2009 in Music

author PP date 04/02/10

Music fans and casual readers, ladies and gentlemen, I, the Editor-In-Chief for Rockfreaks.net, present you a comprehensive guide to 2009, the most detailed all-around guide to everything important that happened in the rock and metal music scenes in the past year. How many other sites are able to walk you through more or less every single genre relevant to rock music, starting from indie rock and pop punk and ending in hardcore and extreme metal, and do so with a tongue-in-cheek attitude (as often as we can) and in a manner that's pretty damn close to as user-friendly as it gets? That's right, nobody else. Before you ask, you are correct that's a shameless copy/paste from last year's article, but it's a perfect way of describing what's inside this article. From the great to the good to the terrible, consider what lies beneath as your music bible to 2009. We may have missed some releases, it's true, but with 974 album reviews (2.66 a day!), we're operating at the very outer limits of our capabilities as individuals who like to at least pretend to have a life outside of Rockfreaks.net. Especially when you add in the 86 live reviews, 20 feature articles, 23 interviews, and a whopping 1865 news articles, totaling to 2948 articles posted in 2009. Anyone care to lend a hand to us poor folks? If so, check out our about page for more information.

Anyway, following the format of last year's article, we've once again divided the music genres into broad "genre umbrellas", each of which holds a million different subgenres, but even so we've had trouble deciding what goes where - demonstrating just how blurred the genre lines are today. But scroll to the mainstream section for all the big radio rock bands, as well as those who aren't known yet but produce a typically 'mainstream' sound, alternative section for everything indie/pop punk/soft rock/experimental etc, punk and hardcore for everything punk and hardcore, scene music for the bands that wear girl jeans and generally look rather ridiculous for young adults (emo/post-hardcore/neon etc), metal for everything metal (metalcore included), and underground metal for all the reviews EW has contributed with in the past year (:D). It's a lot to read, but I guarantee that it's all quality, and this is literally everything you need to know about music in the year gone by. Enjoy the read, and leave us some feedback in the comments, as we've spent a combined 150+hours of manpower in writing, editing and formatting this article - one of the reasons we're posting this article a month from it's intended date. It's nice to know at least a few people read (some of) it. PP

Table Of Contents

1. Staff TOP5s of 2009

2. Mainstream Rock

3. Alternative Rock

4. Scene Music

5. Punk And Hardcore

6. Mainstream Metal

7. Underground & Extreme Metal

8. Final Words

Petteri Pertola (PP)

1. Bomb The Music Industry! - Scrambles

Despite initially not grading it as highly as I should've, the longer time that passes between my review of "Scrambles" and the present, the more I'm convinced it's one of the best punk albums released in the past decade (easily in the top20 anyway). It's chaotic and explosive in places, calm and acoustic elsewhere. It can wander off into hardcore punk on one track, and put on a ska-hat the next song. It has hilarious gypsy-punk sections, contrasted by serious social criticism in the lyrics only moments after. Trumpets, keyboards, clean vocals, raspy punk vocals, bouncy riffs, lightning speed passages, and a fuzzy, warm production welcome the listener into one of the most eccentric sounds that pretty much re-defines the term "vibrant". If you're looking for huge variation, but at the same time all the sing along and melodic elements in your punk rock, then Bomb The Music Industry! is for you.

2. Tigers Jaw - Spirit Desire 7"

All it takes is one focused listen to the title track of "Spirit Desire" to notice the incredible flood of emotion Adam McIlwee's vocals contain. They're back-chillingly emotional at times, but yet a far cry from the emo of today, referencing the old original emo days while making it sound oh-so-relevant in 2009. They've got an indie tinged sound revered for its brilliant use of layered guitars and intricate drum fills, but the key focal point of their sound is absolutely McIlwee. It's rare to hear a vocalist so able to convey emotion in a way that makes you want to laugh, cry, and love together with him. This is a band that'll be HUGE in a couple of years time, get to know them early, or you'll regret it later.

3. Portugal. The Man - The Satanic Satanist

Absolutely mind-blowing experimental indie rock, their best full length to date.

4. Mae - (m)orning EP

Mae reinvent themselves and release their best material yet on the best EP of 2009.

5. With The Punches - Keep It Going EP

The Wonder Years are your favorite band? Enter young five-piece With The Punches.

Tim Larsen (TL)

1. Say Anything - Say Anything

Ever since getting acquainted with Max Bemis and Say Anything back on "... Is A Real Boy" I recognized that here was a band that was going to be something special. Yet in no way did I anticipate that they'd make an album like this one. Consistently catchier than most pop albums, yet completely careless about delivering 'hits', oh, and it has the best lyrics I can remember hearing since... ever? I told you before and I'll tell you again, in ten years time, Max Bemis deserves to be remembered with similar reverence as Morrissey, because this album is certain to affect people for years to come.

2. 30 Seconds To Mars - This Is War

Megalomania. The first word that would inevitably come to mind when one was asked about Jared Leto and 30 Seconds To Mars before "This Is War". That's why it's a freak of nature that 30STM actually DID live up to expectations, making a record that was bigger and more audacious than pretty much everything out there, and did so without faltering even for a single song? Epic production, immaculate vocals, vast choral sections and choruses that lift the listener just a little bit closer to the sky every time you hear them. In a world where every punk rocker and his mother is concerned with keeping it real and staying grounded, it's flat out deliberating to hear a band that have the madness it takes to not only break the shackles of the artistic conformity, but to also do it with success and passion.

3. Mew - No More Stories...

Haunting music of otherworldly beauty and outrageous experimentation. Mew at their best = Do not miss!

4. Dance Gavin Dance - Happiness

Funky rhythms, dazzling vocals and an album that sounds like one long guitar solo? Yes please!

5. Closure In Moscow - First Temple

Best debut LP of 2009. Enough said.

Aleksi Pertola (AP)

1. Mastodon - Crack The Skye

“Crack the Skye” takes the title as my album number one this year. It follows no conventions other than those formed in the minds of the four masterminds behind it. Shit, Brann Dailor’s drumming alone is enough to warrant this album all the praise in the world, as his contribution is practically a 45-minute drum solo that plays like three-part harmonies on guitar. Strip the disc of its guitars and bass, and there would still be enough jaw-dropping instrumentation to complement the vocals, which, by the way, are used to similar effect themselves. There is infinity of things going on here which demand the listener’s undivided attention, lest we miss some stroke of genius embedded in every song. “Crack the Skye” is one of the most refined, poetic, elegant metal albums ever released.

2. The Psyke Project - Dead Storm

“Dead Storm” turns convention upside down with a droning, merciless assault on the senses, which builds on concepts derived from Scandinavian nature. The album sways between moments of total calm and discharges of relentless intensity, creating an unparalleled feeling of discomfort by gradually exposing more and more detail while never quite releasing its hypnotic tempo. This is minimalism at its best – an absolutely staggering piece of music.

3. Converge - Axe To Fall

Converge take collaborative effort to the next level – without a doubt the most devastating record released in 2009.

4. Thrice - Beggars

Simply one of the most powerful and emotional rock albums that has ever crossed my speakers.

5. Dredg - The Pariah, The Parrot, The Delusion

Contemplative, tender and fulfilling pop music for those of a prog-rock disposition.

Ellis Woolley (EW)

1. RAM - Lightbringer

It seems the world of metal these days is so untrusting of new styles and fads that every genre has witnessed a revival of sorts, with countless acts doing it 'retro' and favouring at least the styles of old, if not the methods. However sadly few of these acts have done anything truly great and worth remembering, with the plain ol' heavy metal field being one of the biggest culprits, a fact which all the more makes RAM's second album, "Lightbringer" the startling success it is. Built on the learned principles of legends like Judas Priest, Accept and Mercyful Fate, RAM play heavy metal with balls, an epic grandeur and an air of originality that is far beyond most of their contemporaries. An iron fist to the many worshiping the generic mediocrity of most modern heavy metal, "Lightbringer" possesses a stature and legacy that with some solid touring and promotional backing could hopefully shake up the scene for years to come.

