And we’re back! It’s taken us time to get everything re-ignited after the New Year break, mainly because 2015 started off on such a high note. News was coming in left and right and we need to breathe a bit before jumping back in into all our regular columns. We’ll be slowly re-amping everything to pre-break levels, with Post Rock Post and Editorials making a comeback as well. But for now, we start off with our own favorite column, our Best Of lists!
This time, we chose a list tinged with nostalgia: we’ll be covering Final Albums, albums from band which broke up after they were recorded or released. It’s possible said bands split up long after the album was released but regardless, each piece here was the last LP recording from the band. Don’t go nitpicking on us; some of these bands released demos, EP’s or tracks after the ones listed here but we didn’t count those. These are the legacies, the last monuments of names who were once great and will forever hold a special place in our hearts.
So, read on. And remember, we always love feedback so tell us what you think! Any releases we missed? What should our next list be? Sound off in the comments below. As always, remember: it’s OK not to like thing.
Fugazi – The Argument
There are some bands who can go for decades and a dozen albums without ever really tweaking their sound or trying anything very new (I won’t name any names, but you know who they are). That’s totally fine, and I still enjoy some of those bands. But I always find it most interesting when you can trace a real path of progression and experimentation from their time of inception or first album to where they are now or where they left off. There are few better examples of this than the trailblazing indie post-hardcore/emo DC outfit Fugazi. Starting from a place that felt mostly like a continuation of where the classic 80s punk Minor Threat left off, Ian MacKaye, Guy Picciotto, Joe Lally, and Brendan Canty took the mold they helped create in Washington’s DIY scene and continuously fucked with it over the course of about a decade and a half, creating some absolute classics along the way. 2001’s The Argument was the culmination of all of this.
After starting to experiment with more straightforward pop and art-rock elements on the masterful Red Medicine and the less successful End Hits, The Argument is the album where Fugazi completed their transformation into a streamlined indie rock powerhouse. The straight-up sunniness of tracks like ‘Full Disclosure’ or ‘Nightshop’ would’ve been unheard of in their early work, but here it adds so much dimensionality to their well-worn hardcore sound. The more distinctive quality of the album though is its relative mellowness, particularly on slow stunners ‘The Kill’ and ‘Strangelight.’ The band are as bitingly political as ever, taking on corrupt politicians and housing/construction firms in the gentrification and destruction of DC neighborhoods in ‘Cashout,’ or torture and questionable interrogation techniques (several years before it became the topic du jour) in ‘The Kill.’ Most importantly though, the songs on here are just tight as hell and display a songwriting boldness and mastery rarely found elsewhere. I will forever hold out the slightest bit of hope that the band will return with something new that will blow my mind, but if The Argument remains Fugazi’s final statement, I can’t think of better way for them to have signed off.
Recommended Track: ‘Strangelight’
The Doors – L.A. Woman
This qualifies on the tenuous fact that it was Jim Morrison’s final album before he died. Later albums were released containing recordings of his vocal, but those contained tracks that he never wanted to put out. With Ray Manzarek and Bobby Krieger completing all missing lead vocal tracks it comes as no surprise to discover that those albums didn’t exactly set the world on fire. A band without it’s heart or soul is no band at all.
Now I’ve been in love L.A. Woman for a long, long time. It’s not just their masterpiece ‘Riders On The Storm’ that swings it, it’s the laconic shading and stone cold groove that the album is wrapped in. There’s the laid-back driving nirvana of ‘Cars Hiss By My Window’ and the gentle sashaying of ‘Hyacinth House’ on through to the staccato hep of ‘Been Down So Long’ and the jinking groove of ‘Love Her Madly’. From the downbeat to the upbeat, the album flows through the full range of blue emotions better than any other. And if you’re looking for a song to fall in love with, then you can do a lot worse than Jim’s love letter to the seedy underbelly and bright lights of Los Angeles – the title-track itself. Here, the lithe rhythm, dramatic structure and gorgeous lyricism all underpin that rickety Hammond organ and rocking vibe. The album is no less then a complete and utter joy.
