Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Top Ten of 2011 + Superlatives

Well, it's slightly overdue, but here's S-M's top ten albums of the year 2011. It's been kind of a weird year for slam; not a lot of big albums vying for control of the slam populace, but not a lot of totally awful things either. Just a lot of a). albums by bands who had previously done average albums that we never really cared about much overall or b). bands we've never heard of doing killer things, for the most part.

Back when this blog started in 2007 by Nick and I, we did our first top ten with a superlatives section; basically the same as you remember from high school..."Most Popular", "Best Looking", "Most Likely to Smoke Crack and Worship Satan by 20"...you know the deal. This year, Logan had a great idea; take that much-loved idea and extrapolate it here, 4 years later. On top of this, we are doing what we've done the last several years and writing mini-reviews for our top 10 albums as well. Enjoy the reading material and we'll see you in 2012!

Best Debut Full-Length:

Logan and I didn't have to think too hard about this one. A clear winner was already in our minds; Ezophagothomia's Instinct of Inhuman Devourment. Though a stylistic shift from their demo, which was predominantly fueled by funeral slams and thus a polarizing entry into slam's illustrious past, it won our hearts with its spectacular-but-not-showboating technicality, intense heavy slamming and rhythmic complexity, all underpinned by a guttural and on-par vocal assault. Bodysnatch and Abnormity both had good entries in this category as well (as you know if you follow this blog/listen to the bands in question), but neither is as successful as this bulldozing slam assault.

Best Debut Demo or EP:

Here's another no-brainer over here at S-M. Love having our work cut out for us; thanks excellent slam bands! Our choice here is The Gurchick Tree, no questions asked. Envenomation had a good debut as well, but then they broke up and they really weren't as tight or as developed as this fledgling band either. TGT are New Jersey slam continuing in the wake of destruction laid forth by bands such as Dripping and Digested Flesh; they combine dark, sometimes industrial tinged slams with a solid charging rhythm section and a wounded atmosphere. These youngins' are well on their way to achieving slam domination, and we are proud to fully support their brutal endeavors. Cheers!

Heaviest Album:

There are a few valid choices for this category. So much for these being simplistic, huh? "Heaviness" works on a few tangible levels, as well as a few less objective levels. There is heavy stuff that's heavy mainly because of the production (Pathology is a good example here; Abnormity would probably be a solid candidate for this type of gravity, as well) and there is stuff that is heavy because of how abominable and ridiculous it sounds. Putridity would be my submission for this category simply because of how well they handle the latter and take a really clean jab at the former. Since we've decided that this has to be decided as a joint effort and that there can really be no dissent, that makes this pretty difficult. I prefer Putridity, Logan prefers Pathology. I think we can agree to disagree here, though, and I will throw my chip in Pathology's corner. Surprised? While I may not be their biggest fan, the new album is clearly their best and heaviest album to date and more than makes up for what it lacks in thought-provoking lyrical content and ofttimes-silly vocals in "sheer decibels," which would be Logan's term for this band's uncanny edge over their intense competition. We take our slamming very seriously here at S-M and won't have any amount of weakness in our ranks, after all.

Catchiest/Grooviest Album:

Slight dissent on this one lead to me gaining the upper hand due to my politically-motivated decision to concede on the former category. Yes, yes I'm a two-faced douche, but this was for a good cause. Despite its flaws and goofs, Bodysnatch's debut is absolutely the grooviest AND catchiest album of this year for us. I find myself replaying Spectral Repudiation in my head constantly, I have the "suffering humans ready for the promised land" part of Shotgun Therapy stuck in my mind perpetually, and honestly even though it's long it just doesn't feel it most of the time; not enough to affect my judgment of its catchiness, anyway. This band has seriously come leaps-and-bounds from their completely underwhelming debut EP and I'm psyched they did because when this album slams, it slams hard and it slams enjoyably. A runner-up would probably be Abnormity's debut, though; as Logan points out, "Emenation of Putrid Entrails" is one of THE defining groovy slam songs of this year (and possibly ever in the realm of modern slam death; debatable).

