Since I've seen a few folken getting up to these, I'll toss out a list of my top twenty-five 'scrobbled artists, from July 21st on. Unfortunately bands like Heathen
who got INSANELY heavy play towards the beginning of the year get screwed, but that's the nature of the beast.
25. Paradise Lost
: The UK's gloomy doomsters slid in just ahead of the crunch master's Corrosion of Conformity
who had a late surge when I started listening to Wiseblood
a lot, but PL held on due to many spins of Icon
and One Second
. These guys have a heavy Metallica
circa-1990 influence as well as from old-school grinders like Saint Vitus
, but their sound was absolutely groundbreakin in the early 90's... you know before they descended into gothic rock hell.
24. Pain of Salvation
: These guys are overrated as all get-out musically, but from a conceptual standpoint... just wow. Daniel is some kind of genius, and when he has a way with words that never fails to surprise and awe me. They also have some of the best ballads in the business such as Chain Sling
and Imago (Homines Partus)
. Still, don't expect them near this high next year.
: The Gods of Finnish Metal. Nobody else even comes close. I really want to pick up some of their early works, but Tuonela
and AM Universum
alone were enough to knock me on my ass. Is there a more perfect song than The Way
? Probably not.
: The evil underlords of progressive metal. How any band this nasty got big is almost beyond me. There seems to be a million edges to this band, like one of those Chinese puzzle boxes I can never quite figure. From Danny Carey's morse code drumming to Maynard's neuron-misfiring screams, this band is as esoteric as they come, while laying down some truly foundation-shaking riffage.
: Amongst the most depressing stories in metal, Scorpions spent half of the 70's in an addled prog-fog before suddenly waking the hell up and scaring the crap out of everyone with their prescient songwriting and face-melting axework. Alas, they sold out big big come the 80's and were never quite the same again. Oh, and then they started to suuuuuck. But man... looking over the canon of 70's and early 80's classics one is bound to be highly, highly impressed. More respect is due these guys.
: Along with Watchtower
and Fates Warning
, these guys are the fathers of technical metal, welding an almost unearthly level of skill to heavy thrash/death. This chemical wedding would be called death-jazz, and Atheist will always be the kings. If you don't have Unquestionable Presence
make sure to pick up the attractive reissue from Relapse. It is well worth the time.
19. Thought Industry
: While I sadly don't own any of their early material, which sounds like a bulldozer rumbling over a post-modernist art exhibit, I absolutely love their more alternative-leaning 90's material. Brent Oberlin is a poet and a lyricist almost beyond compare, weaving absolutely bent stream of consciousness rants into the band's skewed hardcore and noise-metal structures. So intelligent I never quite feel I've grasped them to their fullest extent.
18. Trans-Siberian Orchestra
: A bit of a fluke given that I spun their most recent release, The Lost Christmas Eve
a whole heap of times when I reviewed it over at Metal-Archives.com, but these guys are a pretty cool project. The instrumental stuff remains amusing and wizardly in its own way, but its the vocal tracks that really sunk their hooks into me. Still, these guys are no Savatage
and I find it kind of sad that their massive commercial success has pretty much killed the band that spawned them.
17. Blind Guardian
: The best power metal band in the world claims a lofty position on my charts on the strength of only one album. I need more of these guys like... something that needs something else a lot. Sure, they're a little bit uneven but the best tracks on Nightfall in Middle-Earth
tap into a power beyond the pale of most other musics. Drop-dead fun to shout along with this nonsense too.
16. Def Leppard
: The NWOBHM heroes punch up to this high position on the chart on the strength of how endless listenable their first two LPs are. I grant you, everything since Slang
has sucked on a cosmic scale, and a good deal of the stuff from before that record to boot, but hey, these guys nailed down a perfect mix of driving riffs and anthemic vocals that laid the foundation for hair metal while remaining oh-so-much cooler than it. 'Til, like, Hysteria
which remains an extreme guilty pleasure of mine.
15. Ozzy Osbourne
: Another fluker, given that I reviewed his first two records over at the Archives and thus spun them a ton. That said, no shame in pushing up the godlike axe-work of Randy Rhoads and the the cunning songwriting of Bob Daisley up the charts is there?
: After spending the great majority of the year in the top 10, the Aussie-Scot legends were bumped out with the finish in sight. I love this band so much its almost scary. They are the greatest comfort food in rock, effortlessly writing the best riffs of all time, the sweetest grooves, the most perfect melodies. Fact is, the only band I've listened to nearly as much as AC/DC is Metallica
and while they are a truly special thing to me, AC/DC is the love of my life. The years with Brian Johnson are kickass, but this band never matched the dizzying heights of the Bon Scott era. Powerage
man, rock comes no better.
: This is the most obscure band in my top 25, but their incredible blend of funk and metal on their last album The Next Room
and EP Vision
, the band climbed to dizzying heights. Heavy, catchy... I can't imagine an audience into hard rock who couldn't appreciate them. And, all of their material is available for free online. If you like early RHCP or Faith No More
, be sure to give these guys a look.
12. Alice in Chains
: Yea and verily, the greatest grunge band on all time. From unsettling, dense, sickly Sabbatherian dirges to the most heartbreakingly beautiful acoustic compositions in rock, AiC were a beast of unique grace. The lamentably late Layne Staley could summon from the bottom of his cadaverous frame a nasal wail that was the very embodiment of pain and yet he could also inspire with the wistful, mournful power of his words. And hey man, any band with Jerry Cantrell deserves mention.
