I sit here just... trembling in fear at what I must do. I have to, once again, compile a relatively large list of albums, rank them, briefly critique them, and then add in enough quirky little pieces of information, comedy and entertainment if I EVER hope ANYONE in the universe is actually going to read... a good bit of it. And why? It's already!... It's already friggin... 2007! I missed the boat folks! Game over!
But seriously. This is a metal list. I listen to metal, and other stuff too. I could write up a huge thesis on why it's hard to compare metal to other forms of contemporary music but... you know what? I'm not gonna. I don't care. This is what I've done the past few years and I'm stickin to it. Yeah, Boo hoo, I didn't do every kind of music on the same list again, yell about it in the comments section. I've rambled on enough, LET'S GIT IT ON!
- Great Cold DistanceWhy?:
This is more or less a hard rock/metal album. It's mid-paced, and shows about as much flourish as your average Chevelle
album. But it is still a metal album, albeit a depressing and dark one. I've never been a huge fan of Katatonia's style, even when they were more focused on the Doom/Death type thing, but this is a collection of some truly haunting and bleak songs... I know I'll be blaring this stuff all Summer long at the pool...
- Leading VisionWhy?:
If I could give a title to this year in metal (COULD? Why I CAN!), I'd call it "The Year of the Tech Death." Why? Well, tons of technical death metal bands had stellar releases, and bands that were previously a bit more simplistic in their attitude really added a lot to their music in terms of dazzling skill. This can be both a good and bad thing, and I think all of these releases have rather stifled my enthusiasm for crazy-ass technical music altogther. However, this doesn't mean I'm stripping my list of all tech-death and related albums I truly did enjoy, and we start here with the first of those releases by Gorod. Gorod does a great job at combining poppy and melodic death metal riffing with their standard technical flair. The drumming is nothing spectacular and a few songs just sort of fall flat without a defining melody. But this album is truly worth it for tunes like "Thirst for Power." The opening riff of that song... SO CATCHY.
18. The Devin Townsend Band
Well, that Devin Townsend sure is a slick one. He released one of the most disappointing album's of his career with Strapping Young Lad's "The New Black" (which isn't AWFUL, but it didn't make my list), and still manages to squeeze a spot onto the top 20 with his Progressive metal project's newest release. The thing that truly makes this album a treat is its varied and often fun dipping into various style flavors. The best example of this are the two songs "Vampira" and "Vampolka." Essentially the same song, however the former is a zany metal tune, while the later is literally a polka rendition. And friends, polka is always a win.
– The Black WaltzWhy?:
Kalmah is basically a power metal band with deathy-harsh vocals. Seriously. Listen to the music. It's just a bunch of melodic solos and leads and riffs that sound like they'd fit comfortably on a Rhapsody
album (alright, they're darker than that), and doesn't contain any of the cacophony or dissonance that you'll find in death metal. But, ya know... who cares. The point is this is Kalmah's most captivating release thus far, and I think a lot of that is owed to the keyboards. They really did a great job of utilizing the keys to create a symphonic effect, adding some serious grandeur and depth to the songs, especially ones like "Time Takes Us All." Oh, and the intro to "Man of the King" basically insisted that I keep this song on the 20. Anyone who's heard this song knows what I'm talkin bout.
– United in RegretWhy?:
The problem with this album is that it's a definitive step BACKWARDS from their 2005 EP, A Diamond for Disease. Never mind the epic first track of that Ep, which is no doubt one of the best metal songs I've ever heard... The material on here doesn't even equal the other third song on that album, which is a standard 3 minute melodic death song. What's up Arsis? This is a good album, filled with some interesting clean guitarwork passages and it infuses lots of unconventional, often atonal harmonies. Still, comon guys. You're capable of a lot more, and should've been in my top 5.
15. The Faceless
Another Tech Death album with great performances, and a little bit of experimentation, and perhaps the most prominent quality of the style... Songs that start to run together after awhile. Still, this album does a lot of things right. And one reason it truly deserves a spot on the list is for the track "Akeldama" alone. It's just a sobering experience that reminds me of Cynic
and later era Death
at each of those respective artists peaks. It's just a beautiful song that really nails that progressive death metal sound, and stands out from the rest of the album.
14. Genghis Tron
- Dead Mountain MouthWhy?:
ELECTROGRIND. Seriously, it's just fun and surprisingly varied grindcore with some hyper-technical guitars and lots of electronic bleeps and bloops added in. It's not the most substantive music ever, but it's also not entirely cliche'd or boring.
- The Kiss The HopeWhy?:
Brooding, creepy, and sometimes very surprising. From the opening track, which is driven by what seems to me a blackened Neurosis
riff, you're set up for a unique ride combining the bands black metal roots, to some of their avant-garde tendencies which rely heavily on post-metal esque textures and atmospheres. In addition to that, you also get some really surprising tracks like "Tales of Lost Love," which features sparse percussion intermixed with oldschool blues singing. And by Oldschool, I mean OLDschool... whoever sings on this track, they convincincly have me picture them as an 85 year old black man with black sunglasses sitting on a porch in some God forsaken Mid-western wasteland.
- Silver EPWhy?:
A Beautiful, lumbering slab of post-metal (is it ok to use that term without making fun of it yet?). The songs here are actually quite catchy, and are in essence pop melodies slowed down a hundred miles an hour and sung to heavily distorted electric guitars. This one is worth it for the title track alone... simply majestic.