Most Epic:

A few albums could certainly be considered epic this year. If you recall 2007 on this blog at all (and if you do, you kick ass; S-M OGs, this is for you), we named Inveracity for this award because Extermination of Millions had just dropped and we were floored by its sick, flowing riffage. This year, we're taking a different route, though. Condemned's sophomore effort has epic written all over it; this is in direct opposition to Desecrate the Vile, which, in both Logan's opinion and my own, was a major letdown given the hype and personnel involved with its inception. The new one is a different beast entirely, going through movements of flurrying, high-speed tremolo riffs, tense and subtle interplay between rhythm and riff and some striking funeral slam action. This album embodies all that is awesome about the "darker" side of slam; it's similar to Orchidectomy's one-off album in that regard, which is never a bad thing to be compared to considering that album is badass. This album renewed our faith in a band I originally wrote off, and for that alone it is easily the most epic. Runner-up for this category would have to be Decaying Purity's sophomore album, a continuation and development of the unique and catchy style on display during Phases of Dimensional Torture.

Most Drastic Change:

I feel bad "awarding" this because it's really not a positive change at all. It also slipped under a lot of people's radars, but I feel that S-M's opinion needs to be aired. Remember my review for Regurgitate Life's demo that I wrote back in '09 (demo released '08)? Well, I was pretty fucking psyched to see that he had released a new EP. So, I grab the new EP and I'm greeted by a horrendous drum machine kick roll with a second/third-rate Morbid Angel riff lazily droning over the top. Maybe it'll get better? Nope, fucking deathcore vocals over basic charging death metal. Not a good change, in my opinion; any band going from sick Defeated Sanity-meets-Suffocation to this is unworthy of this blog. It might be fine for fans of more pedestrian death metal, but it hardly satiates my intense desire for carnivorous, flesh-seeking brutality. Avoid and possibly weep at the last decent UKDM band's descent into quivering mediocrity (R.I.P. Embryonic Depravity, you are sorely missed).

Best Cover Art:

I may have snubbed these Italian psychopaths for the Heaviest Award, but I fully intended to make Logan regret leading me to the 'pathological' dark side on the Heaviest Album superlative. Putridity really knocks it out of the park with this one. Perfect logo/album title placement and layout, excellent composition which is very evocative of the sounds therein, and the design as a whole is sick. We are also both of the mind that their debut had great art adorning its cover as well, so it's only natural that they'd deserve this award. It may not be an award for "sound" but since art (yes, slam is art) is to be judged on its complete package rather than any single aspect, this cover oozes brutality and sickness and gives an accurate depiction of the whirlwind of frenzied, uncaring brutality lying dormant within.

Biggest Disappointment:

S-M hereby expresses disappointment in having had to wait until 2012 for all of the alleged releases that should break the minds and collarbones of all slam fans worldwide. Not that this year was really a slouch, but on the order for '12, we're looking at Wormed, Devourment, TWO DISGORGE ALBUMS, Vulvectomy, Abominable Putridity, Guttural Secrete, Down From The Wound and possibly Cephalotripsy, along with a host of other surprises...maybe Japan will finally do something awesome again? Maybe another third-world band will utterly wreck the competition? Who knows what's going to happen? We're psyched to return with renewed intensity and brutality for this year, though, since it promises to slam all posers back into the annals of the earth they crawled out from around the time deathcore started trying to masquerade as slam. Brutal supremacy is on the order, and we'll all stand united to witness it. Thus it is spoken, and thus it shall be known. To bring up an eternal quote from Logan re: the state of slam/this planet in the upcoming year: "2012 year of the slam...thats how the apocalypse is going to happen, so much high quality heavy slam that it causes earthquakes across the land."

TOP TEN SECTIONS! Here are our top ten lists for 2011, including mini-reviews for each album listed.


