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Hard and Harder, Abstract and Abstracter

Metal-Plus Top 14What a phantasmagorical year for metal.Cephalic Carnage, Anomalies (Relapse). Out of Colorado, a wondrous horror of disciplined textures. Weed as study tool.Behemoth, Demigod (Olympic). Poland exports dark complexities that engorge the faithful. You shoulda beheld the awe that greeted drummer Inferno at the Key Club in December. And that was just his sound check.Soulfly, Dark Ages (Roadrunner) andThe Song Remains Insane (Roadrunner DVD). Max Cavalera gets weirder, groove-hungrier and better all the time. The audio-only segment of the DVD is a pot o’ gold.Black Label Society, Mafia (Artemis) andKings of Damnation ’98-’04 (Spitfire). Zakk Wylde and his terroristic guitar now officially rule the world. Join his army or be crushed. Yngwie J. Malmsteen, Unleash the Fury (Spitfire) andConcerto Suite for Electric Guitar and Orchestra (Eagle Vision DVD). Swedes torture, too; they just do it more perversely. Before he came out to twiddle his ax at Avalon in November, Malmsteen made us listen to string-quartet records for an hour and a half. But he’s sure unleashing great product lately.Helloween, Keeper of the Seven Keys: The Legacy (Steamhammer). A two-disc epic that actually justifies its length — to fans of howling, Wagnerian metal, of course.Iommi, Fused (Sanctuary). The partnership of Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi and former Deep Purple bassist-singer Glenn Hughes has hit maturity. Master-crafted, slow and deadly.Deep Purple, Rapture of the Deep (Eagle). Skill, confidence, feel, soul. Try to fault the Ian Gillan–Steve Morse edition of Deep Purple; you can’t.Judas Priest, Angel of Retribution (Epic) and Rising in the East (Rhino DVD). Priest made their reunion album with singer Rob Halford everything it had to be. And for sound and image, the video’s the best metal doc ever made. Old men rock.My Ruin, The Brutal Language (Rovena). Tairrie B is a hide-flaying poet. Mick Murphy is one of the most muscular riff forgers alive. There’s nothing else out there like this L.A. band, which must be why audiences watch it with such curiosity, respect and fear.High on Fire, Blessed Black Wings (Relapse). I always think of lava. It rolls, it smokes, it burns everything in its path.Drunk Horse, In Tongues (Tee Pee). From the Bay Area like HoF, Eli Eckert and gang have so much fun rebootying the ’70s, it’s hard to believe they’re too young to have actually gotten wasted listening to upstart Edgar Winter and Grand Funk.Starbreaker, Starbreaker (Frontiers). TNT singer Tony Harnell and Swedish guitar magician Magnus Karlsson churn a roiling wake of inspired melodi-metal. It may take a few listens before you recognize how great this is.Jennifer Terran, Full Moon in 3 (Grizelda). On an emotional level, this (non-metal) Santa Barbara songwriter quietly, penetratingly makes all of the above look like mewling little babies.Abstract Top 10 + 2That word “jazz” gets less specific and more subversive every year.Charlie Haden Liberation Music Orchestra, arranged and conducted by Carla Bley, Not in Our Name (Verve). When I listened to the way Bley was compelled to transmogrify “America the Beautiful,” I cried. Seems like I cry more these days.Charles Lloyd Quartet, Jumping the Creek (ECM). The 13 slow minutes of Jacques Brel’s “Ne Me Quitte Pas,” which saxist Lloyd dedicated to Nina Simone, breathe surrender as only he can. When he does an obituary, he feels it.Dave Douglas, Mountain Passages (Green Leaf). Simplicity, fraternity.Drew Gress, 7 Black Butterflies (Premonition). Bassist Gress’ quartet with Tim Berne, Tom Rainey, Ralph Alessi and Craig Taborn makes jazz exactly right for this moment: swinging but loose, structured but unindebted. Fun.Fieldwork, Simulated Progress (Pi). Pianist Vijay Iyer, saxist Steve Lehman and drummer Elliot Humberto Kavee present the other side of modernity: intense, rebellious, cerebral, dark.Cuong Vu, It’s Mostly Residual (no label). Trumpeter Vu’s trio teams with Bill Frisell’s glow-sparkle guitar to make music ?for the wide-open mind and the electronic battleground.KTU, 8 Armed Monkey (Thirsty Ear). Loops and rhythm atmospheres from Trey Gunn (Warr guitar), Samuli Kosminen (samples), Pat Mastelotto (percussion, etc.) and Kimmo Pohjonen (accordion). Play it at a party and wait for “What the hell is that?” Answer: fine art.Scott Amendola Band, Believe (Cryptogramophone). Respire and drift. Nels Cline on guitar — say no more.Terry Bozzio + Metropole Orkest, Chamber Works (Favored Nations). Metropol Orkest’s past work with Frank Zappa bears fruit, offering Zappa associates a full symphonic palette to paint with, and like Mike Keneally before him, Bozzio takes advantage with challenging, rigorous compositions that nevertheless pack an old-fashioned punch.Vinny Golia, Music for Like Instruments: The Flutes; Music for Like Instruments: The Clarinets; Large Ensemble 20th Anniversary Concert DVD (Nine Winds). Looks like our man Golia wanted to prove something this year, and he sure as hell did. If you like music that’s ingenious and original, that is.Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane, At Carnegie Hall (Blue Note). Half of the above jazz artists can be traced back to this calmly revolutionary music, exhumed at last from 1957. Julian Priester, Pepe Mtoto, Love, Love (ECM). The other half of the above folk, the electric-Miles-derived cabal, probably never heard this 1974 synth epic, reissued in 2005. But they’ll dig it now.

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