It’s the end of the year and the end of a decade that was driven by change. A lot changed for me, personally, over the last ten years and I can only hope that it led to my becoming a better person. But that is subjective, as is choosing a list of records that I super enjoyed over the last ten months. There was a lot of music released in 2019 and a lot of music I just didn’t hear. There was a lot of music I did hear and never wanted to listen to again. There was music I couldn’t get enough of and listened to constantly. I listened to a handful of non-metal records that I really loved – these records can be seen on a list that will soon be published on Scene Point Blank. I also wrote a list for Metal Hammer but due to deadlines this was required to be finalised at the beginning of October and so my “final” list of albums I really liked has changed a little since then.
For those two lists I had to rank my choices and here I will rank only my top three – these are the records that really made a huge impact on me this year. The remaining records are all excellent, too, of course. If there’s a review of the album then you can find it by clicking on the band name and if you navigate to the record label then you’ll find the bandcamp page for the album (where available) in order to show your own support to these artists.
If you read anything that I wrote this year, then thank you. I hope to continue in 2020.
The second part of my Roadburn Festival coverage can be found below (the first part is here). Please forgive the lapses into first person narrative – it’s not something that I do very often at all but Roadburn has been a deeply personal experience each time I’ve attended and I feel that I couldn’t have taken a step back from it while writing something about it.
2018’s edition was a strange time for me; I’d moved country a few months prior and still had many unsettled feelings and that I didn’t really belong anywhere yet. The music I saw that year hit hard and seeing Bell Witch, Worship and Mizmor in one long day really took me to places I had tried not to think about. This year I feel more at home in my new country and the experience of the festival was reflected in that. I felt grief for the person I once was but also hope for what is to come. There is so much relief to be found this year, and this culminated in the Have A Nice Life performance on the main stage on Sunday – I can finally let go of my fears and embrace the future.
Beginning a review is always the most difficult part of the writing process. There are many thoughts and feelings that you want to express and so many experiences that you want to put across in the right way and your train of thought moves fluidly from one thing to the next…. but getting that down in a coherent and interesting way is something that often falls short. For a weekend spent at Roadburn Festival that process becomes ten times more difficult as experiences are not exactly in short supply and each person has their own unique take on what the city of Tilburg has given them for the four day festival run. No two people will likely have exactly the same experience of Roadburn and it’s often said by the festival team and those who have attended many times “Roadburn is what you make of it, it’s personal, it’s yours.” And that is such a true statement. This is my third Roadburn and while it’s not a festival I can claim to have been to as many times as another person…it often feels like some bands are being booked directly out of my dreams and for the thousands of other attendees this is most probably true for them. Somehow Walter gets into your mind and pulls out your musical desires and the festival becomes as much a part of you as it is for the organisers.
Cavernlight – As We Cup Our Hands and Drink From the Stream of Our Ache
Cavernlight’s debut is a record wrought with absolute despair and in the five passages that make up this work, there is no hope to be found. The members are clear in their utter desperation and in As We Cup Our Hands and Drink From the Stream of Our Ache there is almost a willingness to revel in that sadness, to let it be all-consuming and to allow it to take over. Some doom holds a little light but for this Oshkosh band there is nothing at the end of the tunnel. For a debut, As We Cup Our Hands… is extremely assured; the themes run beautifully throughout and the differing elements are brought together succinctly to create a palette of darkness. Doom is the key but noise, ambient and abstract tones filter through the shadows to build an aura of claustrophobia that is unrelenting in its scope.
Former Worlds use differing palettes of sound to create a landscape that is ravaged by the harshness of life. Soft, spinning drones echo in the quieter moments while filth-laden sludge bears the brunt of their rage in the opposing loud passages, all within one epic, seventeen minute track. Their first release, Photos of Eve IX – XVI, showcases the quartet’s ability to turn things on a head with barely any notice, yet it’s tight and cohesive and the inclusion of Erin Severson’s voice gives them a little leverage over other bands of this ilk.
Starting life under a different moniker, Stephen Trepak’s Annexia is the sound of movement, closure and despair. Trepak’s (also of Human Future) foray into doomed electronica takes steps towards black metal, sludge and post-metal all while encompassing an atmosphere that speaks of change and acceptance. Leaving behind the past is a huge upheaval, but on Egress, Annexia try to come to terms with the fact that that past cannot be changed and instead we must embrace it and move forwards. “An Introduction, Of Sorts,” welcomes the future on soft flowing and intricate horns that gently push for space between the rhythm and call to mind Ulver, in their latter incarnation – an inflection that is carried throughout the record and lends it an epic and melancholy cohesion.