1. Ezophagothomia - Instinct Of Inhuman Devourment
First of all, as I've mentioned to Logan multiple times, any album that comes along which can make me write post-apocalyptic zombie fiction in the form of a review is worthy of a ton of praise. This album has practically everything necessary to be an amazing slam album, from a great (and varied) rhythm section to huge, epic slams, solid vocals and a heavy dose of obliterating, desolate atmosphere. We all thought their debut demo made waves with its almost entirely funeral slam based style, but their debut, although a step in a very different direction, made a slam tsunami by comparison and we couldn't be more excited to follow this awesome band.

2. Bodysnatch - Insights of a Rotten Theatre
This came out of literally nowhere for me and kicked my ass on many, many levels. Whether it be due to the insane vocal highlights, gut-punching thug-slams or quirky, amusing solos/fun sections. This is definitely the most listenable, grooviest slam album of the year and deserves a spot near the top for these reasons. Bands rarely make incredible jumps in quality and formal style from their debut EPs to their first proper "albums", but somehow, this random band who I paid no attention to before released a slam album twice as long and twice as great as most others in its style. Bravo, gents.

3. Condemned - Realms of the Ungodly
Exuding a dark, hateful and evil atmosphere is just the first step towards the top rung of the ladder for this CA-based slam band featuring Cephalotripsy members. If you recall, I really had nothing good to say about this band's debut; I found it very overhyped with very little interesting substance and songs that seemed like flash-in-the-pan style pieces with no continuity. This is an entirely different piece of amazing work. The feel present on this album is like a blurrier Orchidectomy, which is a great thing considering that band's excellent (and only) album. The flow of this work is unparalleled and it just generally feels like they've grown much stronger as a band over time.

4. Putridity - Degenerating Anthropophagical Euphoria
There is not really much to say about this album; it's a feral, whirlwind tour-de-force of extreme brutal death metal with absolutely zero concessions, no emotional investment and a completely psychotic take on a stale sound. By sounding like a band that both doesn't give a fuck and simultaneously puts a surprising and refreshing amount of nuance into their chaotic brand of blast-slam guttural spew, Putridity wrecks all kinds of shit with their sophomore entry. This is necessary brutality.

5. Pathology - Awaken to the Suffering
There is a logical and fine thread guiding the band to this point if you listen to all of their albums leading to this, their most masterful work of breakdown-laden Calislam to date. Big, dumb breakdowns are sandwiched within excellently crafted riffs and some surprises (fucking djent breakdown mid-album thing, what?), and Huber's vocals are both impressive and overbearing, sometimes both at once. Despite its minor flaws, such as the glossy coat of production that practically threatens to consume any emotion present, this is a finely crafted, artisanal piece of slam death that puts it at odds with equally big, shiny bands from across the pond and beyond; a good sign that slam is alive and well.

6. The Gurchick Tree - Sadistic Reflections of Blood EP
The only EP on my top ten, these dudes know what slam is, how it is written and the ins-and-outs of all of its tropes. Starting with this foundation, they deconstruct, subvert and capitalize on all of the cliche things in the genre, devising a style which is at once both easily recognizable and undeniably their own. It has a surprising sense of urgency to it, combining the best elements of Devourment, Digested Flesh and Saprogenic, and even though it has a mid-album acoustic intro, it's anything but relaxing; creepy, entirely off-kilter and fascinating evil just oozes from this band's debut. I am extremely interested in how they develop this sound. Easily one of the best new bands, and a reminder that the East Coast can slam just as well as the West.

7. Decaying Purity - The Existence of Infinite Agony
Recognized years ago in this review for their own epic brand of brutality, Decaying Purity are a stalwart Turkish band who know how to craft urgent, fast-paced and undeniably special songs from a combination of intense riffage and methodical tempo shifts. Though rarely slamming, their Deeds of Flesh-esque songwriting and intense riffcraft catapult them into any worthwhile top ten list. The production is a bit weaker than the debut, in my opinion, sacrificing heaviness for clarity, but it doesn't have many faults when looked at holistically.

