Hammer Smashed Awards 2008

2008 was one of my personal favorite years for music, ever. No, I do not think that it was a historical year by any means. But for me, this blog gave me the drive to search out all sorts of music I wouldn't have heard otherwise.

I could've easily put together a top 50 list this year, as I've seen others do, but that's past the point of debate and conversation... and if you want a top 50, just check our archives. Wouldn't be too hard to figure it out.

Honestly, our top ten was pretty firm, with only a few favorites being left off. Some peculiar choices,of course, like limited cassettes over proper albums. But in the end it was all about pure enjoyment,and the only rule was no reissues, and it had to be released this year.

Having said all that, I must admit that I knew what would win Album of the Year the first time I heard it. It absolutely mesmerized me, and has grown on me with each subsequent listen. So here goes. Let the debate commence.


1.Irezumi "Endurance"

Endurance is at once a modern masterpiece and a timeless classic. The term "ambient" does such a disservice to the emotional turbulence you will experience whilst listening to this absolute monolith of sound. It is a work that is beyond its time... a treasure that binds itself to your soul, and puts icy, mountain-sized lumps in your throat. Irezumi has created a fully realized concept, and executed it to perfection.

Completely mindblowing in every way... and an easy choice for album of the year.

2.Gridlink "Amber Gray"

Okay, I admit it. I am an elitist grindcore snob. I only listen to the best of the best. And the best ever was Discordance Axis, period. I know, I know. Napalm Death, Assuck, I hear ya. I've heard it all. But DA took it away from the crusties and threw it kicking and screaming into the future....and this year, after a fucking six year odyssey, Jon Chang finally returned to destroy everything with a 12 minute CD that has more killer riffs than the rest of this list combined.

It is so fast, so futuristic, and predictably, so short. But it flat out smokes. Every fucking second of it. As those old rockers used to say,"Meet the new boss,same as the old boss."

3.Samothrace "Life's Trade"

Whoa. A late entry to the list that nearly smoked everything released this year. Honestly, slow doom is becoming a goddamn sterile world these days. Somehow, while everyone was trying to out-slow each other, people forgot just what it is that made doom so awesome in the first place; the RIFF! Well Samothrace bring the kind of riffs that cause speakers to be blown.

These guys go huge from the outset, but it's fucking tuneful and melodic the whole time...and there is absolutely NO postrock filler-bullshit to be found. It is a true monolith that should be held up amongst modern classics like "As Heaven Turns To Ash" and "Dopethrone." An absolutely crushing statement of intent.

4.Harvey Milk "Life...the Best Game In Town"

Harvey Milk are rock gods...and if you don't understand that, I pity you. These guys are students of the game, and it shows. It is the riff that rules all, and since their return, they have melded their two previous identities (noise-rock sludge-kings, and arena rock monsters) into one finely tuned beast.

And who would've thought to put basslord Joe Preston on scorching lead guitar? Only Harvey Milk,that's who. And it was just crazy enough to work, as Joe pulls off some of the most incredible power-ballad-style leads ever to shred a Trans Am stereo.

Sabbath, Slayer, Milk... seriously.

5.Nadja "The Bungled and the Botched"

As the soft flute and the acoustic guitar intro begins, you realize that this particular Nadja release brings with it something different (while still including crazy chills up your spine) .... but you also know that soon, the epic crushing fuzz will appear to swallow you whole. With only two songs, Nadja pummels for nearly an hour, and leaves you absolutely brainwiped by the end.

Nadja owns sorrow, and this one cranks up all their trademarks tenfold. Incredible.

6.Yoga "untitled"

Probably the most mind-boggling release of the year, Yoga crawled out of nowhere with a way-too-limited cassette (50 copies) that threw every evil sound ever made into a blender, and then spat out something new and terrifying. Think spooky black metal interludes as a starting point, then ratchet up the creepiness about 100 times. Lucky for you, these tracks were rereleased as part of a split CD with Ghast, who are no slouch themselves. Own it, or miss out on one of the most intriguing new acts of the year.

7.Hayaino Daisuki "Headbangers Karaoke Club Dangerous Fire"

Apparently, after sitting things out for almost a decade, Jon Chang was on a fucking mission this year. Hayaino Daisuki is a speedfreak's dream come true, as the only thing "ironic" about this thrash battalion's debut EP is the artwork. Just short of grind speed, HD go fucking ballistic with crazy double bass, blazing fretwork, and Chang's signature screech. Thank god somebody still remembers what no-frills thrash is all about.

8.Lilin "Darkness Arise"

Speaking of thrash, where the fuck did these guys come from? While being billed as a black metal band, Lilin don't go all pussy-emo on you like so many bands nowadays. Instead they rip through high-speed blackened thrash riffs a mile a minute.... and the fact that this thing is a cassette doesn't hurt their blown out sound one bit. Add to that a killer Darkthrone cover to close it out, and you've got one of the top surprises of '08 for sure.

9.Natural Snow Buildings,Isengrind,and Twinsistermoon "The Snowbringer Cult"

With one disc of NSB, and one disc of their respective solo acts, the Snowbringer Cult is a touching, evocative journey through the snow covered mountains of Europe. From soft to blown out, this release really has it all, but there is a glue that binds it all together, and makes it a cohesive, and ultimately, amazing musical journey.

10.Pocahaunted and Robedoor "Plays Berkeley"

Ya, ya. I know. A live cassette limited to 100 copies in the top ten? But come on. Robedoor is awesome, and Pocahaunted is awesome, so put em together and you've got three times the awesome.

Okay okay, the numbers don't compute, but this is a perfect late night seance that billows and puffs like musical smoke...and since I don't want you to be left out, I've given you a link to download it.Have fun.

Honorable Mention

I was going to do a little blurb on each release I enjoyed this year, but it would've taken me a month, so here's a quick list of good stuff that easily could've been top ten.

Bones of Seabirds, Capsule, Half Makeshift, ASVA, the Melvins (a triumphant return to form!), Have A Nice Life, Moss, Ducktails, GnawTheirTongues, Blank Dogs, Sleepwalkers Local, the Crowned Heads of Europe, Thou, Emeralds, Black Shape of Nexus, Robedoor, Pocahaunted, Earth, Pivot, and fucking everything on Nuclear War Now!

Quick note: Two CDs that easily would've made my top ten were technically relased on vinyl in 2007. Thou's "Tyrant", and Black Shape of Nexus' "self-titled". Both are/were incredible. Both bands 2008 releases just missed the list as well.

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