Since Hellbound.ca is a Canadian-owned and operated metal publication, we thought we’d do things a little differently than most. As 2009 quickly is coming to a close, we asked all of our contributors to pick their Top 5 Canadian metal albums of the year. We then tabulated up their responses and have created our first annual Top 10 Canadian Metal Albums of 2009 writers poll.
The response was pretty much positive across the board as to participating in the poll. A few writers did politely back out from submitting, feeling they hadn’t heard enough Canadian albums released this year, fair enough, while your faithful editor did not submit a list himself since I am fortunate enough to work with some of these bands as part of my regular day job. However, the final outcome of this list has not been tampered with, changed, fucked with, etc. etc. by anyone – the bands are listed in the order they were voted by our great contributors. So, without further adieu, here are the Top 10 Canadian Metal Albums of 2009, counted down from #10 to #1 with a brief write up on each. Please enjoy.
#10: MUSK OX – s/t (Absurdist Records)
Musk Ox’s full-length debut is one of those releases that challenges the boundaries of musical genres. It is quiet and subdued to the point where “non-metal” folks have asked me, with an interest tinged with suspicion given their knowledge of my musical tastes, “what IS that?” whenever I play it in their presence. Yet it also oozes the sort of atmosphere and aesthetic concerns for which so much extreme metal has become known. Perhaps at first listen sounding like an extended acoustic interlude from the metal bands that Musk Ox cites as influences (Agalloch, Opeth, and October Falls among them), it quickly becomes clear that the album is its own beast. Haunting piano notes frequently float behind Nathanaël Larochette constant but subtle plucking of his classical guitar’s strings. Musk Ox’s attitude is as “metal” as any other (whatever that means). Depending on one’s mood, the album can be interpreted as a tribute to the Canadian wilderness that is its primary inspiration as well as to the complex human histories that have lived and continue to live within it from coast to coast. With its multiple samples of wilderness ambience strewn throughout, the record can also serve as a melancholy lament for that environment and our increasing detachment from it. Irregardless of one’s interpretation, Musk Ox both invokes its unique and inspirational surroundings while keeping the listener aware of its own technological musical heritage and influences. (Jonathan Smith)
#9: AUGURY – Fragmentary Evidence (Goodfellow/ Nuclear Blast)
Five years after the confident Concealed, Montreal’s Augury returned with a second album that didn’t just continue right where that 2004 progressive death metal opus left off, but boasted significant improvements on all fronts. Not so much hyper-technical as honest-to-goodness fusion, the foursome dips into multiple genres in the same song yet is disciplined enough to create cohesive compositions that know exactly when to say when. With such standouts as “Aetheral” and the spectacular closer “Oversee the Rebirth,” Fragmentary Evidence is proof that you can play the most challenging forms of extreme music and never have the brutality come at the expense of the actual song. (Adrien Begrand)
#8: DEVIN TOWNSEND PROJECT: Ki (Inside Out)
After a two year hiatus, Devin came back with Ki, the first in a series of four new albums and did not disappoint. Over the years Devin has proven that he is one of the best Canadian artists still putting out music. His music traverses genres and destroys stereotypes. Fueled by emotion, everything from anger to joy, new sounds both heavy and soft, chaotic and beautiful, while giving the listener a sense searching and then finally of reflection, Ki is one of the best of the year. (Matt Lewis)
#7: EX DEO – Romulus (Nuclear Blast)
With lyrics depicting history and music evoking struggle and conquest, fitting enough to be the perfect death metal soundtrack for a textbook on Ancient Rome, what more can you ask for from the debut release of Kataklysm vox man Maurizio Iacono and his latest passion project? Romulus is instant victory for the ears and soul. The entire album is complimented with fine contrast and great musicianship, featuring Karl Sanders and Behemoth’s Nergal on two tracks that merge metal greatness. With tracks “Cruor Nostri Abbas” and “Invictus” chugging riffs and intricate solos sustain a powerful aura. “Legion XXI”, “In Her Dark Embrace” and title track “Romulus” are some of the strongest pieces on the album that express the entity and purpose of the band. And although we’ve had history lessons on ancient Egypt from Nile and Iron Maiden, I can’t imagine any other band that can embody Italian history quite like Ex Deo. (Ola Mazzuca)
#6: 3 INCHES OF BLOOD – Here Waits Thy Doom (Century Media)