2. Solstafir - Köld

Sometimes the best music comes from the most unusual circumstances, as this Icelandic psychedelic rock/metal album testifies. Initial worries I had about "Köld" were shown unfounded through the sheer exuberance displayed by the whole band, opening with an 8-minute instrumental in an act of sheer bloody-mindedness that typifies Sólstafir's desire to play by their own rules. Despite the fact "Love is the Devil (And I Am in Love)" is a modern-day 70's rock classic, "Pale Rider" and the title track are mini-epics built upon a songwriting combination of beauty and vigour, and Aðalbjörn Tryggvason being a vocalist whose plaintive cries resonate dramatically with the mood of the music producing outstanding results, "Köld" is still greater than the sum of it's incalculable parts and shows what can be done when a band take a wide spectrum of influences and meld them together with invention and artistic passion. One for all fans of rock and metal.

3. Tribulation - The Horror

The mini-revival in resolutely dirty old-school DM may have been sparked by dissatisfaction with much of today's 'death metal' scene but few of these reactionary releases are as crushing and genuine as "The Horror".

4. Týr - By The Light Of The Northern Star

Týr have always had a few catchy songs on each album, surrounded by a plethora of prog-ier numbers; here the whole album is as catchy as swine flu.

5. Abandon - The Dead End

Gloomy doom metal may be easy to create in practice, but to imbue it with a passion and emotion as Abandon have on "The Dead End" can only come from tragedies of the likes they experienced during it's making.

Botong Li (BL)

1. Architects - Hollow Crown

This album pretty much took my expectations and shoved it down my throat before kicking me in the face. Progressive metalcore balanced perfectly on knife edge between chilling melody, complex dissonance and mind bending technicality. The pace of the music can be exhilarating and the massively downtuned, visceral guitars are like a sledgehammer through butter. Lyrically it's bound together like poetry and delivered with a dual attack of intense hardcore vocals and much improved and confident clean vocals. Architects have taken plenty of existing components and instead of churning out something predictable or cheap, have welded together a sound that is deeper than most of their rivals but at the same time accessible enough to draw you in. Not only that but a British band redefining an American's game, I wouldn't want it any other way.

2. A Day To Remember - Homesick

A controversial name amongst fans and critics alike. A Day To Remember have continued to show why they have made such a huge name for themselves now

internationally with a simply fantastic followup to their hardhitting sophomore "For Those Who Have Heart". "Homesick" is a more matured and more emotionally driven package with songs and themes for a wider audience to relate to. The pop punk is catchier and more worked out while the hard hitting metalcore feels more than just a couple of breakdowns. The production is beefier and thicker and the instrumentation has taken it up a notch. You will always get the haters and the people who can't access their easy-going appeal, but they've found something unique that works for them and as far as I'm concerned - There's nothing better than a whole album for me to sing along to through good, through bad.

3. Blessthefall - Witness

Superbly well rounded post-hardcore, its got the massive hooks but also delivers some meaty punch, all wrapped round a slick execution.

4. Bury Tomorrow - Portraits

One of my favourite debut albums, it's metalcore by the books sure, but the soaring clean vocals are just fantastic and the songs are so memorable.

5. The Word Alive - Empire

Technically charged metallic post-hardcore, for a debut EP there's so much reward in solid songs and production values.

Daniel Roe (DR)

1. As Cities Burn - Hell Or High Water

This was the only album nailed on in my list. I was obviously and understandably gutted to see them split, as they were superbly talented, but how they bowed out in style. Perhaps a more "conventional" album than its predecessors, but it still stands as an original in the field on indie rock. Few vocalists can rival Cody Bonnette when it comes to moving and emoting the listener, and even fewer lyricists can match his lyrics based around religion - but not how wonderful God is, but instead the problems Cody himself has to face in the midst of a faith crisis. "It’s quiet in the house of the old, you can hear through grinding teeth, clocks taking their toll. 'Cause time has a mind of its own, like our sun spinning around it won’t slow for you now." A worthy end to the legacy As Cities Burn will leave.

2. Thrice - Beggars

I'm a late inductee into the music and genius of Thrice, and the fact I didn't grow up with "The Artist In The Ambulance" is probably why I seem to be in the minority that prefers their later material, but all fans must surely admit this album really is something quite special. Dustin Kensrue has matured not only into the greatest lyricist around, but the greatest vocalist around also. Some of the best moments in their entire discography are found in "In Exile" and "The Great Exchange" that boast the band's story telling prowess, whilst "The Weight" throws out huge riffs and a chorus to match. Lovers of a certain band from Long Island, New York, will almost certainly disagree, but it is my humble opinion that Thrice are the best American band around at the moment.

3. A Backward Glance On A Travel Road - A Backward Glance On A Travel Road

The best promo I have ever received. If I ever so much as hint towards losing faith in music, I simply play this.

4. Manchester Orchestra - Mean Everything To Nothing

Raved about critically, and deservedly so. Few, if any, were expecting this album to be as huge and fucking awesome as it is.

5. Paramore - Brand New Eyes

The hype finally justified as Hayley Williams et co. fulfil the potential that the two previous albums have been building up to.

Greg Readings (GR)

1. Ensiferum - From Afar

Two years on from the mixed reception received by "Victory Songs", the Finnish masters of Viking folk metal returned in 2009 with an album that quickly made it's way to the top of my list. Not surprising given my love for the band, but the wider metal press has rightly praised this album and you'll be hard pushed to find a less than positive review. The band have progressed the core Ensiferum sound with heavy use of orchestration and more ambitious song-writing, producing an album that sounds both familiar and fresh. The strength of this album puts the band at the top of the folk metal pack and bodes well for the future of Ensiferum in what's becoming an increasingly crowded scene. PP described "From Afar" as "heart-stoppingly stunning" - a statement that's hard to argue with.

2. Absu - Absu

Absu made a return to active service back in February with this self-titled effort, after a gap of eight years. This period of inactivity may explain why this was also my introduction to the band, who had previously been just a vaguely familiar name. A good job that EW's review and subsequent lending of the CD to me came about then, as Absu turned out to be a black/thrash revelation. Chock full of vicious and catchy extreme riffing and Proscriptor McGovern's impressive drumming, "Absu" also displays a subtle underlying prog influence and has a sense of grandeur not usually found in this type of metal. Most importantly, Absu know how to write songs - ones that feature many twists and turns but stay with you long after listening, rather than being just a barrage of technically proficient yet forgettable riffs and growls. In "Amy" they have one of the best extreme metal songs of the year.

3. Heaven & Hell - The Devil You Know

Proving there's more to this reunion lark than exploiting nostalgia for a quick buck, the Dio-fronted version of the Heavy Metal Godfathers returned with monolithic riffs, grand vocals and a doom-laden atmosphere.

4. Bigelf - Cheat The Gallows

Prog rock has made something of a comeback in recent years and after almost two decades on the go, Bigelf look set to reap the rewards with this brilliantly heady mix of classic sounds.

5. White Wizzard - High Speed GTO

With the thrash revival waning it seems traditional metal has become the latest 'trend' for labels and magazines alike; this re-packaged EP signaling a promising future for good-time, NWOBHM-influenced headbanging fun.

MAINSTREAM

Like with any long written piece, be it a journalistic one or an essay you need to deliver to your school/university, it's always good to start from the top and work your way through to the details slowly but logically, making sure you don't lose the reader in the process. When it comes to an article titled "2009 In Music", the obvious starting point is therefore in mainstream rock, that is, in all those bands you see all over MTV and in the covers of various big magazines, and hear in the radios on an ongoing basis, because these are the ones that everyone will know, regardless of whether you consider yourself to be a kvlt black metallist or the most scenester emo kid on the block. Or that was the premise for our article last year anyway, but this year I've decided on a slightly different approach, now also including all those small rock / alternative rock bands that you won't necessarily all know, but who play a style of music which has potential of becoming the next, say, Foo Fighters or something. You may notice that some bands/styles included here may overlap with bands in the alternative section of this article, but that's just testament to how blurred genre borders have become as we close off this decade. Keeping that in mind, lets start off with some news coverage first.

