Idol Threat's Top 20 Albums of 2013 - Idol Threat: Warning Shots at the Mainstream


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Idol Threat's Top 20 Albums of 2013

Its time once again for another Idol Threat Top 20 Albums of the year list! These 20 plus releases are what Idol Threat deemed the best of its peers presented as always in no particular order!  Without further ado let's dive right into the list:

Sigur Rós‏ – Kveikur
It wasn’t too long ago when the world thought they’ve seen the last of Icelandic post rock mavens Sigur Rós‏.  Word that band member Kjartan Sveinsson (who officially left the group this year) was "tired of touring" and news of a hiatus led to rumors of a break up.  Combined with the tepid response to their last album it would be easy to assume that the nearly 20 year old band would be on its last legs. Instead the now ‘power trio’ returns with renewed vigor to release a refreshing album that shirks the delicate leanings of their past.  If their older records were the lullabies and fairy tales of our youth, Kveikur is the true stories of the Brothers Grimm reminding us of the long forgotten darkness of our innocence.  That’s not to say they still don’t have their tender moments - Birgisson’s ethereal vocals and the occasional orchestral backdrop can still lift us up to the clouds – but this time there’s a beautifully blackened sky awaiting our arrival. You can still hear beams of heavenly shine fighting to break through however and like always they manage to fill us with hope, while this time they also leave us optimistic for a new era for the band.  This is Sigur Rós at their most anxious, their most compelling and most potent sounding.

CX Kidtronik - Krak Attack 2: Ballad of Elli Skiff
If you can imagine Afrika Bambaataa fronting Nine Inch Nails and making obsessive club music about ass cracks then you’ve only begun to wrap yourself around the mind of CX Kidtronik.  CX is a Brooklyn-based DJ/producer/rapper who is also the the live drum-machinist for Saul Williams and one of the vocalists for digital hardcore group Atari Teenage RiotKrak Attack 2: Ballad of Elli Skiff (the sequel to his debut album Krak Attack) sounds like what Miami Bass would have evolved into if it were founded in the East Village in the early 70s, or if Luke Skyywalker grew up in Detroit kickin out the jams with gutter punks and club kids.  Kidtronik’s genius is that he takes hardcore, mostly New York rappers and seamlessly smashes them into industrial, noisy electro-rap to make some catchy-as-fuck dance music that actually has some balls!  Who else could take Phil da Agony, Billy Danze from M.O.P., MF Doom and Ruste Juxx and make an album that sounds like the soundtrack to a cyberthug riot rave? To think that this was all inspired by the story of a New Hampshire woman who was arrested for refusing to leave a mall because of her overexposed dookie maker. It's about time a rapper had a sense of humor while still treating the music seriously.

Akimbo  - Live to Crush
Imagine you come back to your hometown and go to a house party with 500 friends on Record Store Day. It’s been about 5 years since you’ve seen these people but it still feels as if you never left. You see a fist-pumping air guitar hero in the middle of a mosh pit surrounded by countless, crushed beer cans screaming along to the early 2000’s hardcore blaring through the house speakers. You realize he’s the kid you used to hang out with who had that awesome older brother that gave you guys his old Amphetamine Reptile and Dischord Records CDs, and had the cool dad who taught you both how to play Zeppelin on guitar. He spots you in the crowd and starts barreling towards you - his heavyset feet rumbling the thin hard wood floor with each step - until he finally reaches you with a bone-crushing hug and a punch to the chest. He yells drunkenly into your ear that this is actually his going away party and before you can ask why or even get remotely nostalgic he pulls you into the pit as you guys scream anthem after anthem; punching, kicking, drinking and smashing the night away until you black out. You wake up drooling on the street asphalt to a hazy vision of your friend galloping away on a majestic steed towards the horizon chanting “If you don’t like Rock’n Roll - FUCK OFF!” RIP dudes.

