To tide us over while we indulge in the holiday spirit gorging on stuffing and egg nog, we asked a bunch of our contributors to tell us their thoughts on 2008, as well as their favourite records that helped make it a memorable year. Christopher Gramlich reflected on how the heavy music scene ignored industry woes and just kept on truckin', as usual:
The year that was... It's funny, amongst the "death" of the music business, kids illegally downloading everything not nailed down and major label hubris finally catching up with "the industry," just as much great music was released as ever before - if you knew where to look. Maybe it's because chaos usually breeds creativity, or perhaps because the aggressive music underground has pretty much always just ploughed ahead beneath the waves despite what happens above. Regardless, in a year that saw perennial chart toppers such as Slayer (because, well, people just won't get over high school), Converge, the Dillinger Escape Plan and others sit it out, the void was unquestionably filled by lesser known artists just plugging away, making records regardless of trends, economic downturns or anything else because there's something wrong (right?) with them that won't let them not make music.
1. Cursed III: Architects of Troubled Sleep (Goodfellow)
Cursed not only released their greatest accomplishment but unquestionably the best "aggressive" album of the year, expanding upon their already relentless sound and establishing the blue-print far too many bands seem intent on imitating as of late - old Entombed guitar sound plus d-beat - minus the passion and talent. The fact that they imploded on the road in Europe only seemed fitting, considering their penchant for living up to their moniker.
2. Hope and Suicide Hope and Suicide (Supernova)
It may have been a long-time coming for Hope and Suicide but they finally managed to release an amazing full-length and define a natural sound for the band that flowed organically, instead of mixing and matching sections. Led by former Bloodlet screamer Scott Angelacos, this album is worth it alone for the Quicksand-nodding "Whiskey Tango."
3. Trap Them Seizures in Barren Praise (Deathwish Inc.)
The American answer to Cursed? If you're lazy. But after cutting his teeth in the sadly underrated Backstabbers Incorporated, singer Ryan McKenney and guitarist Brian Izzi put together an unstoppable killing machine that may have reached maximum kill-bot potential with Seizures. Adding hooks to their arsenal, a sound that was unquestionably "brutal" now has another weapon, and the brilliant artwork and intricate lyrical depth didn't hurt either.
4. Akimbo Jersey Shores (Neurot)
These party animals turned history scholars with Jersey Shores, a concept record about the infamous Jersey shark attacks of 1916, which, among other things, inspired a little indie film called Jaws. More atmospheric and ominous than previous records, Jersey Shores let you float along, comfortably immersed in the sonic waves before striking without warning. While beer-chuggers may have been bummed, it's easily their best, most ambitious work to date.
5. Genghis Tron Board Up The House (Relapse)
Long evolved from the "metal part crammed next to the weird part" writing of their beginnings, Board Up The House is Genghis Tron continually pushing their keyboard-heavy chaos forward, doing whatever Genghis Tron want to do, which at times even they have no clue of. Time on the road with the likes of Converge, the Dillinger Escape Plan and others unquestionably paid off, allowing the Tron to grab the number one spot on numerous year-end lists with Board Up The House.
6. Lords Fuck All Y'All Motherfuckers (Blackmarket Activities/Metal Blade)
Whether beating up promoters, former bassists or simply assaulting the ears of anyone caught in the crossfire, Lords don't fuck around, continually taking on all comers. "Louder, harder, faster" may be just another tired cliché but for Lords and Fuck All Y'All Motherfuckers, it was scripture. "Black Flag meets Slayer meets Melvins" is thrown around to describe Lords but motherfuckers probably works better.
7. Arson Anthem Arson Anthem (Housecore)
Did anyone see this coming? Phil Anselmo, Mike Williams and Hank III together playing old school hardcore? Well, while it may not sound too much like "old school" hardcore (it's frankly, too good), it does sound like uncut hostility and unbridled aggression, uniting some of the underground's most influential musicians for an incredibly raw album that actually features a "super group" while ignoring and surpassing the expectations the term conjures. Unquestionably what Phil should be doing full-time.
8. Outlaw Order Dragging Down the Enforcer (Season of Mist)
It's easy to throw around the "Eyehategod without Jimmy" descriptions and truthfully, slow sludge riffs with Mike Williams' unmistakable misanthropic lyrical abuse will always recall the sludge greats. But Outlaw Order feature a slightly more metallic and streamlined attack, recalling Soilent Green's slower doom instead of EHG's, as well as featuring the strengths of both acts. Regardless, Outlaw Order are just as destructive as EHG, even without Jimmy.
9. Fuck The Facts Disgorge Mexico (Relapse)
It's nice to support Canadians, but when said Canadians make an amazing album and don't break-up (hey, Cursed!), well, that's even better. Hard work and road wars can pay off, even after they almost kill you, and grind unit Fuck The Facts wrote an album that not only featured some of their heaviest musical destruction they ever put down but also some of the catchiest. Still flying under the radar, Fuck The Facts shouldn't be slept on any longer.
10. The Melvins Nude With Boots (Ipecac)
More seamlessly incorporating their expanded, Big Business rhythm section, Nude With Boots is less, um, "challenging" overall than some of the records the Melvins have released, and unquestionably more rock-oriented. But it once again unapologetically features the Melvins (along with BB) doing whatever they want. And, of course, doing it better than anyone else. And what more can you ask of a band, especially after 100,000 releases?