Further to last week, it’s time to move onto the next stage of my rundown of the last decade.
It’s going to take the best part of two months to post these on successive Tuesdays, but below begins my top 100 tracks of the past decade (and followed by the top 50 albums). There are very few tracks from this year in the list, simply because they may not have grabbed me enough yet. Indeed I may well revisit this list sometime and see if any more from 2009 should have made it in. But anyway, enough of that, let’s get started.
But first: you may disagree with items in this list this week and in the coming weeks, as I post the rest of it, but remember this – this is my top 100 tracks that are here for all kinds of reasons, and if you disagree, tell me what you would have put in, not what I shouldn’t have included.
[A final note: This was written in 2009, and aside from formatting updates to match the new website style, this is unedited.]
Girls Against Boys
You Can’t Fight What You Can’t See
The only album one of my favourite bands released in this decade, and it was a minor return to a form for a band who had been through such a bad few years previously. Following the somewhat disastrous flirtation with a major label, and a producer that simply didn’t work (while some of it was great, I’d love to know who thought that GVSB would make a great industrial-rock band), they retreated, regrouped and came back with an album that followed along the perhaps more logical path from career high-water mark House of GVSB. Which meant a two-bass-player led groovy rock attack, with Scott McCloud drawling his words of wisdom over the top. Opener Basstation – also the single, of course – was a great example of this, in other words what GVSB do best. No further new material has followed since, although the band have continued to play a handful of shows each year – and somehow I’ve missed every one of their visits to the UK since I last saw them back in 2003…
Knock You Down
A band from Sacramento that never really made that much of an impression, who went from being industrial, to industrial-metal, to all but-metal with their last release, were more than a little bit strange. The twin female/male vocals were unusual in this scene, for starters, but in addition to that was their unusually aggressive and confrontational sound and attitude. This track – from their best album by bloody miles, where they got the industrial/metal balance spot on – is a perfect example of just how confrontational they could get, the whole lyric being a challenge to just try and fuck with lead singer Anna Christine. The track rocks like a bastard, too.
After the commercial breakthrough – and big success, comparatively – of www.pitchshifter.com, hopes were high for the follow-up album…and let’s be honest, it wasn’t as good. For starters, the electronics were toned down, a more punk ethic prevailed, and worst of all, the songs weren’t as good. There was one particular exception, though, and it was perhaps no coincidence that this was the track that made it to the likes of Kerrang’s cover CDs. A gleefully sneering guest vocal from Jello Biafra skewering US culture, and for once the punk-feel made perfect sense…
Sons of Northern Darkness
The last album the band put out before splitting, and then reforming again recently (their first album post-reformation, All Shall Fall, is out next week), this was an astonishing album from a band that I suspect many had thought were long past their best, and this track in particular stood out. No hyperspeed blastbeats here (they were elsewhere on the album), this slowed and stretched out Immortal’s sound into a monstrous, lumbering beast that proved once and for all to me that there was more to this band than cliched BM and the corpsepaint.
At the time, the closest thing we had to the Front Line Assembly of old, this album was more than a bit of a surprise when it first landed. A trip back into the nineties for an impeccably constructed industrial album, with a seemingly vague concept about the destruction of the world and the rebuilding that would follow that helped, along with an extraordinarily dense production, to make for a release that sounded like no other that year. This was the elegant opening track, that set the stall for what was to come. Gary Zon has changed his output considerably since, moving more towards actual songs and near-pop melodies since, and indeed his side-project is effectively synthpop…
I’m not normally one for stoner doom, but this album caught me back when it was first released and I’ve loved it (and the band in general) ever since. A staggeringly heavy, slow-moving dirge that will not by any means be for everyone, it’s perhaps best listened to as it was probably created – in a dense fog of dope smoke. The unusual mixing of the track (and indeed the album), burying the vocals beneath the monstrous guitar riffs and old horror movie samples, only adds to the oppressive atmosphere, and as the track unfolds across it’s near-eleven minutes, it only gets heavier.
The Mob Goes Wild
Clutch never seem to stop, meaning that there have been three studio albums, three live albums and a compilation released since the album this came from, only five years back. It’s still my favourite album by them, too, and this track in particular is still my favourite track by them, period. A hulking monster of rock groove, it’s feel-good rush is tempered somewhat if you pay attention to the lyrics, which detail the shitty treatment of the families of those in the US armed forces who come back in a coffin from Iraq. So, let’s recap: a great song, and even better lyrics (and the video is hilarious, too). Also, how have I never managed to see this band live?
One of the countless industrial-metal bands to have come from the Chicago area in recent years, and yet another that I first discovered on compilations put out by Sean Payne from Cyanotic. By some considerable distance the best song the band have put out, it’s a thumping, raging juggernaut of a track with lyrics aimed squarely at mid-west evangelists (and their preference for money over God), by the sounds of things.
In The Belly of A Shark
An Orchestra of Wolves
I really wasn’t expecting to like this. At the time, they were “the next big thing”, a “hardcore” band who had suddenly shot to prominence in the metal/alt press…but then I heard this. A savage, writhing beast of a track (with an absolutely killer chugging beatdown to close it) that swiftly revealed just why there was such a fuss about the band. The album was equally kick-ass, too, with a whole slew of great hardcore tracks, some intriguingly emotionally-wraught lyrics, and a nice line in wordy titles, too…
Cursed Realms (Of The Winterdemons)
Yes, a second mention for Immortal…kind of. Not that you could really know it was originally Immortal, as Sunn O))) reduced it to a roaring, crackling drone, with guitars apparently being played through treacle, and the vocals by Malefic (from Xasthur) apparently beamed in directly from the pits of hell. A track – actually fuck that, the whole album – that demands to be played stupendously loud, it’s the end of the track that is the most astounding part – where the volume is quickly increased before stopping dead – a moment that I still can’t predict and still scares the crap out of me every time I hear it.
