by Chris Rowella

While 2009 wasn't a watershed year for metal in the ways 1980 or 1993 were, the last twelve months of heavy music have been interesting and entertaining. We were witness to possibly the worst genre of music ever encountered, the dreaded crabcore. One can only hope its legion of cyclops-haircut faux-hardcore fans will become self-aware and kill it quickly.

In the realm of actual metal, two albums were the most polarizing among fans and critics: Mastodon's Crack the Skye and Baroness' Blue Record. With their radio-friendly melodies and praise from *gasp* mainstream media outlets, it wasn't long before cries of "sellout!" echoed across the Internet. The accusations are unfounded. If you've followed either band's career, it's no stretch to predict them arriving at a point like this. Rock & roll is integral to their respective sounds.

Interestingly, as Mastodon and Baroness move away from their sludge roots, countless bands took up its muddy flag and staked a claim in '09. Minsk, Buried Inside, Kylesa, Black Cobra, and Keelhaul (among others) released excellent albums this year, and sludge metal in general has been seeping into other genres like prog and post-hardcore. It looks much like metalcore did circa '01-'02, which is kind of scary. Don't be surprised if 2010 finds some of the Hot Topic crowd "discovering" Acid Bath or Cavity and ruining it for everyone.

Perhaps what 2009 proved most is the cyclical nature of metal. With the New Wave Of Old-School Death Metal and landmark albums from vets like Burnt by the Sun and Brutal Truth, everything old is new again. Or vice versa. Either way, there were plenty of great records and fun shows. Bring on the new year.

- - -

1. Coalesce - OX
2. Kylesa - Static Tensions
3. Goatwhore - Carving Out the Eyes of God
4. Tombs - Winter Hours
5. Church of Misery - Houses of the Unholy
6. Suffocation - Blood Oath
7. Keelhaul ? Keelhaul's Triumphant Return to Obscurity
8. Thou/Salome - split
9. Struck by Lightning - Serpents
10. Black Tusk/ASG - Low Country split