not. Maybe it’s my mood as I listen but Ki is a very soothing release. A complete departure from the ear insult of Dev’s back catalogue. Am really looking forward to the following 3 releases now.

4. Chevelle – Sci-Fi Crimes

My first impressions after a couple of listens was that it’s certainly not as aggressive as their previous release Verna Serna. Songs seem a little more structured and if you’re a fan of The Butterfly Effect, particularly Imago, then you will see big similarities here. Don’t get me wrong – I’m a fan, but much like Imago actually, this took a little longer to grow on me. Am glad I made the effort – these guys are brilliant songwriters! Can’t believe it took 4 long players in for us to discover them.

3. Bloodhorse – Horizoner

A 10minute instrumental of nothing really does distract, but if you hang in there you discover some interesting stoner/alt rock moments from Bloodhorse. Just when you comfortably cruising the highway of mellow the start of ‘Paranoiac’ smacks you in the face to make sure you are still maintaining an interest. Yeah, of course I am dude.

2. Alice In Chains – Black Gives Way To Blue

I can remember a earlier this year hearing the snippets on the net of some of the tracks (Check My Brain intro was one along with A Looking In View). They were full of dirty crunchy guitars. That sound I had been longing for since about 1993. Tie this to the surprise Soundwave performance in Feb 2009 (surprise as they were the last band I expected to see touring at that stage) and I’d have to say I had greater expectations of this release than I did for Death Magnetic. So temper your interest in my review with that in context. This baby had a huge responsibility to live up to. After supplementing my thirst for anything Alice related over the past decade with Jerry’s solo efforts, my first impressions with the majority of the vox being lead by him, is this is some floor scraps from Degradation Trip. The song writing credits certainly allude to this, so I have my suspicions. It’s not until Last Of My Kind that we have co-song writing duties with William. And funny enough we hear him singing solo for the first time. And let’s jump over this hurdle right now – No one, no one is going to replace Layne’s unique sound, so let’s not try for comparisons. This track shows his ability to put the moody lingerings on a couple of lines, but also give us something a little different in the abrupt delivery, which matches well with Jerry’s axe (or maybe his). But hey, we return to a Jerry song on track 4. I’ll admit that Layne didn’t contribute too much to the song-writing either, but I guess his absence, mixed with Jerry’s continuing contribution has me convincing myself that this is not the Alice in Chains of old. In actual fact it never could be. If I shut my eyes tight and compare it with 2003’s self-titled effort, I’d have to say this would probably rate better as a complete record. I could go on and on and probably haven’t given a direct impression of my thoughts. If I was to summarise – it hasn’t lived up to my expectations, but in reality my expectations were foolish. It’s a good effort, (although I would have loved to see the next Jerry solo effort if this didn’t come together) and I look forward to hearing the tracks mixed in amongst the likes of Would? and Rooster on their next trip to Oz. Oh, did I say I love the name of the album. Perfect!

1. The Devin Townsend Project – Addicted

I went into the first release of this series – Ki earlier this year – expecting anything and came out the other end quite appreciative of the sound, as far removed from the Heavy Dev we have come to know over the past few years. This one was expected to ramp up the heaviness. In fact it does, returning some of those families crushing riffs, but still tainted with the softness of Ki, in part due to the female vocals. Dev relates this record in similarity to some of his Ocean Machine work. I wasn’t really a fan of OM, but like this release.

Honourable Mentions

Clutch – Strange Cousins From The West

Their previous effort ‘From Beale Street To Oblivion’ was a winner for me. I’m certainly aligning better with their more bluesy sound of their past releases. However ‘Strange Cousins….’ doesn’t seem to have quite the same groove as ‘From Beale Street, but I’m a fan so it makes my Honourables!

Kong – What It Seems Is What You Get

Instrumental albums are a difficult thing to nail. In the current climate where I’m struggling with a lot of the screaming vox types, this is quite a nice change. Obviously the focus then moves to the music quality and whether it can capture your imagination and interest. The Industrial style comes from their early releases I believe as there is very little of that influence in ‘What It Seems Is What You Get’. The undertone of a nice crunchy guitar with plenty of additional layers over the top has me interested. My only criticism would be that it’s a lot to take in. The album I think should be listened to in entirety in one sitting and for me clocking in at just over an hour is a little long for an instrumental.

Saxon – Into The Labyrinth

Ahh, the soothing comfort of a Saxon release. Like smelling your favourite meal out of the kitchen window on your walk home from school, the promise of a new Saxon album delivers that warm glow of expectation. Trying to convince yourself they are still producing the same killer licks as their early to mid period 80’s is futile, yet the legacy has not been disrespected. Biff, Paul and Co. continues to release some satisfying serves of power on their heavy metal menu.

Dishonourable Mentions

Maylene and the Sons of Disaster – III

The transformation from II to III is wider than the gap opened up by Moses in the Red Sea. Initially I wasn’t sure whether to side with the ‘they’ve sold out’ haters or embrace it as the next step in their humble journey towards stardom. That grit you get between your teeth when you munch on previous releases just doesn’t seem to be there for me. Having said that the song writing is intelligent and typical of the Maylene style but it’s the very formulated feel that has me heading back down the tunnel.

Pearl Jam – Backspacer

Tis about time I buried the hatchet and made a decent attempt to admire to some level the new Pearl Jam wave. After listening to Backspacer – yes I listened all the way through at least twice – it’s just insipid, self-indulgent tripe. I’d almost have to say the new Powderfinger wave is slightly more interesting than this. Thankfully I’ve saved my $$ on this and can get into the back catalogue PJ reissues (the first wave as I call it)!