: The creative juices flowed deep and rich for this unruly band of goregrinders-cum-melodeath pioneers. Carcass was always above and beyond the pack of extreme metal monsters, possessing the best riffs, the most powerful innovations, and of course the badass howls of the best vocalist in death metal history, Jeff Walker. While sadly disbanded, they remain the throbbing heart of the extreme... or at least one of the most integral organs.
10. Black Sabbath
: The anchor and anvil of all that is hard and heavy, Sabbath remain a misunderstood monster. Everybody comments on the crushing heaviness of those first four albums, but the band had a unique gift for progressive rock and avante garde compositions that are rarely if ever credited. As makers of unique and inimitable art, they blow the likes of Led Zeppelin
away, and as skullcrushing riff-warriors... oh yes, there are few better. And never forget their crucial first two albums with Ronnie James Dio, both wellsprings of brilliance that rank amongst the best albums of their time.
9. Fates Warning
: Never ever forget, that the first undeniably prog AND undeniably metal band were these guys. I don't have nearly as much FW stuff as I ought to but what I have is truly amazing stuff. John Arch was one of the most unique and brilliant vocalists of his day, somewhere between King Diamond and Bruce Dickinson but arguably better than either, and his successor Ray Alder had almost limitless range and character to is voice. And Jim Matheos... perhaps the most underrated metal songwriter ever.
: In the beginning, Savatage mined from the very heart of metal itself, creating music so olden and traditional that it seemed as if their music had always been there. Jon Oliva’s iconic screams and superb characterizations bouncing off of the unbeatable crunch-heavy magic of his brother Criss were deeply satisfying meals. In the 90’s, the ‘tage moved on to Kansas-like piano ‘n’ strings prog, fuelling deeply involved and elegantly written concept albums that reached a point of near nirvana. Now that this band is on semi-permanent hiatus, we all have time to reflect on just how great this band was. Take your time with it.
: Eternally damned to critical dismissal and being pigeonholed for their one genre-defining concept album, Queensryche skirted the borders between screaming heavy metal and serious art-rock like none before and few since. Their early works are godly displays of how much class and substance heavy metal music is capable of achieving and aspiring to. Operation: Mindcrime
might be the only album that survives the years, but those in the know will never forget that, for example, the album 'Ryche released right before it (Rage for Order
) is every bit its equal. And that's damned impressive.
: I remember once reading an article in "Blender" talking about Dave Mustaine was one of the most unnecessary rockstars of all time, and that Megadeth was a 'second-tier speed metal act'. Friends, nothing could be further from the truth. Drifter
is a second-tier speed metal band. Megadeth never settled for anything less than top of the line, relentlessly kicking the genre to new heights of speed and technique, becoming one of the most influential metal acts of all time. And even if they were second tier, well, their music is just endlessly listenable even their underrated 90’s output like Cryptic Writings
which contained 6-8 utterly classic tracks. So fuck you "Blender".
: Shamefully ignored during their too-brief lifetime, Anacrusis were definitely thinking-man’s thrashers and the way their music progressed album-to-album is a fascinating thing to watch. From trashy, dirty, drop-dead fun shit on their first LP to the supremely depressing and grey Reason
to the wonderful, crystalline progressive compositions on their final two, Anacrusis was always a band to watch and a band apart. Also, their entire catalogue is online for free and all legal like so go geddit NOW!
4. In Flames
: Disproportionately high on this list due to my obtaining their whole catalogue this year, and their remarkably easy listenability. In Flames spent roughly four years developing an unimpeachable critical reputation and the next six trying to tear it right down. These guys are not a great band, but their first three albums (and first EP) are glorious, quintessential Gothenburg melodic death. Then the fourth album is okay. And then, starting with Clayman
things went straight to hell. I expect quite a number of bands to overtake these guys.
3. Judas Priest
: A band really beyond comparison save for the Sabs, Priest re-engineered metal in their own image in the 70’s with their series of groundbreaking and brilliant albums. While the band’s massive sell-out with British Steel
, overshadowing by the markedly inferior Iron Maiden
, and descent into absurdity starting with Painkiller
are incredibly sad moments for metal, their path of destruction remains flat-out glorious.
: My favourite band of all time put out a solid effort in ’05 in spite of the massive amount of time I’ve spent listening to them in the past. While I have tired of the self-titled and grown increasingly bored with St. Anger
, the band remains the source of much of my favourite music ever. My most listened-to Metallica record this year was certainly Load
, because I often found myself in the mood for its warm, full grooves and epic sound, but the thrash titans got their fair share as well. Just a killer band.
: They’re highly inconsistent. They wank too much on later efforts. I find huge gaping flaws in almost everything they’ve done. But the individual heights these guys have reached… jaw-dropping in their magnitude. Awake
is a panoramic, mesmerizing, and thus-far unequalled tour de force of dark progressive metal brilliance, and there are a good forty of their songs that would surely break into any good-sized favourites list I might make. The massive amount of live and demo material on my computer as well as their robust catalogue makes them something I often reach for, and thus, warts and all, they are my top artist of 2005.
Hope you enjoyed the read.