Throughout 2009, the record industry lobby groups IFPI, RIAA and the rest of the usual suspects continued to claim death was coming to music via piracy, something which they've been proclaiming pretty much every year since Napster took off and was shut down. What they constantly fail to mention is how the total amount of music bought year-on-year is actually on the rise, if digital sales are included. What's better is that there were even studies published that suggested piracy actually benefits the industry. Of course, such claims were quickly dismissed by the record labels as complete bullshit, but then again we're used to the "big four" being incapable of understanding anything about their industry, as for example Klaxons experienced when their label told the band to scrap their album after it didn't please the label executives. But at least the consumers scored one victory, what with Rage Against The Machine discontinuing the trend of X-Factor's manufactured pop bullcrap winning the Christmas No1 hit prize every year.

When it comes to live music, the Ticketmaster/Livenation merger shocked the foundations of the industry, considering the new company now has more or less a monopoly over the UK music market, a trend which is likely to spread to other countries very quickly as well. Some good decisions were being made elsewhere, however, what with a brand new festival called Rock Shock Festival announced here in Denmark that would present up-and-coming names to thousands of people - INDOORS. Roskilde Festival also came to their senses and decided to actually lower the price of the ridiculously expensive ticket, while also announcing the closure of the Astoria stage in favour of a more rock oriented lineup this year. We approve. We don't (or at least the metalheads within us), however, approve of the Australian study that found headbanging hazardous to health. I guess we're all in agreement that we'll rather get brain damage than not headbang at concerts?

Reunions/breakups were no more of a stranger in 2009 than they were in the previous years, with Steven Tyler quitting Aerosmith, and then not quitting anyway, Hole reuniting (new album in 2010, I'm told), and Sublime getting back together after which drama ensued. Of course, lets not forget the Christian money making machine Creed, who actually released a not too bad of a record to everyone's surprise.

The biggest names in rock music all delivered surprisingly solid albums this year. U2, Muse, Pearl Jam, Rammstein, and Morrissey all proved that they're still very good at what they do with "No Line On The Horizon", "The Resistance", "Backspacer", "Liebe Ist Für Alle Da", and "Years Of Refusal" respectively. The long awaited Alice In Chains reunion album impressed us as well, which is something you couldn't say about the aging shock rocker Marilyn Manson. More than just very good were Dave Matthews Band, and particularly Green Day, whose "21st Century Breakdown" was the punk album everyone except the fans of "Boulevard Of Broken Dreams"-style ballads were hoping they'd write next. Kudos for daring to write fast songs again. Don't forget Heaven & Hell either, although the merit of those guys was heavily debated in the comments.

Green Day

Within pop rock, there were both superb releases and absolute failures. Lets start with the latter category, and you really need to look no further than the averager-than-average album by The Fray or the cash grab by Sugar Ray. At least the Jet album was decent, like the ones by newcomers Sugar Red Drive and Green River Ordinance, plus the darker-than-usual record by Vertical Horizon. Get the middle two if you like straight forward alternative rock, for sure. And if Coldplay have gone too la resistance for you, there's always Shirock, and why not also the always-to-be-trusted on pop rockers Third Eye Blind. The best efforts, however, came from 311 and 30 Seconds To Mars, although the rest of the critics disagreed with TL.

Of course, there are also those hipster indie rock bands who've made it to the mainstream for, admittedly, sometimes because of great albums, but also because of the British music press. Check out new releases from Franz Ferdinand, Placebo, Arctic Monkeys, but also some smaller acts that started turning heads this year, like We Were Promised Jetpacks, Meg & Dia, and the Swedes inMando Diao. The Sounds also put out an album, but it kinda sucked, and something similar could be said about the new album by Madina Lake, and strangely also about a album that I am apparently alone in loving, namely Cash Cash's pop explosion of a record. There's a party in my bedroom all night long, the most infectiously memorable song of 2009 anyone? At least we all agreed that the new The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus album was a huge disappointment, and that Cobra Starship still are an insult to the music industry, although with the emergence of bands like brokeNCYDE and Millionaires these guys actually sound tolerable. Please dear God, make the cancer known as "crunk core" stop in 2010.

People have been talking about the death of post-grunge since the start of the new millennium, but that bitch is damn persistent, if you're looking at releases this past year. The usual suspects Breaking Benjamin, Default, Three Days Grace, Evans Blue and Smile Empty Soul all put out new albums to varying degrees of success, while a newer acts like Sick Puppies and Takida showed that they know the genre well, too. The latter in particular has sold a ridiculous amount of records in their home country Sweden. Canada's best alternative rock band Our Lady Peace put out perhaps their first sub-par album ever, which pissed me off because their past material is soooooo good. Hoobastank, on the other hand, sound so fucking dated in 2009, which surprisingly was not the case with grungsters Karn8. At least cage9 know how to write a nu-metal influenced album. Chevelle continued to put out solid stuff together with Papa Roach, but the funny thing is that someone taking a crap in a mosh pit during one of their shows received much wider publicity than the record itself.

Wolfmother

If you're into non-screaming alternative rock, be sure not to miss out on Billy Talent and the British newcomers Twin Atlantic, who are making waves in the UK press and elsewhere. Then there's the massive rock'n'roll scene, spearheaded by acts like The Answer, who sound identical to AC/DC, and Wolfmother, whose "Cosmic Egg" divided opinions left and right. If you're wondering what the infamous Justin Hawkins of The Darkness is doing these days, the answer is Hot Leg. More tongue-in-cheek material can be found on "Laser Graffiti" by The Galvatrons. If you're into groovy stuff instead, the masters of the style CKY should carve parts of your consciousness away, while smaller acts like The Motorleague and Dogs Of Winter put the attitude back into rock'n'roll, Motörhead style. As for Brody Dalle's new band Spinnerette, it'll be forgotten before they even got started if their sophomore album isn't better. The super-duper hyped Hardcore Superstar also released a decent album, but if you want some real quality, be sure not to miss the FUCKING AWESOME new records by local rockers Wrong Side Of Vegas and Bullet Train Blast, or the chaotic drunk'n'rollers Star*Rats and their new record. I suppose, it should be mentioned that Dizzy Mizz Lizzy got back together again, when discussing Danish bands.

Wrapping up the mainstream genre we have a few releases that don't really fit anywhere else so that it all makes sense. One of those is the absolutely monumentally brilliant prog masterpiece by The Moonstone Project, which should bring bands like Pink Floyd and Deep Purple into mind. Five Finger Death Punch are way too big to be in the metal section, considering how many albums they have sold. Even though they are predictable, their album is kinda fun, and their live show even more so. Kind of like Dead By April, I imagine? Finally, if you absolutely do wish to live back in the 80s, check out the new Europe album, but once again, no "The Final Countdown" beating song here either. Right, on we go, TL will take you through alternative rock next. PP

ALTERNATIVE

If you're the kind of person that realizes that bands can deserve to be heard, even if they aren't all over the radio and MTV, while refusing to subscribe exclusively to any more constraining genre than 'alternative rock', you're probably used to almost breathlessly trying to keep up with new releases, and chances are that 2009 wasn't any different from the norm in any way. Plenty of releases did come out at least, and while we won't presume to have them all on our radar, we have a lot, and here's an attempt at running through the most noteworthy ones for you, so you can check what you missed out on and catch up before 2010 releases start streaming in properly:

To start out, let's talk about the names that are located the closest to the border between what we call alternative and mainstream. Firstly we have Panic(!) At The Disco, splitting in two with Brendon Urie and Spencer Smith staying with the name and bringing back the much debated exclamation mark (.... yeah, big deal) and Jon Walker and Ryan Ross departing and starting up a new project, called The Young Veins which is supposedly ironic due to Ross' involvement in some scandalous drug abuse? Not sure about what that is all going to end up with, but then it's nice to see that another hotshot name, like Paramore, sorted themselves out and bounced back from an avoided breakup with a much appreciated third album called "Brand New Eyes". That was a solid pop-rocker, and the same thing can be said about All Time Low's sophomore and There For Tomorrow's debut LP "A Little Faster". The Audition however, unfortunately delivered more of the same old boring same old.

Fun.

