5 albums of 2012 you should listen to
#5: Celldweller – Wish Upon a Blackstar
|Album cover brought to you by the Rorsach Tests department of Hell.|
Celldweller. Does this name ring a bell? The project of producer and self-loathing vocalist Klayton has been around since 2003. His music has been used in the trailers for pretty much every post-2003 action shlock-fest, including Doom. This guy has made a living by licensing his tracks for media usage. For years, he has been making an album called Wish Upon a Blackstar, and every year he would release two finished songs from the album. When the album finally dropped this year, we had already heard half of it.
|Proceeds from the album will go to Klayton’s hair extensions fund for aspiring artists.|
So, after spoiling so much about the upcoming album, is the whole thing worth a listen? Well, here's the thing: I had listened to the “self-leaks” repeatedly, but after listening to the whole thing at once, it felt like a brand new experience. Klayton is a brilliant producer, blending styles of electronic, rock and metal music into a glossy sci-fi package. His lyrics may annoy some, though, which is why he always releases instrumental editions of his albums.
|The source of Klayton's lyrical prowess.|
Overall, Wish Upon a Blackstar is a fun, campy experience. Perhaps it's too long at 73 minutes, but the final track, Against the Tide (I'm not counting the pointless ambient outro) is definitely rewarding. I thought it would go into uber-cheese fest territory, but it proved Klayton still gives a shit about some good rock tunes after all the trance and dubstep influences. Make sure to listen to the Deluxe Edition, which has a different track order and little segues that form a more coherent listen. The standard edition has exactly the same tracks in a different order and lacking the ambient stuff, which is ridiculous. But, then again, Celldweller was never a musical project to be taken seriously (see: the lyrics of “The Lucky One”).
#4: Meshuggah – Koloss
After the success of Swedish avant-metal band Meshuggah, a new genre (sort of) has emerged: “Djent”. I know its name sounds like an ethnic percussion instrument, but it's actually an onomatopoetic word describing a subcategory of heavy metal containing Rubik's Cube-like drum polyrhythms and heavily distorted, palm-muted guitars that sound like the Terminator being gang-raped by whales.
|His eyes are windows into a great white Hell|
Ever since Meshuggah invented this sound, there have been dozens of bands calling themselves “djent metal” that have been evolving from “guy in his bedroom” to “guy in some internet forum” to a complete band. Of course, this matter has been a subject of controversy, especially from metal know-it-alls like Lamb of God's Randall Blythe. “There is no such thing as 'djent,'”, he says furiously. “It's not a genre.” If you've read about his recent incarceration and release due to being falsely accused of killing a fan in a live show, you know this guy is not to be messed with.
|When he says “there is no such thing as djent”, YOU LISTEN.|
Meshuggah had not been so happy with how this whole situation turned out. Modern metal is chock-full of Meshuggah-wannabes. So, in order to shut them all up, they released this new album called Koloss.
|Only Greek readers will get this.|
What does Koloss sound like? Well, it's aggressive, but there's a certain charm to this album that sets it apart from both their previous releases and all those imitators: it has a stronger focus in songwriting. These tracks feel like actual songs, rather than variations of the same track. There's lots of fast head-bangers and slow, sludgy burns that help their eight-string guitar madness develop in more ways than you can imagine. Koloss is Swedish Terminator-rape metal at its finest.
|Crafted by the Chef's finest recipes.|
#3: El-P – Cancer 4 Cure
First off, I hate saying his name out loud to people not familiar with him. “El-Pee”. “LP”. It either makes for some unfortunate wee jokes or brings to mind that band whose name has the initials LP. Yeah, that one.
“We're so forward-thinking, my shirt matches the wall.”
Okay, back to El-P. This Brooklyn-born rapper and producer has been making barrier-breaking hip-hop music since his membership in the now split up group Company Flow. He has been working solo following CF's demise, constructing dense, complicated albums with extremely wordy verses and beats that sound like a post-apocalyptic robot invasion dance party.
|...that's NOT produced by Disney, that is.|
El-P released his third solo album this year, Cancer 4 Cure. It's a real beast. El-P may not be as chatty as he used to be, instead opting for more concise verses (they're still hard to figure out, anyway). The real star of this album is, again, its production. While I'm missing the deliciously weird chill-out beats that graced his previous two LPs (oh, God DAMN IT), Cure boasts some seriously aggressive stuff.
You can hear a Dirty South influence (more on that later), which suits its bombastic, take-no-prisoners style perfectly. There are also lots of guest rappers, including Despot, Danny Brown, Mr. Muthafuckin' eXquire (best rapper name ever) and Killer Mike (more on him also later). El-P is more brutal than ever, this time refusing to rap about failed relationships and just pound his views on today's society until you're sore and bleeding.
|“I didn't take this test for nothing, you know.”|
#2: Killer Mike – R.A.P. Music
Okay, who the hell is the guy on the cover? It sure ain't Killer Mike.
|“Eh, just draw a random guy, don't feel like posin' for you today.”|
Anyway, R.A.P. Music is the other release El-P produced this year, this time for his new partner-in-rhyme, Dirty South rapper Killer Mike. Their newfound friendship brought a rap album unlike anything you've heard before. El-P's synth-heavy production and Mike's powerful vocals blend so well together, it's no surprise it's one of the most critically-acclaimed hip hop albums of the year. Killer Mike showcases his versatility in lyrical subject matter, covering a wide spectrum of topics including politics, religion, personal experiences, fictional characters and police brutality, as well as his incredible rapping abilities. His vocabulary, dynamics and speed need to be heard to be believed.
|Above: The writing process for R.A.P. Music.|
Without a doubt, R.A.P. Music is a tremendously entertaining, highly emotional and thought-provoking listen. Check it out even if hip hop isn't your thing. You will find something to like.
#1: Deftones – Koi No Yokan
Koi No... what?
Apparently, it's a Japanese phrase that means “premonition for love at first sight” or something like that. When I told a friend of mine who's a Deftones fan about it, he said, “uh-oh. Sounds like they're gonna pussy out this year.”
Boy, was he wrong.
|“YOU WILL CARE ABOUT 'PREMONITION OF LOVE', MOTHERFUCKERS.”|
The second album recorded without bassist Chi Cheng, who's still recovering from a coma following a car crash, Koi No Yokan features Deftones at their most agg... wait, I've used the word “aggressive” too much in this article. Let's pick something else. How about, uh... “take-no-prisoners”? Nah, done that too. Well, fuck. This album is so amazing, it won't let me describe it. It's a huge, multi-faceted attack on the senses. Whether it's a beat-you-to-the-ground scream anthem or a slow, melodic soothe-fest, Koi No Yokan knows how to hit you hard. It also has the privilege of being able to make both hard-drinking metalheads and Tumblr fangirls gush all over their pant-- I mean blogs.
|Now you know how to get more chicks.|
So, that's all for now. I hope you'll enjoy these albums as much as I did. Stay safe, and, for Pete's sake, stay away from Randy Blythe.
Fotis Kyriazidis is an amateur in everything, including breathing. He has an art page (http://wizfrikiman.deviantart.com) filled with dinky digital doodles and a music page (http://soundcloud.com/wizfrikiman) with bleeps and bloops of many kinds. He loves big words with no meaning.
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