Here Waits Thy Doom is 3 Inches’ most dynamic and impressive release to date. With the absence of long time screamer Jamie Hooper the majority of the vocal duties fall upon Cam Pipes, with supplemental screams supplied by guitarist Justin Hagberg. This focus has only served to benefit the band, allowing the all the members to grow musically. With the traditional subject matter of battles, heavy metal, and mythical beasts intact, 3 Inches of Blood dare to delve into the realm of mid tempo grooves and clean guitar tones with great results. As expected, the drumming and even more so the guitar work is spot on, with riff upon riff and airtight solos. Album standouts include “Preacher’s Daughter,” “Rock In Hell” and “All of Them Witches”.(Dave Sanders)
#5: CAULDRON – Chained To The Nite (Earache)
As evidenced by their dominating live show and rivet-tight debut album, Chained to the Nite, Toronto’s Cauldron have clearly emerged as one of Canada’s most dominating metal forces, and a real feather in the cap for Earache Records and their respective roster. Effortlessly combining legit old school cred with an equal amount of melodic—and deceptively involved—musicianship, the blokes formerly known as Goat Horn have actually managed to eclipse even their own sturdy metal past by releasing a nearly flawless debut; one which encapsulates everything heavy metal was, is and should be, to electrifying effect. They just don’t make ‘em quite like this anymore, people. (Metal George Pacheco)
#4: WOODS OF YPRES – Woods IV: The Green Album
Woods mastermind David Gold has put together a monster of a 4th album, re-inventing the Woods sound yet again. Moving away from their original black metal sound even further, David and company have put together an elaborate doom-laden journey of self-reconstruction. As with all Woods albums, David’s lyrics are straight forward and incredibly personal, but they only add to the sincerity and honesty of his music. Writing with a full band for the first time since the debut album, this new Woods lineup has put together the most complete sound to date, and possibly their best album to date. (Adam Wills)
#3: DEVIN TOWNSEND PROJECT – Addicted (E1 Records Canada)
Devin Townsend describes Addicted as the more straightforward record in his latest four-album project, and on the surface that’s exactly what these ten tracks are – energetic metal with a lot of groove and a lot of melody. But nothing Townsend has ever put out is that simple, and Addicted is, unsurprisingly, in constant motion, layer upon layer reviving earlier sounds just as it surges on ahead toward the new. It’s not redundant – the record doesn’t recycle but remakes the old, re-imagining nearly two decades of genre-defying heaviness (and the not-so-heavy) and tying up loose ends before getting ready to move on. The cast of players compounds the retrospective feel with cronies drawn from Townsend’s Steve Vai years and the Devin Townsend Band, and Anneke van Giersbergen’s voice coming off as both seasoned and fresh. Ki paved the way for Townsend’s musical return this year, but it’s Addicted that proved he’s really back. (Laura Wiebe Taylor)
#2: SACRIFICE – The Ones I Condemn (Sonic Unyon / Marquee)
There are many reasons Sacrifice’s return to the world of metal after a 15-plus year hiatus is stunning. Not only does The Ones I Condemn retain the ferocity and dominance of their earlier legacy but it actually surpasses any of their previous high watermarks. Yes, it seems impossible but the quartet has excelled beyond greats such as 1987’s Forward To Termination and 1990’s Soldiers Of Misfortune. An endless bastion of barbaric tempos, dynamic shifts and a technical explosiveness, Sacrifice proves that not all bands who reform are destined for diminishing returns. Endlessly compelling, inspiringly passionate and uncompromisingly scathing on tracks including “Hiroshima,” “The Great Wall” and opening instrumental “We Will Prevail,” The Ones I Condemn is a tour-de-force for thrash metal proponents, modern or nostalgic. (Keith Carman)
#1: VOIVOD – Infini (Sonic Unyon / Relapse / Nuclear Blast)
Considering that Infini is essentially the closing chapter to the profoundly badass saga of Voivod, and that it was crafted around the final guitar recordings of the late Denis “Piggy” D’Amour that were archived on his laptop (the first portion of these recordings were the foundation for 2006’s Katorz), it would seem obligatory to offer faint praise. Fortunately for Voivod fanatics, legitimately complimentary words are merited for the late, great guitar hero’s spirited performance that is clearly Infini’s focal point. That said, one would be remiss in failing to acknowledge the collective effort boasting Snake’s characteristic snarly croons, Away’s tense ‘n tight drumming and Jason Newsted’s punchy bass lines that perfectly counterpoint Piggy’s idiosyncratic off-kilter, angular style that nods and winks towards Voivod’s early, raw thrash period and progressive mid period, though spends more time continuing to streamline the band’s increasingly stripped-down, grooving approach. RIP Piggy. (Jay H. Gorania)
Hey readers, tell us your Top 5 Canadian Metal Albums of 2009 and you’ll be instantly entered into a contest to win a Hellbound.ca prize pack featuring a bunch of great recent Canadian albums from BENEATH THE MASSACRE, SACRIFICE and VOIVOD! Just leave a comment at the end of the article for your chance to win – it’s that easy!