Meanwhile, The Higher compromised massively on the 'rock' on their "It's Only Natural" (but not on the quality!), whilst ex-The Format guys fun. put out a ridiculously good album in "Aim And Ignite", and a few familiar faces tried their hands in new constellations. Ace Enders for instance (of The Early November) got together with "A Million Different People" to create his "When I Hit The Ground" opus, Max Bemis (Say Anything) and Chris Conley (Saves The Day) only needed to collaborate with one more friend from each of their bands to realize their mutual love on "Two Tongues". Speaking of that guy-love, we guess Sherri Dupree (of Eisley) didn't mind it much, because she still married Bemis in April, and since I am talking about the man now, I guess I have to realize that 2009 really was his year, what with his band releasing their fantastic self titled album and all. Hell, that record even did what I had not expected, namely best the surprisingly powerful manifestation of Relient K's potential that was "Forget And Not Slow Down" and Weezer, who I had imagined as the more likely competition, seemed content with just leaning back casually and experimenting a bit on "Raditude". Other than that, I'll just wrap up this trip through the poppier of the American bands by listing a few more noteworthy releases, possibly in an order that says something about their quality? In any case, just remember that 2009 also saw The Almost's "Monster Monster, Bowling For Soup's "Sorry For Partyin'", Cartel's "Cycles", Taking Back Sunday's "New Again", Mayday Parade's Anywhere But Here, Dashboard Confessional's "Alter The Ending", We The Kings' "Smile Kid" and Boys Like Girls' "Love Drunk". Though we'd much rather forget about the latter, as I'm sure you'll agree.

Moving into less poppy territory, but still remaining state-side, Thrice and Dredg both lived up to their reputation by releasing quality output in "Beggars" and "The Pariah, The Parrot, The Delusion", none of which can really be lumped in with any other band. Or, that is, maybe Dredg could come to mind when also remembering As Tall As Lions and their impressive "You Can't Take It With You"? City Of Ships also impressed a hella lot of people with their very Thrice-sounding "Look What God Did To Us". Other bands possessing a unique sound were the super quirky afro rockers Boom Box Repair Kit, and of course the only band that sounds like Deftones and actually do it well, namely Sweden's Korea. Don't forget Isis either. Regardless, before stepping onwards into indie territory, let's also just namedrop Mae and remember how "(m)orning EP" blew PP's mind, wonder how System And Station continue to be criminally underrated, likewise how Attack In Black failed miserably in producing a follow up to the fantastic "Marriage" from 2007, and how mewithoutYou puzzled me (positively) on "It's All Crazy, It's All False, It's All A Dream!". Going indie, The Decemberists did a similar thing on their stunningly ambitious "The Hazards Of Love" and so did Manchester Orchestra on "Mean Everything To Nothing", an album that has been hailed as the best of the year in many blogs and zines across the web. Also, before letting indie take us across the Atlantic ocean, a few other things worth remembering would be another Conor Oberst release, recorded with help from The Mystic Valley Band and titled "Outer South", Juliette Lewis stepping away from The Licks on "Terra Incognita", Animal Collective putting out "Merriweather Post Pavillion" - another incredibly hyped album across the web - and Jay Reatard releasing his last album, "Watch Me Fall" before dying sadly of reasons that are still unknown. Rest in peace, Jay.

Frank Turner

Fleeing that sad happening, we'll let indie fly us over the ocean, to Britain and Maximo Park who provided both quality and curiosity on "Quicken The Heart". While in England, did you guys notice Lights Action and their fine debut LP "Welcome To The New Cold World" or Frank Turner's second shot of punk-fueled singer/songwriting on "Poetry Of The Deed"? Don't tell me you didn't! You better not have been too busy listening to Elliot Minor's slightly disappointing "Solaris"! Then you'd have a better excuse in having spent time on Biffy Clyro's "Only Revolutions", Fightstar's "Be Human", Flood Of Red's "Leave Everything Behind" or Saving Aimee's "We're The Good Guys"!

With those being roughly the bigger areas of alternative being covered, all that is left is to remember are the odd freaks I didn't manage to fit in anywhere else. For example a couple of bands from my own fair country, most importantly Mew who managed to out-strange pretty much everyone and everything, doing brilliantly so on that album with the long ass title. They weren't the only Danes to make noise though, as Dúné brought even more hits, even more ambition and even more danceable tunes on "Enter Metropolis" and our good friends from Siamese Fighting Fish put out another EP, this time self titled, as a teaser for their upcoming 2010 album. It is worth looking even more forward to, by the way, because it will actually include contributions from the violinist and guitarist that they added just after releasing that EP. Muse-inspired guys terminal also turned some heads locally, and The Fall From Grace showed that they've got potential too. Returning to Mew and the thought of out-strangeing others though, one band that is always good for something in that contest would be The Mars Volta, even if their newest opus "Octahedron" wasn't quite as alienating as many had expected, and of course the magnificent Portugal. The Man, who put out their best record yet, another candidate for indie album of the year, for sure. Old school experimental indie rockers Sonic Youth also put out another album this year, but if you wanna go REALLY experimental, then check out the sublime A Backward Glance On A Travel Road.

Mew

Other than that though, all I think is left is to remind you of the creation of Them Crooked Vultures, the super-group featuring Josh Homme, Dave Grohl and John Paul Jones, who also kicked up some substantial hype with their self-titled first album. An album we forgot to review however, so let's quickly move over to Daniel Roe, and some wise words about the happenings in a section dealing exclusively with post rock! TL

One of the differences you may notice in this years article compared to last years is that now post-rock gets a proper mention (Ed note: dream on. It's a sub-section of alternative!). Now, I can't claim to be a fanatic of the genre, I just seemingly listen to more of it than the rest, hence my review history features more bands of the kind than any other. Furthermore, you'll have to pardon me for the lack of reviews for some big names that released albums in 2009, i.e. Lymbyc System, Balmorhea, Tortoise and Mono, but I haven't really found the time to give those albums the listen they deserve, nor the attention required to review.

With that out of the way, let's push on to the albums that were reviewed: Sweden impressed immensely in 2009: pg.lost continued their intense, go-for-broke style with sophomore release "In Never Out"; Moonlit Sailor's "So Close To Life", though much less intense, is much more 'beautiful', and worth checking out. Heavyweights Caspian failed to create the sort of buzz with "Tertia" as they did with their debut, whereas Sunlight Ascending and Gray Young both released debuts that promise bright futures. Australia, again, appears to be home to a wealth of young talent, as asserted by Sleepmakeswaves' & Tangled Thoughts of Leaving's Split. Empire! Empire! (I Was A Lonely Estate) also put out brilliant record. As for those albums that didn't quite sweep us off our feet, look no further than Airpeople, Goonies Never Say Die and Oceans; and for those albums barely moved us at all see: Sidewaytown's "Years In The Wall", which didn't live up to the hype other reviews built up, the past-their-heytime act The Appleseed Cast, and London's own Loss of a Child.

If These Trees Could Talk's "Above The Earth, Below The Sky" took influences from post-metal and incorporated them with climactic post-rock that even non-fans of the genre could surely appreciate, and it probably would have been the best album of 2009, had it not been for eaststrikewest's debut "Wolvves". Whether or not you can really pigeon-hole them into one genre is debatable, as they have an arsenal of influence: post-rock (obviously), indie, shoegaze, and even a tint clean post-hardcore; but it all adds to their appeal. eaststrikewest are building a road, one which others are sure to follow them down, which is what some people are also saying about Castevet after their new album "Summer Fences". DR

PUNK AND HARDCORE

Oh wow, we've only just gone through two genre-umbrellas, and the article's already huge. If you've made it this far well done, and welcome, because this is clearly the most interesting section of the article closely followed by the metal section. Why? Because even though a lot of bands sound alike other / older / bigger bands in punk rock, strangely enough the genre doesn't suffer from the 'generic' syndrome at all (pop punk is in alternative). For some reason, punk bands that sound like other punk bands still tend to be very good. Maybe it's because the sing alongs are almost always great, or because of the awesome bass-lines, or maybe because of the lyrics, or maybe a combination of all three and more, but the point is that if you take my advice and check out even a fraction of these albums mentioned in this section, there's just no fucking way you wouldn't come back for more. There are just that many good bands on offer here, and once you check out a few, you're left wanting more. Sweet intro, eh? Lets go ahead shoot with the big guns straight away.

