Metal Skull: The Annual Top 10 Justification: More Than A List, Less Than Relevant

I don’t think I need to say it anymore that these lists don’t matter. It’s why I haven’t done a “Top 10 Of The Decade” and why I won’t be doing one anytime soon. But the year-end list, well, I’ve been doing it every year for a while, and as long as I stipulate that my list represents nothing other than my own opinion—that it’s not the end all be all of evaluations—I think it’ll all be alright. So that said, here’s where I’m at for 2009:

Them Crooked Vultures - Them Crooked Vultures10. Them Crooked Vultures

Them Crooked Vultures


Since this was only released last month, it’s something of a late entry onto the list. A month or two from now, I might feel completely different, but I bought it the day it came out at Vintage Vinyl and have no regrets. If anything, as I’ve gotten to know the songs better, they’ve grown on me all the more. The supergroup featuring Queens Of The Stone Age’s Josh Homme, Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones and Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl have created a badass rock record that’s catchier than hell and has songs on it that I wouldn’t think would ever be able to show up on a corporate pop record in 2009. If rock was in, this album would be ruling the world right now.

Om - God Is Good09. Om

God Is Good

Drag City

It was a big, big surprise when I saw Om with Emil Amos (Grails) on drums this past spring and they sounded better than they ever had before. I didn’t think anyone would be able to replace Chris Hakius as Al Cisneros’ partner in his only post-Sleep project to date, but Amos succeeded in that role and then some, and when God Is Good was released on Drag City this fall, it only confirmed the band is stronger than ever. As one of two releases on this list to feature Cisneros, Om’s latest remains trip I take on a more than regular basis.

Yawning Sons - Ceremony To The Sunset08. Yawning Sons

Ceremony To The Sunset

Lexicon Devil

It’s a record that probably flew under a lot of people’s radar, but the conglomerate of Yawning Man’s Gary Arce and UK atmospheric rockers Sons Of Alpha Centauri (hence Yawning Sons) was a masterpiece of desert prog that managed to remain on my radar throughout almost all of 2009. Ceremony To The Sunset was one of those records I put on when I needed something to mellow me out but not bore the shit out of me. The ambient sounds and obvious creative freedom continues to grow in appeal with each listen.

Wino - Punctuated Equilibrium07. Wino

Punctuated Equilibrium

Southern Lord

Thing is, this would probably be higher on the list, but it came out way the hell back in January and I haven’t returned to it the same way I might in other years because of the other 2009 release featuring guitarist/vocalist Scott “Wino” Weinrich (see number five). Once that came out, Punctuated Equilibrium took a back seat and never really found its way back into my player. All the same, the record had some great songs, and the energy in the man’s playing is evident. As Wino’s first release since the unfortunate splitting of The Hidden Hand, this “solo” outing (with Clutch’s John Paul Gaster on drums) was a fan’s delight.

Crippled Black Phoenix - 200 Tons Of Bad Luck06. Crippled Black Phoenix

200 Tons Of Bad Luck


Including it might be cheating since 200 Tons Of Bad Luck is a single-disc compilation derived from two Crippled Black Phoenix albums, but screw it, it’s my list and if I want this album in here, so be it. Make your own damn list. While you’re doing that, I’ll be throwing myself headfirst into the oddly folkish and organic vibes of Crippled Black Phoenix. They’re one of few acts out there really looking to challenge themselves with each release, and the results on 200 Tons Of Bad Luck are both refreshing and exciting to hear.

Shrinebuilder - Shrinebuilder05. Shrinebuilder



This was the daddy of them all, and from here on out, any album on this list could pretty much be number one depending on my mood that given day and what I feel like hearing. Dale Crover (Melvins) on drums, Al Cisneros (Om, Sleep) on bass, Scott Kelly (Neurosis) and Wino on guitar. Really Shrinebuilder was on this list even before they released such a kickass album. I still get chills when I listen to “Pyramid Of The Moon.” Every time.

Truckfighters - Mania04. Truckfighters



As far as straightforward stoner rock releases go, Truckfighters’ third album it probably the best of the year. The fuzz is in full force, but they’ve pushed their sound forward and aren’t content at this point to just bust out simple Kyuss-clone rockers and be done with it. Mania is next-gen stoner rock arrived early, and it puts these Swedes in a whole different league when it comes to the quality of their output.

Masters Of Reality - Pine / Cross-Dover03. Masters Of Reality

Pine/Cross Dover


I don’t know if this ever had a proper U.S. release, but it’s out in Europe, and it’s a big Internet, so it’s not impossible to get. Chris Goss outdoes himself yet again with his first album in nearly half a decade. The man is simply one of the best rock songwriters of his generation, and though he’s gone relatively unrecognized as such, the cult worship around him continues to grow with each new record. Let’s hope it’s not so long before the next one.

Los Natas - Nuevo Orden de la Libertad02. Los Natas

Nuevo Orden De La Libertad

Small Stone

For most of the year, the latest from Argentinian rockers Los Natas was my number one pick, and to be perfectly frank, if the whole “Top 10” thing didn’t require numbering, this and the next album would be on the same level. It’s a brilliant slab of revolutionary rock that, even though I don’t speak Spanish, connects on a primal level with a ferociousness that transcends any such barrier. You should hear it.

YOB - The Great Cessation01. YOB

The Great Cessation

Profound Lore

Fact is, I was so happy that YOB were back together and putting out another album. Then when I actually got the damn thing and it demolished all my expectations right from the start, there was really no way it wasn’t going to be my pick of the year. I knew it going into it and I wasn’t disappointed. YOB are the heaviest band in America. Keep your death metal with the triggered blast beats. If you can’t feel the weight in “Burning The Altar,” then I’ve got nothing for you. Sorry.

Honorable mention (in no order) to Heaven And Hell, Brothers Of The Sonic Cloth, Candlemass, Black Pyramid, Zoroaster, Clutch, Firebird and Goblin Cock. And probably about 30 others.

Had JJ Koczan heard more albums this year, this list would be longer. Blame the economy. He does.