Recommended Track: ‘L.A. Woman’
Animosity – Animal
The first time I listened to what would be Animosity’s swansong, Animal, I had no idea what to expect. At that point in my life, I was very much a death metal virgin, and really had no idea what constituted good death metal and what didn’t. So, I popped it in my CD player and I pressed play. Right off the bat, I was caught completely off guard by Leo Miller’s “TERRORSTORM!” shriek, was assaulted by Chase Fraser and Frank Costa’s furious riffing, and pummelled into oblivion by Navene Koperweis’ absolutely insane drumming.
Needless to say, I grinned the biggest grin I’ve ever grinned, threw my horns up, and never looked back.
Animal is, in my mind, a huge turning point for modern technical death metal, and undoubtedly played a huge part in shaping the genre into what it is now. This beast of an album is a deadly concoction of deathgrind, deathcore and tech death crammed into 29 minutes of unrelenting fury, chock full of maniacal vocals, inuman drumming and earth-shattering grooves. Kurt Ballou did a masterful job of capturing the unbridled ferocity of Animosity, and it remains one of my favorite production jobs of his to this day. Animal is an album that never gets old, one that I still listen to regularly, and it will always be near and dear to my heart. The underground metal community lamented the hell out of Animosity when they disbanded and still do to this day, but Animal was one hell of an album to go out on.
Recommended Track: ‘Terrorstorm’
The Human Abstract – Digital Veil
What could be more fitting for a band’s final album than a tale of the destruction and downfall of mankind? Digital Veil, the last release by The Human Abstract, a progressive metalcore band known for peppering their chugs and choruses with profusely technical neoclassical elements, chronicles the loss of our humanity at the hands of our own technology. Accompanying these bleak-yet-epic themes is incredibly-well-written music that fits perfectly, a 35-minute tour de force through fast-paced metalcore riffs, emotive choruses, and headbanging breakdowns. The Human Abstract could not have ended their career with a better album. As it stands, this beautiful, dark, evocative piece remains the pinnacle of progressive metalcore. From the swells of‘ Elegiac,’ a piano-led introduction to the album’s themes and stylings, through the choruses, breakdowns and riffings of tracks like ‘Faust’ and ‘Horizon To Zenith,’ to the final epic chorus of ‘Patterns,’ this musical tale of loss and woe at the hands of our own advancements stands testament to the sheer talent that defined the existence of The Human Abstract.
Recommended Track: ‘Faust’
Underoath- Ø (Disambiguation)
I still remember the first time I heard of this band. I was still in middle school and wasn’t really into it, until later in high school. Soon, I was catching them at their final performance ever in Tampa, Florida. However, it was this album that really allowed the band to end on a high note, to come into their own. Definitely one of their heavier, if not their heaviest, releases, the album starts off and finishes strong. For those who imagine the post-hardcore sound of their early years, you’ll be thrown for a loop when you hear this record, with lower screams and some of their best cleans coming from lead singer Spencer Chamberlain, who had never done cleans before this album due to having Aaron Gillespie on drums providing them. He did a fantastic job, and it adds to their album’s overall effect. I wish the band put out more music, but they realized it had run its course, and I’d rather them go out strong then finish flat and fall short. Overall, one of my favorite albums all time, not just because of the emotional attachment, but because it’s some of the best damn metalcore there ever will be.