NOFX

If you've been reading Rockfreaks.net for some time now, you'll know that I can't get enough of NOFX, but surprisingly enough, "Coaster" left me slightly cold. It could be that Fat Mike just wanted to piss everyone off and left the best songs on the awesome Cokie The Clown EP released a few months later, which was accompanied by a hilarious video featuring lots of punk superstars getting flour-faced by Fat Mike. Rancid, the other household name of the four punk rock cornerstones (Bad Religion and Hot Water Music being the other two), had us all singing "Another East Bay night... East Bay niiight" for months after the release of "Let The Dominoes Fall". New Found Glory made a big return to punk and hardcore section after a few years of pop, injecting a healthy dose of crunchy hardcore to their sound on "Not Without A Fight". Anti-Flag put out their best album in years with "The People Or The Gun", a fiercely anti-corporate record after parting ways with their major label. Mxpx kept themselves busy this year, with a pop covers collection, a Christmas-themed album, and the band's best material for many, many years, the incredible "Left Coast Punk EP". Oh, and in between all of that, Mike Herrera also put out a solo album under the Tumbledown moniker ("Lets drink, drink 'til we'll die" anyone?). Crazy. Speaking of incredible and crazy, did anyone listen to the new Converge album. Holy shit. Hatebreed, on the other hand, failed miserably on their newest effort, which focused more on crushing the bones of people around you rather than actually good music. Is Jamey Jasta getting old?

With the big names out the way, the rest will come in a much more organized manner. We'll start with lighter sounds: check out Everyone Everywhere and especially Tigers Jaw for some of the best indie tinged punk rock you'll hear since Bear Vs Shark broke up. "Spirit Desire" is a candidate for the best song of the year in this category. Don't forget the hyperactive pop punk of The Loved Ones, although it sounds snail-like in speed when compared to Half Hearted Hero, as well as the promising young UK act Save Your Breath, who still need some work but at least they've got a signature sound this early to their career, which is always good. Moving into ska-surf-prog-gypsy-etc punk rock area, sadly, no Against Me! release this year, but to compensate, check out the critically acclaimed Fake Problems, the super-chilled ska of The Aggrolites, Finland's premiere ska punkers Victims Of Circumstance, the "we sound like Less Than Jake but we are fucking good at it"-punkers The Real Deal (who can resist a record called "Fun"?), and of course, the traditional ska-punkers Reel Big Fish, who put out another all covers album this year. If you're into something strange, the offering doesn't stop here: the tropical punk of Cactus's certainly turned some heads this year, or if you want some metal in your ska, you've got Random Hand to make acquaintance with. 3rd wave prog skasters RX Bandits put out a new release this year as well after booting their entire brass section, and the result was predictably miserable. Sadly so, their previous album is one of the best albums of the decade.

With The Punches

Usually punk and hardcore is considered to be a completely trend-free genre, but 2009 saw a proper re-emergence of the old school pop punk style pioneered by New Found Glory over a decade ago, though the genre's now referred to with its trendier name "pop hardcore". You can rest assured expect a tropical rainstorm's worth of new droplets (bands) in the next couple of years who are all going to suck, but at this point we're still at the stage where most of the stuff coming out is fresh, original, and very good. So if you don't have the With The Punches EP Keep it Going, you should probably insert it as #1 on your list of things to buy from 2009. Set Your Goals, who really set this whole thing in motion, delivered their best album yet, This Will Be The Death Of Us, and the other leading band in the genre, Four Year Strong, put out a bunch of pop hardcore covers for your entertainment. Of the newcomers, Fireworks certainly made an impression, especially "Detroit" from their record is so infectious you'll be singing along for weeks non-stop after hearing it just once. BL's been raving on about This Time Next Year, and so is the rest of the scene, so don't miss out on them either.

Now before we go any heavier, lets quickly visit the technical part of punk and hardcore, the only part of the genre-umbrella where three chords per song is a huge no-no. Just listen to the blinding riff of the first song on the new Strung Out album (who also put out a b-sides album), the high-flying technical leads of Lipona, or the new band by the ex-Belvedere vocalist, This Is A Standoff. Plenty of stuff there to make your senses beg for mercy - just like on the new A Wilhelm Scream EP and on the A Wilhelm Scream-sounding Title Fight, which also integrates a fair share of Polar Bear Club into the mix. Finally, if you like to challenge your brain cells with some seriously metaphorical lyrics while listening to amazing musicianship.... yeah, Propagandhi put out a new album this year.

Still keeping things nice and melodic, but slightly less complicated, bands like Left Alone, Pulley, the Alkaline Trio-sounding These Green Eyes, and The Swellers all put out awesome melodic punk records during the course of the year. The last one in particular is one to follow in 2010, and it wouldn't surprise me if they started snowballing very soon given the high praise they are receiving everywhere, plus their cross-genre appeal. Melodic hardcore didn't see too many noteworthy releases this year, but Hear The Sirens, who sound just like Strike Anywhere, kicked the year off nicely as a sort of a prelude to the new return-to-form Strike Anywhere album, which reinstated some of the explosive-energy to the band's sound. Yes, Lifetime are reformed, but no new music from them this year, sadly, but that's why we have Shook Ones, who fill anyone's Lifetime hunger any given year they put out material. We've seen it before and we saw it on The Unquotable A.M.H. Plus any record that starts with a bright "yeaaaaaaa-yeaaaa-yeaaah" intro is bound to be awesome.

Shook Ones

One part of the punk-and-hardcore umbrella that really flourished in 2009 was the section housing the Midwestern and "Hot Water Music" styled bands. By that I of course mean the dozens of sound-alike bands, who successfully emulate one of the most loved bands in the entire genre, arriving or reinforcing their place in the scene. Why now? Well, the kids in these bands are just about the right age to have grown up and been heavily influenced by HWM. For some examples, check out the incredible (and unfortunately last, they broke up) North Lincoln record Midwestern Blood, Slovenian Real Life Version's take on the sound, Joe Coffee's raspy "When The Fabric Don't Fit The Frame" or the acoustic release by Mr. Hot Water Music himself, Chuck Ragan. Then there's of course the new Polar Bear Club album, which however was nowhere near as magnificent than their near-perfect debut last year. On the Midwestern front, household names like American Steel and The Lawrence Arms also put out solid records, Banner Pilot started establishing themselves properly in that scene with "Collapser", and a brand new act Rumspringer showed lots of promise and talent just like Friends Of Friends did.

As you've probably noticed, we're getting heavier and heavier, but before we move onto hardcore itself, we should probably pay a visit to all the stuff that doesn't really strictly belong to one of the above categories. For example, one of the ONLY bands that sounds like NOFX, namely the Japanese punkers from Nicotine, put out an excellent reminder of how good NOFX stuff used to be back in the mid 90s - another example is of course Hit The Switch who do the "The Decline"-era very well. Or how about the crazy ska-reggae-hardcore-strange UK band Sonic Boom Six and their chaotic symphony "City Of Thieves"? Then we've of course got the all-black (not that it matters, but it's just so rare it should be mentioned) surf/hardcore/pop punk/reggae/RnB act Whole Wheat Bread and their crazy "ghetto punk" on Hearts Of Hoodlums, the fucked up mariachi side project of The Bronx, the powerpop-turned-skatepunk awesomeness of Teenage Bottlerocket, and of course the super-eccentric Bomb The Music Industry! album "Scrambles", which may well be the best punk album released in all of 2009. Couple of other bands that impressed me lots were The Casualties, delivering an awesome street punk album in "We Are All We Have", Finland's The Dwyers and their high speed raw-but-melodic punk assault, and the Social Distortion-sounding Reno Divorce, whose song "It's been long enough" I just can't get out of my head even half a year after reviewing the record. One last thing before hardcore: the Danish punk scene had two good releases this year, one being Racing Decays's "Full Throttle", the other being Losing Must who injected a healthy amount of Millencolin-inspired skatepunk into a surprisingly solid debut EP.

