Music that I think is quite good

It’s arrogant to assume that my music taste is special or deserves publication, but fuck it, I decided to anyway. I don’t expect anyone to care very much but here it is for both of the people that will read this.

I was an edgelord growing up, and not much has changed now, as you can probably guess.

These may not all be the absolute best, most perfect albums of all time but they’re all special to me and I come back to them more than other albums.

If you don’t like my taste, stop being a basic bitch.

Music for long walks

98.12.28 Otokotachi no Wakare – Fishmans

Genres: dub, dream pop, neo-psychadelia

Only the Japanese can get away with having a flute, accordion and hand-wavy thing in a band mixing three genres.

Long intro alert (first track introduces the musicians) 🚨

Fans of this can check out the more recent Fishmans studio albums like 宇宙 日本 世田谷 (Uchu Nippon Setagaya), 空中キャンプ (Something in the Air), Long Season and the second best live album, 2nd March 1996 at Shinjuku Liquid Room.

Deathconciousness – Have a Nice Life

Genres: post-industrial doomgaze

Long intro alert (first track sounds nothing like the rest of the album) 🚨

Party killer/room clearer alert 🚨

This thing took over my Spotify Wrapped in 2019 and 2020. I’m in a much better spot these days and I barely listen to this anymore but it still deserves to be in this list.

Fans can check out Unknown Pleasures by Joy Division and The Glow Pt. 2 by The Microphones, as well as HANL’s side projects like Black Wing and Giles Corey.

Soundtracks for the Blind – Swans

Genres: post-rock, experimental, samples

Long intro track alert 🚨

Party killer/room clearer alert 🚨

This is one absolute unit of an album. Where do I even start with it? It’s meant to be the soundtrack to a non-existent film. It sounds like it should be a post-apocalyptic film for sure though because this thing is harrowing. Just listen to the end of Helpless Child.

I didn’t get this album for a long time. The first time I listened to it it just went over my head and barely any of it sunk in. It took at least five listens for me to start to appreciate it. It’s a hell of a challenging record but rewarding if you have the patience.

This thing twists and turns between beauty and horror and you never know what lurks around the next corner, but it’s not a random mashup of unrelated tracls; there’s a flow and a consistent feel.

Fans should check out other Swans albums like To be Kind, The Seer and the Glowing Man, and maybe the live album Swans are Dead if you’re feeling brave.

The Mantle – Agalloch

Genress: post-rock, black metal, neo-folk

Long intro track alert 🚨

Party killer/room clearer alert 🚨

Cringey vocals alert. If you can stomach the nasal clean singing and the silly black metal vocals, this thing is a mesmerising, hypnotic masterpiece.

It sounds like I’m walking through a tunnel of trees, until the third track, Odal, when the sunlight starts shining through the branches.

It would be a perfect record if it wasn’t for the final track, A Desolation Song, ruining what would have been a perfect bookend to the album at the end of . . . And The Great Cold Death of the Earth.

Long intro alert.

“Liiiiiife is a clay urn on the mantle”

‘Nuff sed, simple as.

Panopticon – ISIS

Genress: post-metal, shoegaze

Party killer/room clearer alert 🚨

There’s nothing quite like ISIS’s Pantopticon out there, even other ISIS records don’t quite hit the same spot as this one.

Even though a panopticon is a circular prison with a central guard hub, this album makes me zone out and think I’m travelling to space or hovering over the sea.

If you like it, check out Oceanic by the same band.

Filosofem – Burzum

Genress: black metal, dungeon synth

Party killer/room clearer alert 🚨

Raspy vocals recorded on a helicopter pilot’s headset, potato guitars and drums, no bass – what’s to like about this thing?

Well, the sum is greater than the parts.

Do you like virtuoso guitar wankery or proggy shite like Dream Theater? You’ll hate this; it’s so raw, minimalist, and hypnotic, there’s not a single moment that’s instrumentally impressive on here.

And that’s why I like it.

Also, the production is chef’s kiss. If you think that music must always have glossy, expensive production, think again. This thing is my go-to example that good production should fit the music.

Flood – Boris

Genress: drone, post-rock

Long intro track alert 🚨

Party killer/room clearer alert 🚨

Want instant gratification? Move along because this one’s a grower.

If you like it, try Feedbacker by the same band.

Music for everything else

Exmilitary – Death Grips

Genres: hardcore hip-hop, industrial hip-hop, experimental hip-hop

MC Ride is angry but I don’t know what about.

If you like it, check out The Money Store by the same guys, or Abduction by Dälek.

36 Chambers – Wu Tang Clan

Genres: hardcore hip-hop, gangsta rap, boom bap

Squeeze a lot of angry rappers into a small studio somewhere in the New York hood, out comes this.

Ol’ Dirty Bastard is a rabid beast.

If you like it, check out Liquid Swords by a similar lineup.

Energy – Operation Ivy

Genres: hardcore, ska punk

How many ska kids does it take to screw in a light bulb?

One to drop it and six to pick it up pick it up pick it up.

This thing has . . . energy and not one dull moment.

If you like it, check out Everything Goes Numb by Streetlight Manifesto or Rancid, the band that Operation Ivy became.

Blood Fire Death – Bathory

Genre: black metal, thrash metal

Big, hairy Viking chads swinging swords around and drinking.

It may be ancient but it’s still the most menacing metal record of all time.

If you like it, try Hammerheart also by Bathory.

Melissa – Mercyful Fate

Genre: heavy metal

King Diamond’s vocals are . . . errr, an acquired taste. He wails like a cartoon demon about Satan, and that’s pretty much all of his solo work and Mercyful Fate summarised.