Recommended Track: ‘My Deteriorating Incline’
Genghis Tron – Board Up the House
Starting to write about this album is no small feat. It is so dense, so intense, so downright insane that the mere notion of distilling it into words is daunting. However, the brave writer soldiers on and finds himself once again at the doors of madness with Genghis Tron’s final release, Board Up the House. What is this album like? Imagine if deep techno, break-core and metal all had too much drink, stumbled outside the bar into their own vomit and that vomit then mutated into a living thing which hungered for flesh and pain. That’s this album: there is no moment within that doesn’t surprise, as insanely tacky electronic refrains live above and below killer metal riffs. The sheer amount of time and talent that must have gone into producing it, let alone writing it, makes me lament that we’ll never see another album by these twisted geniuses. There have been attempts to emulate their style since then but nothing quite reached their levels of cohesion and relentless devotion to being not only experimental but also coherent. That’s perhaps the single largest redeeming qualities of this album: it’s just as insane as I said but it doesn’t feel like it when you’re listening to it. It the end, you know you’ve been through madness in retrospect, but during the nightmare everything seemed probable and in its place. Raise a glass to their name and then smash that glass and take some mind altering substances. Lots of them preferably.
Recommended Track: ‘City on a Hill + The Whips Blow Back’
At the Drive-In – Relationship of Command
This choice may be somewhat contestable for some seeing as At the Drive-In masterminds Omar Rodríguez-López and Cedric Bixler-Zavala went on to form the equally spectacular The Mars Volta in close proximity to the demise of their former band. But while De-Loused in the Comatorium may bear some sonic resemblance to Relationship of Command, nothing by The Mars Volta (or by any other post-hardcore act or other band in general) truly captures what At the Drive-In did with their swansong masterstroke. From the moment that Rodríguez-López’s angular and twisted guitar lead erupts into a full-band frenzy on ‘Arcarsenal,’ it is abundantly clear that listening to Relationship of Command encapsulates At the Drive-In’s live show intensity without losing an ounce of the band’s earnest passion. This obviously includes the manic vocal delivery of Bixler-Zavala and his cryptic lyricism, both of which demand as much attention as the performances of his bandmates. Yet, what is perhaps most impressive about Relationship of Command is its ability to convey unbridled chaos while still retaining stellar songwriting and an impeccable knack for melody. Being able to instill both fan belting and flailing so seamlessly and simultaneously is demonstrative of an incredible album. Though there will probably never be a new album from At the Drive-In (or from The Mars Volta, for that matter), it is records like Relationship of Command that single-handedly define how exceptional a band is, regardless of where it stands in their discography.
Recommended Track – ‘One Armed Scissor’
Nevermore – The Obsidian Conspiracy
There is no other band that I wish could be brought back from the “grave” than Nevermore. During their 20 year long career, they established themselves as something truly unique in the world of metal. Shredding leads, operatic yet primal vocals, and aggressive riffing melded together to set Nevermore apart from everybody else. The Obsidian Conspiracy, released in 2010, was the band’s last hoorah before disbanding in 2011. While it may not have been the most progressive album that they had ever released, it was overall very solid. I would listen to this album on repeat in my car for weeks on end and never get tired of it. The feelings that some of the songs such as ‘The Blue Marble and the New Soul’ and ‘Emptiness Unobstructed’ are still not matched for me by the majority of releases today. This album was very barebones as far as the rest of their discography goes. However, it shows each aspect of Nevermore’s distinct sound throughout the album. Each track gave a bite-sized piece of everything Nevermore had to offer. Overall, this album is in my top three Nevermore albums of all time. I hope that one day the band can settle their differences and come back together but I am happy that they went out on such a positive note.
Recommended Track: ‘The Blue Marble and the New Soul’
ISIS – Wavering Radiant
When ISIS came out with their last album Wavering Radiant fans and critics were left scratching their heads as of what to make with the last album from one of the pioneers of post-metal. This band set that bar for how the two genres “post” (from post-rock) and metal. But throughout their discography one thing stood out – this band never did the same thing twice. Wavering Radiant was testament to that. ISIS was always known for pushing the boundaries when it came to the genre, but no one was prepared for what Wavering Radiant turned out to be. All those formulae the band had used in their music suddenly didn’t make any sense! Yes, I have to admit their music was formulaic in the sense it had their songs had some of the most crushing climaxes ever heard in post-metal music, no one came close to how utterly devastating the climaxes were.