Gallows

And onto hardcore we go! One of the modern bands that defines the genre, Poison The Well, were up to a big challenge trying to beat their genre-redefining masterpiece "Versions" from two years ago, and didn't quite succeed as well as one would've hoped on "The Tropic Rot". It's still a good album, but just not nearly as good - oh and they also released a series of EPs as well. Heavyweight yellers Bane put out their first new material in years and reminded us exactly why they're still one of the best bands in the genre. Compare them and the mass of generic bands at Fredericia Hardcore Fest and the difference is just massive. Sweden's premiere hardcore act Raised Fist put out another solid effort, while Paint It Black continued to impress with "Surrender EP". "Sacred" is one of the best hardcore songs I've heard in a long while, check it out. New efforts also landed from Death By Stereo, and Europe's best hardcore band Wisdom In Chains - although Gallows beg to differ with "Grey Britain", an intriguing, complex concept album about the state of affairs in Britain. The other rising stars of UK hardcore, The Ghost Of A Thousand, also put out what is likely to be the album of their career in "New Hopes, New Demonstrations", and Your Demise impressed as well. For some groove-hardcore check out Britains The Plight and Outcry Collective, and if you're more into the message but still want some melody in your music, check out Ruiner's excellent "Hell is Empty" record. Otherwise, things were pretty quiet in the hardcore scene, but not in the overall punk-and-hardcore scene as you can see from the mammoth-like length of this section. But I won't keep you any longer, onto the haircut/tight jeans genre, Scene Music, we go. PP

SCENE MUSIC

Okay, so about this past year in scene music, as I go over it in my head, I can't quite decide: Was this the year where the scene exploded with newcomers who gave it a new face, or was it the year that a whole lot of old timers returned to show the usurpers how it's done? Certainly, more than enough evidence can be brought forth to argue both cases, so how about going over things, rather than making judgment ahead of time?

In the blue corner, we have the established names of this scene who returned in form (or not) this year. A Day To Remember were first out the gates with their "Homesick" album, which some say was as awesome as they ever were - I shall refrain from personal comment as I am far from a fan. Thursday were in a similar situation with "Common Existence" which was also praised by a considerable amount of fans, old and new, yet never hit it home with yours truly as much as the old stuff did. As for Behind Crimson Eyes, a band I really liked in their demo stages, their self titled third album never even came close, and not only have I given up on them by now, but they are also probably, stunningly, the only Australian band of this year which was not awesome? All that shit got forgotten about though, when Silverstein pulled out "A Shipwreck In The Sand" which, just by the mentioning of its name, should give anyone familiar with it the renewed urge to listen to it, because that record was by far the biggest and most immerse record the band has yet put out!

The Chariot

Then came Funeral For A Friend with a compilation album "Your History Is Mine: 2002-2009", which reminded how good these guys used to be back in the day. Fightstar on the other hand, managed to be different without being much less good on "Be Human". I guess that means Britains honor was well defended? Regardless, The Devil Wears Prada became more convincing (to some at least) on "With Roots Above And Branches Below", while Karate High School continued to entertain those who knew of them with their new album. The Chariot also proceeded as could be expected, sounding every bit as destructive as they are on "Wars And Rumours Of Wars" and while we're dealing with the predictable, guess what, Aiden still sucked, and Drop Dead, Gorgeous still did not return to glory with "The Hot'N'Heavy", which sounded so dated it was almost painful for yours truly to review. As for The Blackout, their "The Best In Town" was, yes, another relatively shallow, yet immediately catchy party-album, and those who like that kind of thing should not have missed it.

Meanwhile, A Skylit Drive put out "Adelphia" on which they seemingly misplaced some of their catchiness, while trying to make frontman Jag Jagmin, sound even more like Cyndi Lauper than he already did. Thankfully, Emery and Dance Gavin Dance (admittedly, two of my personal favourites) returned to form after two slightly questionable albums, penning some of the best tunes of the year on "In Shallow Seas We Sail" and "Happiness". Enter Shikari on the other hand, polarized fans by becoming even more electronic and rave-oriented on (the nonetheless critically acclaimed) "Common Existence". Alexisonfire copied that effect pretty much (the polarizing one, not the rave), by mixing things up slightly on "Old Crows / Young Cardinals", while He Is Legend burned up on the very appropriately titled, dark and dirty record "It Hates You" only to fade away (as in, break up) later in the year, and a sad day it was for all. On that note though, frontman Schuylar Croom was later seen fronting Maylene And The Sons Of Disaster, even though some rumours had cast him (don't tell me you believe this) as Craig Owen's replacement, after he had left Chiodos. Why did he leave Chiodos by the way? Does anyone know? Was it because he was so busy appearing on everyone and their mothers' records last year? Or did releasing With Love EP really require so much of him? It's not like releasing a solo effort forced Jonny Craig out of Emarosa, and he even put out a full album!

Moneen also put out "The World I Want To Leave Behind" keeping with their traditions, while The Used, much to my surprise, talked the talk and walked the walk somewhat too, on "Artwork", unlike Vanna, who just can't get away from sounding like a B rate Alexisonfire. Oh, Sleeper screamed on with some slight improvements on Son Of The Morning, while Saosin took another step in the wrong direction, on the highly worrying (and also appropriately titled) "In Search Of Solid Ground". A couple of bands that did fairly well, yet not quite as good as was expected, were LoveHateHero (on "America Underwater") and Brand New (on "Daisy"). That does of course not say a lot though, as both their previous records were quite amazing, and "America Underwater" was still fair, and "Daisy" was still a fine record too. On the flipside, AFI picked up momentum with The Cure-inspired "Crash Love" while Kill Hannah, being Kill Hannah, released some more shallow, yet catchy stuff on "Wake Up The Sleepers". Every Time I Die, being Every Time I fuckin' Die released "New Junk Aesthetic" and made all fans of the southern groove soil their pants. Similarly, HORSE The Band, being (okay I think you get it now), weirded us out some more with "Desperate Living", while The Fall Of Troy discouraged more struggling guitar players, with their sense-defying "In The Unlikely Event". Lastly, at least for the veterans, Atreyu also offered something new, but while I mildly enjoyed their Bon-Jovi-core on "Congregation Of The Damned", common consensus seems to be that they have sold out and should be disregarded from now on. Oh, almost forgot, Gwen Stacy and Burden Of A Day both put out sophomore's, 'cleaning' up their act a bit on "A Dialogue" and "OneOneThousand", both of them solid and enjoyable records, if not quite mindblowing. Oh and shit, shit, I keep forgetting someone, and how can I when Blessthefall did actually return (not that BL's review came timely enough to signify it), to show most of their new contenders how it's done on the earth-shaking "Witness".

Brand New

Those sure are a considerable number of releases from more or less established names, but don't think it's time for a breather, because there were more than enough upstarts to make some noise from red corner. Cue In Fear And Faith and "Your World On Fire" which kicked the year off to a good start, but was instantly topped by our Swedish hopes in Adept whose "Another Year Or Disaster" seriously rocked your's truly's boat, almost even gracing my top10. But that's not all, as a fair number of you were probably shook to the core by the onslaught of Architects and "Hollow Crown". Of Machines on the other hand, did sound promising, but seemingly didn't quite pack the songs on "As If Everything Was Held In Place". And then, oh God, then the Attack Attack! copyists began emerging. First in line were I See Stars and much like other euro/trance/core outfits, they triggered gagging reflexes in many an elitist (like me), while pleasing many a neon fanboy (like BL) with the happy tunes of their "3D". Oh and while we're referencing the emerging copy-core bands anyway, fans of that stuff probably also dug Miss May I, who capitalized on a fusion of sounds from The Devil Wears Prada and Bring Me The Horizon on their "Apologies Are For The Weak", as well as Asking Alexandria who encouraged the listener to "Stand Up And Scream"... even if they couldn't think of anything better to scream except for "OH MY GOD!" over and over.. mega facepalm... incidentally that's also roughly the effect EW had over Iwrestledabearonce's electro deathcore. Thank God then for Broadway, who at least bothered to bring a couple of good songs on their "Kingdoms" debut, and thank him even more for both The Word Alive, who delivered some rocking God damn tunes on "Empire" (in spite of having to 'settle' for Tyler Smith as a vocalist instead of their original singer, Craig Mabitt) and for Therefore I Am who delivered massively after a solid debut EP on their first album "The Sound Of Human Lives". Oh, and speaking of solid debut EP's, did you check out We Are Fiction's self-titled debut? If not, then you should, because that turned a few heads as well, as did Motionless In White and Deaf Havana, the latter of which is on the verge of a massive breakthrough in 2010.

