5. Cobalt—Gin (Profound Lore) “This record is a springboard to fuck the universe.” With a statement like that, plus a dedication to Ernest Hemingway and Hunter S. Thompson, Cobalt’s deadly intent is obvious. They pull it off, too, with an approach that mixes black metal with churning, tribal rhythms derived from Neurosis and Tool. Gin is cunning, electrifying, and unnerving. In the building climax to “Two-Thumbed Fist,” instrumentalist Erik Wunder carefully layers speed and chaos until the whole thing threatens to fly apart. Wunder’s music for Cobalt has the organic feel of a great band. Gin’s razor-wire sonics are entwined with vocalist Sgt. Phil McSorley’s experiences in the Middle East. I hear centuries of hate and sudden violence. This, I’m afraid, is World Music.
4. Astra—The Weirding (Rise Above) The prog is dank and dingy, and everything (including the band members, I assume) belches smoke. Review here.
3. Mastodon—Crack the Skye (Reprise) More concept, less filler. Of all the albums I heard this year, I had to jump the biggest chasm from dismay to delight with this one. Review here.
2. Converge—Axe to Fall (Epitaph) Converge are simply a great rock band. They push and pull in all directions over the course of Axe to Fall because they can, and because they’d get bored otherwise. From deathly grind to noise rock to whatever the gothic waltz of “Cruel Bloom” represents, it all sounds utterly true to Converge. You gotta hear these guys play.
1. Napalm Death—Time Waits for No Slave (Century Media) This is how it’s done. Review here.