8. Syphilic - A Composition of Murder
An impressive effort by a solo artist who has never managed to impress me (despite good attempts at doing just that), this album shows this Michiganer going conceptual and mature on the slam realm and almost entirely eschewing slam in the process. Regardless, however, it's well-written stuff that threads between absurd blasturbation, technical marvel and surprisingly poignant melody while only rarely missing a beat. All of this is wrapped in a very clean production with crisp dynamics and a penchant for being unruly and brutal.

9. Prophecy - Don't Fuckin' Mess With Texas
I've always thought of this TX band as kind of a joke, but this album laid all of my previous mental musings to waste, assaulting the devout slammer with thick, beatdown riffage and surprisingly dynamic songs. The production is blunt, visceral and thick but the music is somehow more thoughtful and fine-tuned than most people would imagine could come from a band whose first song angrily threatens "don't fuckin' mess with Texas/don't fuckin' mess with us". Despite the cheesiness (or maybe sometimes because of it?) this is a really badass album chock full of listenability, excellent musicianship and good ol' charm. Plus, they just seem really fucking into it, and that's always cool to hear.

10. Abnormity - Irreversible Disintegration
This has fallen through my charts fairly steadily as its veneer of squeaky-cleanliness left it a bit short of what it could've been had they went with a bit more heart to the playing, but it's still a worthy Russian BDM album with one of the most exemplary songs in modern slam. Heartily-played, tightly-wound and brutal as all fuck, Abnormity certainly won't win any awards for connecting to its audience but it does more than most albums this year did to fulfill that raging primal force inside all fans of this music.


1. Ezophagothomia - Instinct Of Inhuman Devourment
Do you hear that unholy noise? It's the sound of the slampocalypse, and Ezophagothomia are the harbingers. Everything about this album is apocalyptic, the slams are immense, the drumming is absolutely incredible (although they could've used a less triggered sound), the vocals are pretty damn good, and above all, it actually sounds, dare I say, dangerous. It may not be the catchiest album of 2011, heaviest, or even the most brutal, but an atmosphere like this is just incredible in its own right. Instinct Of Inhuman Devourment is a bonafide slam masterpiece.

2. Cephalotripsy - 2011 Promo
Whoa shit, a three track promo on a top 10 list!? And ranked number 2 to boot? How does a three track promo get listed above Putridity or Condemned? It's simple really, Cephalotripsy came back and improved on every aspect of their craft. Angel Ochoa's vocals are more varied, and thought out, the slams are mammoth-like, and Forest's drumming has been taken to the next level. He's become a mini-Lille, and I love it. Hell, if they released this along with 5 other songs, I would've placed this in Ezo's stead, but the way it is, the highest I can put it is #2.

3. Putridity - Degenerating Anthropophagical Euphoria

Seriously, what the fuck. Putridity signs to Willowtip of all labels, then comes out with a great fucking album that's so far away from typical Willowtip fare. Nothing is safe on this album. Sitting through the entire thing is like getting curbstomped by Jon Jones. This has to be one of the most brutal albums in the last few years, if not the most brutal, but therein lies the problem. One can only handle so many beatings, and this album is no different. It does get tiring after a while. Still, for what it is, it's quite amazing, especially considering its one track mind. Enmity take note, this is how you make this style sound good.

4. Condemned - Realms Of The Ungodly

Condemned's debut album, Desecrate The Vile, was incredibly disappointing. Nothing really worked in that album, the riffs were regurgitated cali-slam-isms, the vocals were monotonous, and the production ruined absolutely ANY chance of it being good. I had placed them on my shit list, but good lord, did they ever rectify their faults. Realms Of The Ungodly is a HUGE improvement, and even that is an understatement. Everything has been overhauled, the guitarwork is blistering, Angel created some great vocal patterns, and like I said before, Forest is Lille junior. Couple that in with a dark atmosphere, and an kick-ass booklet (seriously, artistic renditions of single tracks? Awesome!), and you have a potential classic. The only gripe I can see is with the drum production, it does get a bit typewriterish at times, but thats not enough to take away my enjoyment.