And this is about the part where PP angrily takes over, pointing guilt-riddled fingers at TL for forgetting some of the most awesome releases in the entire genre-umbrella known as 'scene' (TL's note: I was sooo tired when you forced me to write this you slave driver). I mean, how do you forget Closure In Moscow after reviewing it yourself! Geez. Then there's also the raw scene hardcore of Fight Pretty's album (available free!), and the positively surprising A Day To Remember-sounding Farewell record. And though Elder aren't a known band by any means, their track "Friendly Fires" off Reflect EP could be argued to be the very best post-hardcore song of 2009!

Moving a little closer to home, lets not forget new releases by our nearby Swedish acts Intohimo, Jesaiah and Traktor, the latter of which particularly impressed PP, or Norwegian screamsters Kaospilot who also put out a new record.. As for the Danish bands, She Is Malignant, Dødning, Lights In Reverse and Puto Diablo all put out new (or debut) EPs in proof that there actually is a vivid 'scene' in Denmark. TL

METAL

True to tradition, we have divided metal into mainstream ("known bands") and underground ("unknown bands") categories, with myself (AP talking now by the way) handling the overt aspects of the genre, and EW taking care of the subterranean stuff. Because we are more than just a little tired about genre-nazism, we've lumped everything from metalcore and deathcore to progressive metal and "other weird shit" we consider kind of mainstream in this category. So all metal bands whose name you're likely to recognize from somewhere (be it crazy tour or otherwise) go in this category, and those bands that only the "true metal" people / those who despise the 'scene' looks and sounds will know, go into the underground category (i.e. 99.9% of all German bands). Hence you'll find majority of Metal Blade, Rise Records and other similar labels here, and AFM Records, Massacre Records, Napalm Records, et al mostly in the underground scene.

Although 2008 saw much awaited new releases from some of the biggest guns in metal music, 2009 did not leave us cold either, with Slayer and Megadeth both releasing anticipated, if unsurprising discs of blistering, shredtastic thrash metal. Rumors soon began circulating about the big four of thrash plotting tour dates together, and sure as shit, three such dream-come-true shows have been scheduled at selected Sonisphere festivals this coming summer. Most of you will remember that in 2008, Max Cavalera mended the broken ties between him and his brother, Igor, resulting in the Cavalera Conspiracy supergroup. The Cavaleras were famously indifferent to criticism about their concert setlists featuring as much material from Sepultura as original songs, but the remaining members of that band did not let themselves be outshadowed, and kicked things off early with a new album titled "A-Lex".

Lamb Of God

Lamb Of God dished out another serving of bone-crushing motherfucker metal with the highly anticipated "Wrath", while the ever-optimistic jesters we know as Killswitch Engage dropped a what-the-fuck with another self-titled album, which inspired expected awe from critics and fans alike. Children Of Bodom finally got their shit together and collected their repertoire of cover songs, which are always a crowd-pleaser in their live performances, into a studio album. Last but not least, one of this decade's most revered metal bands, Mastodon released a jaw-dropping concept album, which earned universal acclaim from critics and fans, as well as some rather superfluous praise from me.

2009 was also a year that saw some fantastic releases from our homegrown heroes, with Hatesphere, Anubis Gate and The Psyke Project all putting out albums that we consider fantastic, and in The Psyke Project's case, unspeakably awesome, and almost flawless. Things were cooking in the underground scene too, where Vira, Fiji, Scarred By Beauty and By The Patient released some noteworthy EP's, as well as putting on numerous good performances. The year culminated in the Danish Metal Awards ceremony, headlined by the mighty Meshuggah, where hard-working metal man Jonathan "Joller" Albrechtesen grabbed most of the prices with his two bands, Hatesphere and Scarred By Beauty. Congratulations to him, and every other Danish band fortunate enough to receive an award!

In the more extreme end of the spectrum, I had the distinct displeasure of covering most releases originating from that most uninspired of genres, deathcore - and believe me, there were lots; most of them worse than the one before. Despised Icon for example received an outright bashing for torturing my ears with their new album, "Day of Mourning". War From A Harlots Mouth didn't do much better. Other deathcore bands miraculously showed that the music need not be so stale, with entirely enjoyable releases from Viatrophy, As You Drown, Man Must Die and the flagbearers of the genre, Suicide Silence, whose new album was downright terrifying (in a good way of course).

Other bands on the extreme front focused on new frontiers: Job For A Cowboy traversed further into death metal territory, while Psyopus, The Number Twelve Looks Like You and The Boy Will Drown produced some seriously puzzling shit that went down well with us. The Black Dahlia Murder continued to do what they do best in the black metal front and Trigger The Bloodshed put out an album garnering quite a bit of hype in the UK. Success Will Write Apocalypse Across The Sky confused us with a highly experimental band name and album title - good luck with announcing those on stage. It was also in this genre that BL made his debut as a writer, with a lengthy study of Conducting From The Grave. He introduced us to Sturgiscore and is tasked with scavenging the interwebs for identical electronica-screamo disasters like Attack Attack! so that maybe we don't have to deal with those anymore?

Bury Tomorrow

In the world of metalcore etcetera, we saw excellent releases from a variety of bands. Bury Tomorrow released their excellent debut album and unveiled one hell of a clean vocalist, whose voice I believe we may have likened to a choir of angels. August Burns Red continued to dazzle people with their ultra-technical song arrangements after releasing a pointless "teaser" with Christmas songs and rarities on it, and while on the topic of seriously technical stuff, let's not forget the new releases from Born Of Osiris and A Textbook Tragedy either. Darkest Hour made an eternal return after booting lead guitarist Kris Norris and replacing him with Mike "Lonestar" Carrigan, and we also saw convincing comebacks from legendary bands like Zao and Coalesce.

Speaking of which; 2009 seemed to increasingly divide metalcore bands into two schools. On the one hand bands like Neaera, local Danish guys As We Fight, and Inhale Exhale used retrospective influences in their new albums while others, like Sylosis drew inspiration from old school thrash metal - and on the other hand, there were bands like A Plea For Purging and The Sorrow catering to a younger generation with polished production, breakdowns and soaring melodies. While I myself prefer the former category of bands, there was no doubt that plenty of excellent releases came from both schools over the year - both from more established bands like God Forbid, Caliban and Shadows Fall, and also from lesser known groups like Degradead, Breaking The Fourth Wall, The Perennial and Patriarchs (all of which I urge you to check out). Last but not least, make sure to give the new Evergreen Terrace album a spin or two, because that is some sweet melodic (yet metallic!) hardcore right there. As for those that failed, look no further than It Dies Today and the stupid chug-chug core of Bury Your Dead.

Melodic death metal seemed to be on the decline with fewer releases in the genre than in past years making the headlines. Cinders Fall, Destroy Destroy Destroy, Skyfire, Marionette and Preach thought otherwise, however, and put out decent renditions of that old school Gothenburg sound, while Nahemah, Compos Mentis and Insomnium went in darker, more experimental directions to outstanding results.

Tyr and Ensiferum made sure folk metal is still alive and kicking with two highly rated new albums - and there was also Alestorm, who continued to divide opinions with their drunken pirate metal. There were a couple of notable releases from female fronted metal bands too, and once again Finland excelled at just about everything it does, spewing out not only that Ensiferum album, but also a rare gothic metal album that PP actually enjoyed. Actually, Amberian Dawn did the same trick, as did the goth-doomsters in Paradise Lost.