The Body - Christs, Redeemers
Listening to sludge duo The Body can be suffocating at times, yet if you can endure it can also be as intoxicating as the high of an autoerotic asphyxiation.  Their music has always been more about feeling and physicality than riffs or dexterity - it oppresses you with the atmosphere it creates. Instead of moving you the rumbles from the guitar move the air around you until you’re claustrophobic with fear or you succumb to the wall of sound closing in on you. With Christs, Redeemers they manage to breathe new life into their sound while still retaining the misanthropic, sonic nihilism of their music.  This new album sees more vocals from frequent collaborators Assembly of Light Choir, more found sounds and samples, and notably more synth noise burying everything else in the mix.  You would think this would take away from the dread and doom but the inclusion of these aspects actually creates more tension by comparison. The pounding of the drums and roar of the instruments become an ever approaching warning instead of a constant presence of apocalypse.  The wait is often times more terrifying than the outcome. 

Gorguts - Colored Sands
What do you do when you’re the only constant member of one of the most influential Death Metal bands in the world and you want to reunite the group?  Recruit the top talents in extreme metal today that’s what!  That’s exactly what guitarist/vocalist Luc Lemay did when he re-formed Gorguts after a 7 year hiatus.  Lemay enlisted famed bassist Colin Marston of Dysrhythmia and Krallice, the guitarist of Dysrhythmia Kevin Hufnagel and the drummer of Origin John Longstreth and announced that they were recording a new album.  The nearly 5 year wait has been brutal but luckily for us so is this album! There was a lot of great Death Metal albums this year and if Colored Sands was pushed back further this spot could have easily belonged to Portal, Ulcerate, Gigan or Obliteration’s new release - but Gorguts prove that they are still the top of their class and that taking time in recording an album can really pay off. The songs are longer and more progressive yet still retain the technical proficiency of their earlier work without being overbearing. Dynamism has replaced repetition and what we’re left with is an album that is as lush and diverse as it is heavy.

Melt-Banana - Fetch
Melt-Banana has historically been hard to pin down stylistically.  They’re noisier and faster than the 90s noise rock they’ve been associated with, yet more spastic and poppier than the grindcore others have labeled them with. Power-pop violence? Cosmic amphetamine electro-noise?  Fuck it, let’s just call them GOOD.  Fetch is their first release in 4 years and their first album since 2007’s Bambi’s Dilemma.  Their latest record tones down some of the epilepsy and ADD of their earlier releases for a more hyperrhythmic approach. Ichirou Agata trades in the squawk and skronk of his guitars for more groove, structure and thrash while Onuki’s cutesy, high-pitched staccato has become more melodic and complementary.  In fact, combined with her space invader synth-manipulation, her voice almost becomes a driving force behind the music in and of itself.  This new album is catchy and extremely joyful, with emphasis on ‘extreme,’ but they manage to balance the chaos to mold a more universal appeal.  Some may interpret this as an attempt at a wider audience (their song “Zero” can easily pass as an electro-indie MTV single) but most will view it as an obvious conclusion to the evolution of their other records. Melt-Banana has released one of the most accessible albums in their 20 years of existence.

Corrections House - Last City Zero
Last City Zero. Nil. The void. The final bastion of civilization in a world of concrete rubble and rusted, twisted metal.  The remaining citizens celebrate in the squalor with the sounds of after-future machinery. There is no melody here, no happiness, hope or harmony - all that is left is the dirt, crushed vials of neo-addictions and the sound of a broken people dancing to the ever-pounding electronic rotting of our world… Chicagoans Sanford Parker of Minsk Buried At Sea and Bruce Lamont from Yakuza Bloodiest join legends Scott Kelly of Neurosis and Eyehategod’s Mike IX Williams to form Correction House - a new side project that is very much the sum of their parts.  All the members in this group have been involved with doom/sludge in one way or another so its only natural that its influences would seep into the undercurrent of this album. There is also an obvious common love of industrial music, drone and dark ambience.  The album begins sounding like a new Neurosis track but as soon as the static and hiss of the programmed drums kick in you realize that you're in for a far different ride.  It makes sense that someone with as distinct a sound as Scott Kelly would dominate most of the tracks, but everyone present contributes equally to form a new synthesis of sound. This is nihilistic post Industrial music for future dystopia.