After his vocals grew on me, I think this is the great heavy metal record of all time.

It has the riffs (Iron Maiden stole Curse of the Pharoahs for Number of the Beast), it has the solos, it has the song writing, it has the cheesy, terrible lyrics. It just kicks the arse off of every other heavy metal album I can think of.

What makes this thing so addictive is the sonic storytelling. What I mean by that is how the music fits the lyrics like an opera. Mercyful Fate build tension with menacing hooks and then deliver catharsis with bright resolutions, then when you get too comfortable they pull the rug out from under you and hit you with the tension again from out of nowhere.

Like it? Well done, try Don’t Break the Oath (same band) or Painkiller by Judas Priest.

None So Vile – Cryptopsy

Genre: brutal death metal

What’s the difference between death metal and brutal death metal? That implies that plain old death metal isn’t brutal.

Well according to Wikipedia: “Brutal death metal is a subgenre of death metal that privileges heaviness, speed, and complex rhythms over other aspects, such as melody and timbres. Brutal death metal bands employ high-speed, palm-muted power chording and single-note riffage.”

Yep, that’s pretty much it, but even though this thing could slap a biscuit out of an orphan’s mouth it still has a surprising amount of melodies, even hummable ones in places.

Lord Worm’s vocals take this thing from a great death metal album to a classic one. His demented, feral growls and shrieks make other death metal singers sound like One Direction. He sounds like an absolute sicko and doesn’t even have lyrics because there’s not much point anyway. I heard he’s a teacher these days.

It also has the best drums of any death metal album, before the time of programmable drums, so the drummer actually had to hit the drums like a boomer. Kids have it so easy these days, they don’t make ’em like that anymore.

Fans of this can check out Suffocation’s Pierced from Within.

Symbolic – Death

Genre: technical death metal

Symbolic is death metal that is melodic, but isn’t melodic death metal (if that makes sense). What I’m trying to say is that it’s melodic without the cheesy brightness of Gothenburg bands like At the Gates or In Flames.

Any notion that death metal is Beavis and Butthead music is silenced by the thought-provoking lyrics, infectious melodic hooks, technical drumming, and lengthy but catchy songwriting.

One tiny criticism I have is that the production is a tad flimsy in places, particularly on the drums and bass side, but that hasn’t stopped me coming back to this for most of my life.

Fans can check out the mid to late career Death records like Human, Individual Thought Patterns and The Sound of Perseverence. No other band really sounds like Death.

Relationship of Command – At the Drive-in

Genre: post-hardcore

These boys have energy.

And maracas.

And word salads.

Fans can check out other post-hardcore bands like Glassjaw, Thrice, and Drive Like Jehu. Unfortunately At the Drive-in is a one-album-wonder but their side project, The Mars Volta, is pretty good if you can stomach falsetto Latino prog rock.

Hot Rats – Frank Zappa

Genre: jazz-fusion

Even if you were lucky enough to be in Zappa’s band, you still didn’t get to play with him; you played for him.

Despite being a guitarist and satirist of such towering levels of genius, Zappa was a micromanager, and didn’t give his band much creative free reign.

But despite that, if the final product of his authoritarian leadership style was something as incredible as Hot Rats, then I can hardly criticise him.

Captain Beefheart’s guest vocals on Willy the Pimp are off the wall and reminds me of some jazz predecessor to Ol’ Dirty Bastard.

If you crave more Zappa, you might be intimidated by the sheer scope of his discography. Unfortunately it’s mostly quantity and not quality so listening to all of it is a mammoth task. I would stick to the classics like Apostrophe, Joe’s Garage, One Size Fits All, and The Grand Wazoo.

Welcome to Sky Valley – Kyuss

Genre(s): stoner rock, desert rock

Oh yeaaaaaah, baby baby

On the topic of Frank Zappa, I’d be very surprised if Kyuss’s drummer hadn’t taken some inspiration from Hot Rats, with the same laid back jazz-fusion style.

This thing is heavy too, I read somewhere that Josh Homme used a bass amp on his guitar to get that low, fuzzy tone.

If you like Kyuss then check out other stoner rock classics like Sleep’s Dopesmoker and Black Sabbath’s Master of Reality.

Still Life – Opeth

genres: progressive metal, death metal

I was obsessed with this album during my late teens when I was leaving school and going to university.

The medieval religious themes, menacing riffs and jazz breakdowns lit up my teenage edgelord brain like crack to a crackhead.

Listening to it 20 years later, it’s still great and the peak of Operth’s career, after they learned to reign in the bloated song structures of Orchid and Morningrise, and before the tedious dad rock and King Crimson jerking of their latter years.

Fans of this will like Blackwater Park, which is a favourite for many Opeth fans (it loses to Still Life because of its inferior production and lack of atmosphere and flow). You might also like Agalloch’s The Mantle (mentioned above).

Zombie – Fela Kuti

Genre: afrobeat

Fela Kuti, Nigeria’s Sax-toting counterpart to Che Guevara/Bob Marley, mocks the corrupt Nigerian government and their ‘zombie’ army with this infectious blend of afrobeat, funk and jazz, call and response chants and clattering polyrhythms.

Personal anecdote: When I lived in Bulgaria, I shared a room with the son of Odumegwu Ojukwu, the President of the Republic of Biafra during the Nigerian civil war from 1967 – 1970. This album is relevant to what was going on there at the time.

The Ginger Baker documentary is also great.

It was a toss up between this one and Expensive Shit also by Fela. If you dig afrobeat and want a Western spin on it, try Remain in Light by Talking Heads.

Leave a Comment