Pazz & Jop 2011: Laina Dawes On Tombs And Other Metal Bands That Shake You To The Core

To supplement this year's Pazz & Jop launch, Sound of the City asked a few critics to expand on the reasonings behind their voting. Up next is Toronto writer Laina Dawes, whose ballot is a study in the year's best extreme metal offerings.

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I first got turned on to Tombs, whose Path Of Totality ended up topping my albums list, at 2010's Maryland Deathfest. Out of a plethora of black, death and grindcore bands playing that long weekend, I walked away from the Brooklyn band's set thinking that while their mélange of blackened metal, '80s noise rock and raw emotion (courtesy of singer/guitarist Mike Hill) wasn't my personal cup of tea—I was there to check out Eyehategod and Converge—it was something unique. With Path of Totality, the trio dug in their heels a bit more and created a masterpiece of swirling rage with venerable notes of raw honesty that was backed up with some incredible production skills and the satisfaction of staying true to themselves.

Path of Totality had a firm hand in shaping not only how I listened to music as a critic for the rest of the year, but also who else ended up on this list. I admire great production work—as a Black lady who spent her formative years in love with house music and rap I love me some bass—and I want to feel it, my skin puckering in excitement as rhythm and, dare I say it, soul should never be buried in the background, or presented as an afterthought. I was drawn to albums in which great care was taken with how the music physically resonated with the listener.

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Download Generation: Yes In My Backyard's Best Local Music Of 2011, An 80-Minute Mix Of NYC's Greatest Hits This Year

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Tami "Making Friendz" Hart.
For New York City, 2011 was the year local musicians proved that RSS feeds didn't kill old-school ideals like "scene" or "community." Every great band seemed to come tied to three or four like-minded bands you could love for the same reasons, often on the same bill. Maybe we read (and wrote) enough trend pieces to believe it ourselves. Maybe bands are just using Facebook connections to write the narrative before writers could. Maybe retromania has led us to think everything is back in a big way?

Don't get too excited. Bloggos still continued to rally deep and hard around the cleverest, firstiest mash-ups of hypester runoff micro-genres (good luck in 2012, A$AP Rocky, Light Asylum, CREEP and Caveman). But while so many jockeyed for positions and pixels, larger stories emerged that felt refreshingly like the street-level phonecall-and-flyer scenes of yore. As, I wrote in SPIN the new hip-hop fraternity of Das Racist, Mr. Muthafuckin' eXquire, Action Bronson, Despot and a newly keyed up El-P represent the most energizing force in New York indie-rap since Def Jux's heyday. And as I wrote in the Voice, a beercan-ducking, sweat-gushing, feedback-obsessed swarm of new pigfuck bands have been laying waste to 285 Kent, including The Men, White Suns, Pygmy Shrews and Pop. 1280. Often pushing the boundaries of what modern metalheads can play and wear, there was a downright onslaught of forward-thinking, critically acclaimed extreme metal releases (Liturgy, Tombs, Krallice, Hull, Batillus), which helped turn New York into the most important metal scene in the country for maybe the first time ever. Hell, if record labels still had the money to fly people out here, they'd be swarming!

Below, the 2011 edition of our annual Yes In My Backyard mixtape—this year's encompasses 18 tracks, over nearly 80 minutes—which collects this year's greatest music from New York City.

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Download: Tombs' Skin-Crawlingly Psychedelic "Vermillion"

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Brooklyn's blackened mushmakers Tombs make expansive, transcendent, sun-scorched heavy metal that sounds like a jet engine blast of glorious, heart-warming misery. Equal parts the icegaze churn of classic Ulver, the skydiving sludge of Godflesh and the hypnotic cycles of Neurosi, the exact spot where Tombs sits is hard to map--a place where post-rock chugs give way to woozy black metal blurs. So the real defining take from Tombs is their sound: equal parts hazy and wretched, blown-out and insular, warm and weary, monolithic and pretty fucking monolitic. Tombs' second album, Path Of Totality (due June 7 via Relapse), is 57 minutes of skin-crawling agony seen through comforting blear and inviting whoosh, upping the ante of the band's more uplifting 2009 debut Winter Hours. "Vermillion" has the psychedelic roar of recent Nachtmystium, the murky growl of classic goth bands like Christian Death, the sputtering tom-tom work of a caffeinated progger, and a soaring bridge that sounds like a certain punk rock classic.

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