Fuck Buttons – Slow Focus
I loved the distortion and drone of Street Horrrsing but it was too unfocused (pun unintended) and overbearing, while Tarot Sport was more focused, (pun intended this time) had a fantastic last two tracks, yet was too 'dancey' for my taste. An early article about the duo stated that they met in art school at Bristol with one half being into Aphex Twin, and the other deeply into post rock instrumentals a la Mogwai. No other album of theirs realizes this synthesis of styles better than their latest - at times they even remind me of 65daysofstatic; another post rock influenced English electronic group. The aptly named Slow Focus is their least “electronic” sounding album of the bunch but its also their most diverse, most dense, most menacing and most triumphant sounding as well. The 4 years it took to create this release has been time well spent as this album is a far cry from the happy and hopeful tracks used as the theme songs for the 2012 Olympics.  This record can pass for the soundtrack to an eerie Sci-Fi flick or the traditional tribal celebratory music from an advanced alien civilization.  Each of their albums have been different so I am excited to hear how they evolve next, but am more than happy having Slow Focus to tide me over even if it does take another 4 years.  A highly rewarding listen indeed.

Nails - Abandon All Life
This record is the equivalent of having the will to stab oneself over and over just to be able to watch others wrench and writhe in disgust at the sight of your frenzy. Seppuku out of spite, oppression through submission and pain – “wield the fucking blade, pierce with fucking hate!” 'Abandon All Life' touches upon so many genres of extreme music it would be impossible to pick just one. This record is about both power and violence yet takes the name powerviolence far more literally than most.  It has roots in hardcore but to describe it as such would fall short of doing it justice.  It blasts and grinds but does so at a pace just shy of unreachable so you can feel every pummel and blunt riff, and to call any part of it blackened would be a laughable understatement. Nothing was full of more ferocity and rage than Nail’s debut 'Unsilent Death' and so it’s fitting that its follow-up is the only thing that has been able to match its fury since.  This is 17 minutes of ferocity and bombast that is either over sooner than you desire or goes by so mind-numbingly fast that your regret catches up minutes after the punishment is over.  You either love it or hate it - or love the hate of it.

Church of Misery - Thy Kingdom Scum
FBI CASE FILE #RISECD163 - Investigation of cult status of Japanese doom collective Church of Misery: This Church worships at the altar of the Sabbathian riff, but unlike the other followers of the lore of the Sabbath they do so with a freshness that makes their interpretation almost like a new religion unto themselves. Their membership changes frequently but has had a constant presence leading from behind the scenes since 1995 - bass master Tatsu Mikami (cross-reference with case files from G.A.T.E.S., Sonic Flower and Salem.)  Their first consistent string of sightings in the United States was in 2012 with former frontman Yoshiaki Negishi.  He would soon be replaced with longtime figurehead Hideki Fukasawa and intel that they would return in October of 2013 led to the prevention of their entrance by the US government.  Unfortunately they could not stop their return to the US for long as sightings were reported in various states this past December. Reliable sources inform us that a European pilgrimage is plotted for these next few months.  The return of charismatic minister Fukasawa marks a deadly rebirth for the group since his growling delivery of their psalms makes this the most persuasive incarnation of the cult yet.  The sleaze of their bottom end and doom boogie groove of their message proves that they are far more hypnotic and attractive than lesser sects and it’s only a matter of time until the ranks of their congregation swell to unprecedented numbers.  Subjects are brutal, heavy and groovy so approach with caution – their latest sermon is their most dangerous.

The Rest of the Top 20
Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats - Mind Control
Crystal Caravan - With Them You Walk Alone
Psychic Teens - Come
Denmark Vessey - Cult Classic [w/Scud One]
Portal - Vexovoid
Weekend Nachos - Still
Gnaw - Horrible Chamber
Indricothere - II
Qwel & Maker - Beautiful Raw
Heliocentrics - 13

Top 5 Eps            
Blu - Gods in Spirit
Zozobra - Savage Masters
Action Bronson - Saab Stories
Burial - Rival Dealer
Homeboy Sandman - Kool Herc: Fertile Crescent

Everything Else   
Best Free Album: Run the Jewels - Self Titled
Best Split: Bastard Noise/Brutal Truth - The Axiom Of Post Inhumanity
Best Compilation: Grails - Black Tar Prophecies Vol. 4, 5 & 6
Best Collaboration: Merzbow, Mats Gustafsson & Balázs Pándi - Cuts
Best Live Album:  Borbetomagus - Trente Belles Années (late Dec 2012 release but we're counting it for this year, it's THAT good)

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