Ash & Debris
This album marked the point, at last, where Paradise Lost finally seemed to have won back most, if not all of their fans, after some years of polarising them with experiments with more electronics. The one point where most cannot agree, though, is with the best song on this album. Some make a convincing argument for Sedative God, but for me it’s this track, it’s driving urgency, the choral-esque vocals, the string samples…oh and the glorious, heart-stopping chorus when it finally arrives. It will be interesting to see how the new album fares when it is released in a month or so, too…
Je$us Loves Amerika
Tolerance Versus Rage
Advanced Burial Technology
Now seven years old, this album is still pretty special – and we’re still waiting on that follow-up, Paddy – an impressive collection of old-school-influenced industrial, with a raging, snarling vocal to match the harsh atmospheres and heavy duty tunes. The track I’ve picked? The short, sharp, shock that pretty much sums up the band’s politicial outlook, with the track stuffed with well-placed samples about God, the US and George W. Bush…
Turn on the Bright Lights
It took me a long, long time to get into this band, but looking back I loved this track all the long, I just never paid attention to who it was. My fail, obviously. Sleek, polished indie-rock, with not half as much of a slavish Joy Division sound as some like to make out, this track’s gently seething lyrics and barely-restrained contempt in the delivery is always a winner for me.
A Pain That I’m Used To
Playing The Angel
It’s not an easy opening – that grinding noise that cycles the speakers for the first ten seconds or so *hurts* – even if it is toned down for the single/video edit – but stick with it and this track is a gem. Yes, it comes from yet another DM album that turned out to be not as good as it should have been, but like every DM album in the last decade or so, there are a couple of simply awesome tracks, and this in my view is the best of this whole period. The racing theme of the video is perfectly apt, too – a slow start accelerates into life for the stomping chorus.
Through The Ashes of Empires
Without a shadow of a doubt, one of the greatest comeback tracks ever – as Allmusic.com put it, “[it] single-handedly eclips[es] the previous two and a half albums” – this six-and-a-half-minute thrash titan served as a pretty fucking shit-hot reminder that Rob Flynn and his band had far more left in the tank than was thought, something only proven even more conclusively three years later by The Blackening. Absolutely immense live (they’ve opened with it both times I’ve seen the band, including the day-stealing appearance at Sonisphere in August), on record it loses none of it’s power.
Acumen Nation feat. Eric Powell
The Wreck of Us
What the Fuck?: 10 Years of Armed Audio Warfare
It was criminal, frankly, that this track got tucked away on what was effectively a B-sides/rarities kind of compilation, rather than being the centrepiece of the album that eventually followed (Anticore). But maybe it was that it was a little less aggressive than the norm from this band that scuppered that. Whatever the reasons, the album this appeared on is worth it alone for this track – a pounding industrial dancefloor anthem with added vocal assistance from Eric Powell of 16Volt in the fantastic chorus. If you only ever listen to one Acumen Nation track, make it this one.
Let Me Be Your Armor
A similar fate greeted this, again one of the best ever tracks from this particular artist. I recall hearing a story – and I might be thinking of something else entirely – that this compilation pretty much exists due to the need to get this track released in between albums (and the remixes to pad out the collection already existed anyway), and even if it isn’t true, this track is simply so good that it was going to get noticed anyway. An uptempo, string-sample-drenched missive questioning the use/need for antidepressants to numb the pain, it’s gloriously anthemic chorus and melodies have meant it still gets requested on dancefloors eight years on (and rightly so, too). For the record, by the way, the rest of the album was a cracking collection of remixes and one other brilliant new track (Breath of Ghosts).
A project that had so much promise, but seemingly got ditched when Adam returned to doing LAB4-related stuff. What a damned shame – this was an extraordinary, sparse and very, very dark electro-thrill. A couple of light years from LAB4, and all the better for it in my view, this appeared out of nowhere, and it’s still something of a real shame that more material never got released.
Not A Crime
Gypsy Punks: Underdog World Strike
It’s easy to forget, perhaps, amid the masses of press about how fantastic a live band these guys are, and their famous friends, just how great many of the songs are too. This track – a dizzying, punk-kinda-folk maelstrom with dub interlude (no, really) – appears to be suggestion that marajuana is not a bad thing in the slightest. If the results of smoking said weed really was music this exuberant and fun, it’d be legalised in an instant. Oh, and this track fucking rules live.
A somewhat testy project from the start – this industrial supergroup seemed to be finding each other’s company difficult from the first interviews – just for a short while they belied the ages of the group and created some astonishing music. This came from the original EP, and despite the mechanical rhythms and various samples, the whole thing flowed so well it sounded marvellously organic (and all-but bounced along on Jah Wobble’s characteristically elastic bassline). And with the members of the band’s punk/post-punk roots, this was perhaps the ultimate in “industrial punk”. The follow-up album, when it eventually arrived, was not the same – needless to say the uneasy union of the original line-up survived only a couple of years – but the first EP and album are well worth getting.