5. Syphilic - A Composition Of Murder

This is where my list starts to get hazy, as all of the albums are of similar quality. A Composition Of Murder is a single track album, an attempt at a Brutal Death Metal epic, and it actually works. Everything about it just sounds so damn professional. The production is incredible (although too loud at times), and the instrumentation is just stupendous. Even the drum programming seems incredibly technical and nuanced.. The only real downside to this album was that it seemed to lose its way halfway through, and the overall lack of noticeable slams. Other then that, it's a huge improvement over Behind Bars, and is quite ambitious. I hope more artists try this out.

6. Pathology - Awakening The Suffering

First off, if you think this is deathcore, go fuck yourself. This is what happens with Calislam and the Russian scene mingle. No album this year is as heavy. The slams are earth-shattering. Interspersed in between the many slams are your typical Cali-gorge styled riffage, mixed in with Cannibal Corpse-styled melodic riffs. It works out pretty well. The production is hefty and pristine, just like you'd expect out of Victory Records. I do have to point out though that I have to disagree with Andy on Mr Huber's vocal performance. I think it's great, and incredibly varied. Pathology really should take some extra time though before releasing another album so that they can keep the quality up all around, as Awakening The Suffering does have a few tracks that just fall flat.

7. Bodysnatch - Insights Of A Rotten Theatre

This album is just plain dumb. The production is decent, except for the constant sliding noise, the album booklet is sparse and half assed, the riffage is repetitive, and the songs do get way too long for their own good. I'm sure you're asking yourselves "But Logan, how does this get so high on your list?". Oh, the riffs may be repetitive, but it's great bouncy fun, like a dumbed down Soils Of Fate, and Bodysnatch has the best vocal performance of ANY band in the slam scene since Angel on Cephalotripsy. The vocals are so incredibly varied, well placed, and just plain hilarious. This album can be alikened to Beavis and Butthead. It's dumb as fuck, but it mesmerizes you.

8. The Gurchick Tree - Sadistic Reflections Of Blood EP

I had absolutely no expectations for this EP coming into it. It came out of nowhere, dropped on a forum I frequent, and the reviews for it seemed to be mixed. I am glad I gave it a listen though. Although I do believe the production can use a little more heft, and that the instrumental intro and interlude should just be scrapped, the songs on this EP are just great. From the Cali-ish blasts of Severed Head Sodomy to the industrial tinged slams in Inject the Morphine, The Gurchick Tree proves themselves an incredibly capable band. I just hope that they can flesh out their ideas more, and write longer, more mature songs (Short Bus Pile Up, I'm looking at you too! <3).

9. Abdicate - Transcend Through Sacrifice

I'm going to get in shit for putting this above Abnormity, but here goes. I really didn't like Abdicate's debut full length, Forged In Ruin, so I had low expectations for this. I'm happy to say that Transcend Through Sacrifice fixed a lot of their faults. The production is hefty as all hell. The vocal performance is nothing to write home about, but is decent, the guitarwork is pretty workmanlike, but well crafted. The drumming on the other hand is pretty damn impressive, and reminds me heavily of Derek Roddy for some odd reason. The only real gripe I had with this album was the lack of a stand out moment, but really, when you have an album full of good moments, I can overlook the lack of any Field Of The Impaled level moments.

10. Decaying Purity - The Existence Of Infinite Agony

I am so damn disappointed to put this at #10, truly I am. I loved their debut, and I do believe that Decaying Purity is Turkey's greatest export, but I was disappointed by the follow up. Although the production is improved from their debut, the riffing and drumming lack the intensity that Phases had. During my first listen I had to stop about halfway through just due to being bored, but I sat down a few months after its release to give it a fair shake, and something happened. That something being the track The River Of Entrails. That track alone catapulted this album up from the rest of the middle of the road slam out there, and into the upper echelon. Inveracity eat your heart out, this is how you do an epic slam song. The build up half way through is just genius, segways into what is possibly my favourite riff ever, and then it ends. I just really wish they had more moments like that.