Scale The Summit

Then there was that "other weird shit" I mentioned in my preamble to this section. Buried Inside, Scale The Summit and Nebra all put out impressive instrumental albums that tickled our curiosity, while some of the more prominent bands in these circles continued to be awesome - I'm speaking of Kylesa, Pelican, and Baroness of course (do not be fooled by TL's criminal underrating of "Blue Record"). Some of the strangest stuff came from Diablo Swing Orchestra, and you'd be better off just listening to that yourself rather than me trying to explain what, or why it is. One of my personal favorites was the new release from Riverside, whose high-definition prog-rock swept me off my feet. Lets not forget Converge bassist Nate Newton new project Doomriders either, which showed a whole another side to the man with "Darkness Come Alive", or the new Between The Buried And Me album, of which the review STILL hasn't surfaced on RF.net but I bet it's on its way eventually.

On the thrash metal front, things were bittersweet, with those acclaimed new albums from Slayer, Megadeth, and Goatwhore, the absolutely terrifying affair by Incite, and what came to be the last album Evile would compose bassist Mike Alexander, who unexpectedly passed away on October 5th while touring with Amon Amarth and Entombed in Sweden. And as if there weren't enough bad news already, 2009 also saw Deftones bassist Chi Cheng sink into a coma following a serious car accident, causing Deftones to indefinitely postpone, and eventually scrap the release of their much anticipated new album. The band arranged a string of benefit concerts to raise money for Chi's ongoing treatment, which featured pretty much everyone from the who's who of metal music performing various covers and tracks by Deftones to sold out venues, showing that the metal community truly stands united in the face of hardship. And what better way to wrap up this section about mainstream metal than a standing ovation to its sense of community and friendship. EW will now take over with an overview of underground metal. AP

So has 2009 been a good year for underground (UG) metal? Better, or worse, than 2008? It all depends on your point of view of course, however through my exposure to a plethora of releases across differing styles I would have to say this past year has been a very good one again for a metal world which surely can't have seen such a burgeoning level of popularity since...the late 80's?

Back then the metal scene was far more homogeneous than now (and probably less genre fussy too), never giving the opportunity for so many scenes to be in such splendid health concurrently. But what have been the most noteworthy releases from each in 2009? Despite no murders or church burnings that I can think of, black metal is never far from the headlines (Editor note: oh the irony, this being the underground metal section) - however at least those it does now grab tend to be in view of it's wonderful organic eclecticism that puts to shame the naysaying narrow-minded 'fans' of the genre found hiding on the internet. Ambient-tinged BM has benefited from excellent Blut aus Nord, Wolves in the Throne Room, and Fen releases; Viking/pagan/folk fans should lap up the works of Wardruna, Ensiferum and Arkona; those who dig the filth will have found pleasure in the controversial releases of Anaal Nathrakh, Beherit and Deiphago; and finally, deserving a mention all of their own - Immortal returned!

Slayer

Death metal is considerably less diverse though still pounding out noteworthy records of it's own. 2009 albums from Nile, Behemoth, Cattle Decapitation, Destruktor, Tribulation, Dying Fetus and Napalm Death are all likely to stand the test of the time in a scene where as ever one just needs to do a bit of digging to separate the wheat from the chaff. Doom metal for all it's splendour rarely grabs any headlines or much attention, but you would be doing yourself a serious disservice by not examining the latest works of Isole, My Dying Bride, Ahab and especially Abandon.

I commented at the end of 2008 that thrash may have already peaked and looking back on 2009 I stand by my view. Of the old guns just Megadeth and Slayer put out differing albums while I can only really recommend you Evile and Blood Tsunami from the 'new-school'. What does 2010 have in store for thrash I wonder with the likes of Anthrax, Exodus and Testament all expected to release?

Heavy/true/power metal these days tends to display the kind of originality found in a large flock of sheep; however even if it were released in 1984 RAM's "Lightbringer" would stand out as a shining light of how to utilise the influence of legends and mold it into something new. A guaranteed classic in the making. Powerwolf (one I under-rated at the time) and WASP would rate as the only other particular noteworthy albums in this field in 2009. And finally leaving us with 'miscellaneous metal' for those bands who defy categorisation and at the same time release scintillating works of brilliance, why not expand your palette with what Minsk, Týr and most definitely Sólstafir have provided for us in these last 12 months? If you find you don't like these then blame your poor tastes, not my recommendations!

Speaking of EW's recommendations (yeah, it's PP again, filling in the gaps for the missing stuff), don't forget to check out Tribulation, the only band to reach the legendary perfect 10 mark in 2009 on the site. How he managed to leave out Mely, Nachtmystium, and Absu I don't know. And since EW is a bit of a metal elitist, things like symphonic black metal or otherwise catchier-than-thou metal don't go well down his throat at all, but if you're not like him, there's awesome stuff out there like Sycronomica's Sycroscope, the progressive hardcore/black metal hybrid Xerath, the sublime death metal album The Gallery Of Bleeding Art by Diabolica, and of course the hypnotic, instrumental masterpiece "Spirit Animal" by Zombi. Or what about the big name bands (yeah, paradoxical, since this is the underground section), like God Dethroned, Obscura, Obituary, Suffocation, Candlemass, and especially Brutal Truth, whose new effort is nothing short of brilliant. Fans of general chaos and Converge should be checking that shit out. Shit, by the way, were the new Municipal Waste, Agoraphobic Nosebleed, Katatonia, and Illdisposed albums, so be aware that those guys released something new, but you might as well spend your hard earned money elsewhere to be honest. Right, back to EW.

As ever a year can never go by without it bringing the demise of a number of bands, and more sadly some prominent musicians too. Waving goodbye to us in 2009 were the hugely under-appreciated British doom masters Warning, the world's most pissed off doomsters in Grief, Dutch DM veterans Gorefest as well as Lord Belial, After Forever, Angelcorpse, Metal Church, God Seed (before reaching the studio following the "retirement from metal" of frontman Gaahl - see "2008 in Music" for more on him) and somewhat controversially NegurăBunget, only for drummer Negru to contradict the agreement to end the band by 'reforming' after his two fellow bandmates had left. Some of those who sadly left us in 2009 come from right across the spectrum; Dickie Peterson of heavy metal pioneers Blue Cheer, Miika Tenkula of Sentenced, Mike Alexander of Evile and Don Decker of scene legends Anal Blast. RIP.

So has 2009 been a good end to a decade in which heavy metal made a huge comeback in the public consciousness? Judging by just the 'underground' element detailed above I'd have to say so. EW

Okay so I just pasted this beast into Microsoft Word, made it regular 12 point size, added 1.5 line spacing, and realized that this article is longer than my freaking Bachelor dissertation for my university. We're at roughly 13,000 words (though that includes HTML tags and formatting), so if you've honestly, seriously, without lying a single bit, read every single bit of this article, I want to meet you in person at some awesome bar, shake your hand, and bow in front of you for your incredible attitude and appreciation of music of all kinds. Rest assured I'll even buy a round of beers and 10 shots for a 100 DKK at Floss (the awesome bar), because that sort of attitude to music should and must be applauded.

That being said, there are obviously lots of disadvantages in being as active site as we are, so next year, you won't have to suffer through a massive block of text in one go, but we'll probably divide it into several articles to be posted throughout three or so weeks, unless we think of something even smarter to do. Once again, feedback is much appreciated, and any great ideas will of course be thoroughly discussed within the staff, so feel free to let us know!

Finally, before I let you off, lets talk about the new Rockfreaks.net design. Last year, I promised in this very article that we were hoping to be live in February - and now a year later, we're still not live. It's a mammoth task to transform a massive site like ours with coding all the way back from 2004 into something modern and actually useful, but now I can say with confidence that it's coming! We've got a functional site with a couple of bugs, missing features and so forth, but we are actively ironing these out so hopefully before we enter March, you'll be frequenting the most awesomely looking music site in all of Denmark. With that note, I want to finish this article by thanking my staff for their incredible contribution throughout the year, but most importantly, YOU, THE READER, because without you we simply wouldn't be doing this. This year saw record amount of readers visit Rockfreaks.net, which means the world to us. Keep coming back, spreading the word, and maybe one day, we'll be the most important independent media of Denmark.

Sincerely Yours,

Petteri Pertola (PP)

Editor-In-Chief

Rockfreaks.net

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