Feature: Jack’s Albums of 2010

Skullflower – Strange Keys To Untune Gods’ Firmament

Although Strange Keys… is a brutal endurance test the first time round, subsequent listens are easier – what appears to be a faceless mass of white noise reveals itself to be a complex, tightly knit network of tremolo guitar shards and whistling feedback, alternating between pitches in a manner that occasionally resembles melody but can never quite be defined as such. Too abstract and detached to feel hateful, but the double-album monolith of Strange Keys… succeeds in being both twisted and beautiful.

BJ Nilsen – The Invisible City

One of the most admirable traits of The Invisible City is how such a diverse array of sound sources can produce such cohesive results – everything from subharchord to the sound of dead trees leaning on eachother are used to construct the eight landscapes present here. The album is beautifully structured, and Nilsen knows exactly when to let The Invisible City span out into passages of dreamy stasis, and when to startle the listener with a complete shift in sonic territory.

Swans – My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky

Bringing Swans back to life, and dragging the project out of what felt like a rather conclusive hiatus, was a masterstroke by Michael Gira. He was keen to emphasise the fact that this isn’t some sort of nostalgic reunion, and the sound of the new album seems to prove his point – it’s a natural progression of Angels Of Light, yet tips into the aggressive, locomotive rhythms that attribute it firmly to Swans. It’s an intense listen, but not in the hyper-distorted, clattering manner of the Cop and Filth era – this is an organic intensity, present in every sharp thud of discordant piano, every blistering burst of tremolo guitar, every seething bellow from Gira himself.

Aidan Baker – Liminoid/Lifeforms

A solo record with seven collaborators, who flesh out Liminoid/Lifeforms with strings, drums, guitar and vocals and help to create Aidan’s strongest work to date under his own name. Where the Liminoid section grooves, with percussive punches slotted under the rise and fall of violins, the 30-minutes of Lifeforms takes the album into a tempoless glide, eternally suspended in anti-gravity. Gorgeous stuff.

Deathspell Omega – Paracletus

Some were quick to complain that Paracletus fails to match the intensity of previous album Fas. But the album is far from a regressive step – in contrary, it demonstrates the band’s increased control over transitions between the sparse and the ferocious. And the intense moments are still there, catching a bizarre but addictive balance between stunning technical precision and all-out catharsis. Paracletus re-affirms Deathspell Omega as one of the most fresh and exciting metal bands in the world.