Krzysztof Penderecki — Matrix 5
Like unrelenting dissonance? Me too. Since this isn’t rock music, this is not an album in the typical sense, but it is a great collection of the composer’s early work from the late 50’s – mid 70’s. The abstractness and atonality of these pieces has a purity that seems to ignore any direct stylistic influence. This music completely destroyed me as a teenager, but it has remained deep and continuously revealing over the years.
Ulver — Nattens Madrigal
Best basslines ever. Best riffs ever. Best solos ever. The confrontational nature of the recording never bothered me (although I suggest listening to this with “bass boost” or the non-existent “treble-annihilator” setting engaged so you can hear Skoll tear it up). This album has never let me down. I love pretty much everything about it from the ambient interludes, to the guitar-getting-plugged-in sound that begins each song, and each listen is always extremely exciting and gratifying.
Portal — Outré
Not unlike the Ulver record, this album sounds like it was recorded by aliens. An unapologetically singular band, Portal write some of the most unique death metal I’ve heard. A revelatory moment was seeing them perform using my amps and my bandmate’s drums; they didn’t sound anything like my band and they DID sound exactly like a louder heavier version of their own records. I realized that their recording style didn’t have nearly the significance that their riffs carried. And holy shit, the riffs. Also, I rarely care about lyrics at all, but i thoroughly enjoy the Curator’s word choices and modifications. All three of the Portal albums are equally amazing and singular (as are all the alternate recordings on various eps), but Outré was the first one I heard and the first to totally envelope me.
Univers Zero — Heresie
The darkest Univers Zero album, and with only 3 tracks (ranging from 13 – 25 minutes), the most ambitious. This album is a perfect union of complex instrumental rock and 20th century chamber music. When I first heard it as a 17-year old, it just sounded like classical music to me since Daniel Denis never plays recognizable beats. Now I hear it more on the rock side of the division, due to the use of far more repetition and improvisation than most chamber music… the heavy electric bass and use of a drum set (instead of a couple percussionists) push it further in that direction. The immersive evil of album’s intro gives way to constantly engaging polyphony and rhythmic asymmetry which are always in service of the dark atmosphere.
Ocrilim — Annwn
If you listen to this and actually pay attention to it you will be changed. You might hate it, but it’s too amazing to not affect you in some way. This is one of first albums on which Mick used three-part writing, with one guitar as the “bass,” one as the “main,” and one as the “lead.” Hearing this expanded version of his writing style opened a new dimension sonically and emotionally. The internal logic of this music works so flawlessly it’s like studying a bizarre newly-discovered species of deep-sea marine life.