If we look at their discography from their Godflesh-inspired industrial Celestial, to the truly most post-rock album Oceanic, to their magnum opus Panopticon where they perfected the style they had become synonymous with, to perfecting the climaxes and addition of clean vocals in In The Absence of Truth, to their final installment. With this album, ISIS truly had said everything they needed to say.
Recommended Track: ’20 minutes/40 Years’
Gaza- No Absolutes in Human Suffering
I don’t think any band has ever exited with as much brevity, passion and anger as Gaza did with No Absolutes in Human Suffering. This album builds upon the foundation the band laid with their previous two, and stands head and shoulders above them, as well as most other albums in the genre, as a complete and utter masterwork. Fusing a vicious blend of metalcore, mathcore and sludge, Gaza deliver forty-four minutes of absolute nihilistic terror. Jon Parkin’s vocals are an ear splitting roar that rests on the foundation of the guitars, bass and drums. Calling No Absolutes in Human Suffering incredibly bleak would be an understatement, and while there’s little respite from the sonic assault, the music often opens up into instrumental sections of cold, strange beauty. No Absolutes isn’t a reinvention of Gaza’s sound, rather, it’s them taking their unique blend of metal and hardcore and honing it to absolute perfection, delivering one of those rare albums that’s both flawless and timeless. No Absolutes in Human Suffering is Gaza’s triumph, and though they band may be gone, they leave a legacy any group would be envious of.
Recommended Track: ‘Not With All The Hope in The World’
Despised Icon – Day Of Mourning
It truly was a Day Of Mourning when Despised Icon finally hung up their diamante encrusted gloves after a recent string of reunion shows. The French Canadians were and will continue to be the favourite band of many a perpetrator of wiggerish arm movements, this writer included. Even without the breeing that The Ills Of Modern Man made so damn popular, the band still put out an utterly crushing final album, full of mazy guitar riffs and some of the most precise, machine like percussion you’ll ever hear.
The dual vocal attack was the perfect foil to the musical performances of what would be the most talented line up to go by the Despised name. Gang vocals, gutturals and hardcore sneering made the impact required to front such mosh heavy tracks like ‘MVP’ and ‘Diva Of Disgust’. It seems like such a waste that Alex Erian would go on to front the lauded but fairly unimpressive Obey The Brave. If only he knew that he would never again put in a performance that would make hairs stand on end and blood turn to rust.
Everyone always goes on about the Golden Year of deathcore being 2007 and they have a clear case (The Ills Of Modern Man came out in 2007, noitch!) but this absolute gem from 2009 deserves a place on that podium too. The Icon, which they have since proved to be, are dearly departed but they left with such a bang that snapbacks are STILL in fashion with the deathcore crowd. A crowd that owes everything to these fine messieurs from Quebec.
Recommended Track – ‘MVP’
Botch – An Anthology of Dead Ends
Botch was the most interesting metalcore band. Period. You’d be hard-pressed to find another band that influenced as wide of a range of contemporary acts with as small of a catalog. Even after releasing one of the blueprints for angular and dissonant riffage with We Are the Romans, the band took their experimentation even further with their final EP, An Anthology of Dead Ends. Even at a modest 21 minutes, the album’s five full tracks deliver a goddamn deluge of off-time breakdowns, quirky yet disturbing lyrics, and even ambient post-rock tendencies with ‘Afghamistam.’ At the end of the album’s (and band’s) final moment, vocalist Dave Verellen constantly berates the listener with the repeated line of “you’re in the saddle now.” It’s like the band knew they were passing off their sound to a horde of younger bands that would never quite fill their shoes. It’s a bummer we might not see something so simultaneously chaotic and cohesive ever again, but at least we’ve got this classic record.
Recommended track: ‘Vietmam’