- Symbols of FailureWhy?:
A delicious serving of riff salad. That's how I'd describe Symbols of Failure. It's just chock full of more insane riffage than you can even fathom. Sure, it's not that memorable... Sure, it's hard to listen to this music beyond a few songs. But damnit... You listen to the songs "Alpha Breed" or "Minions: The Fallen" or- pretty much any song on here. There are moments that just turn your insides out.
– Feeding the AbscessWhy?:
Alright it's... it's another technical death metal album... I KNOW, I'm getting a little carried away. But this one is different! Seriously. Daniel Mongrain has a music degree of some sort, and I'm pretty sure it's involving jazz, because the man infuses so many great jazzy parts into this album that it almost starts to.... not really be death metal. But the second that happens, Martyr gets back into gear. Some little bits of experimentation including some strings prevent this album from being entirely derivative, and rather special.
09. Into Eternity
- The Scattering of AshesWhy?:
This is Into Eternity at their best. They have perfected their blend of progressive/power/death metal on this one, and it shows from the beginning to the end. However, is it too much to ask for them to throw in an acoustic track or two like on Buried in Oblivion? That's all that I'd say is keeping this release from true excellence. Still, it's Into Eternity embracing all that they do right, and I approve.
– The Conductor's DepartureWhy?:
TECH DEATH: What Anata does right here is creating some very unique harmonies that go beyond tradition rules that metal harmonization tends to follow. You'll rarely find them using standard harmonizing thirds, but instead they'll have two guitar parts interweaving out of dissonance and beauty. If I had a better understanding of theory I could tell you EXACTLY what they're doing, but it's different, and I like it, it makes for a very interesting listen. Also, there are some stellar drum performances on here, and I'm not even a big drum guy (See the instrumental track "Children's Laughter" or the titletrack for what I'm talking about specifically). Also, Anata keep the music largely mid-paced throughout most of this album, a welcome change from the blistering speed most of the tech acts on this list are going for.
07. Amon Amarth
- With Oden On Our SideWhy?:
Man. So Fun. This is definitely Amon Amarth's best album to date. It's only hurt by the fact that it really isn't that much different from thier previous albums... other than the fact it's awesome. What makes Amon Amarth such a fun experience, for me, is not only great and consistently written melodic death songs, but the vocals. Johan Hegg has to be one of the best growling vocalists out there, because if you listen in a little bit, you can understand just about everything he says. And because every Amon Amarth song is about Vikings/Battling/Norse Mythology... I really do enjoy listening to him tell his stories :-)
06. Protest the Hero
Protest the Hero are a neat blend of post-hardcore/punk, power metal, and metalcore. It's a musical experience that gives you the best of catchy, often very technical guitar leads, melodic vocals, yet strung along with aggressiveness. The only band I've heard that resembles them is The Fall of Troy
, and even that band is a little less metallized than PtH. These guys aren't afraid of ruffling anyone's feathers with what they do in their music, and I like that. Piano-parts, acoustic passages, female vocals, and a wonderful concept telling the story of the woman "Kezia," through herself and two other characters, all make this such a compelling album.
- In A Flesh AqauriumWhy?:
"HOLY-... 0_0." That's what you might do the first time you listen to unexpect. "In A Flesh Aquarium" is a really great record that is initially just... overwhelming in its chaotic strangeness. You have black metal, death metal, jazz,, symphonic classical, funk, Arab music, circus music, and MORE all wrapped up into one wirlwind of an avant garde metal album. The musicianship as well as the writing is both impressive and baffling. One of the things that truly amazes about this band is that a group of individuals even FOUND each other that were this talented and willing to create such lush and bizarre music. Yes, this is very strange and confusing at first, but once you get past that initial, overwhelming weird-factor and start really listening to the music, you begin to appreciate how much depth this album contains. The song-structures actually aren't as random and spastic as I first perceived,and I plead with anyone that listens to this to give it quite a few chances.
04. Spawn of Possession
Another technical death metal album, but by far my favorite one of the year. Some complain about SoP just being another form of soulless musical masturbation with no defining characteristics... Well, here's what I say to that (From Rateyourmusic): "I very much disagree with the sentiment that this album is simply an exercise in technicality. In fact, though Spawn of Possession certainly exhibit an amazing degree of technical ability, it is very apparent to me that their first and foremost focus, is to craft an album of unbridled malevolence and chaos. I will admit the album is hard to grasp on the first, fourth, or even tenth listening. Perhaps if I had written this review then, it would not get as high a rating. However, when one truly delves into this album, and begins to hear the transitions of riffs, the actual repetition of parts, actual choruses and melodies... they become aware of just how well this album is actually written.
The amazing writing abilities are immediately showcased on this album in non-metal form with "Inception," as well as in the clean introductions to "In My Own Greed," and "Scorched." Spawn of Possession claim a lot of classical influence in their composition, and I think that shines not only through these intros, but throughout the entire album, where the harder to decipher death metal segments take precedence. Utilizing atonal harmonies, transitions from sudden bursts of staccato energy to smooth and elegant soloing, I am frequently reminded of techniques used by famous turn of the century composers such as Igor Stravinsky
or Dmitri Shostakovich
. This music is jarring, and it certainly isn't catchy, at least not in a sugary Summer-time pop sense. But for those willing to probe and discover the unconventional, intricate melodies buried in the madness, this becomes a truly wonderful death metal album.
Musical skill on its own is useless. However, Spawn of Possession, like the extremely technical and unconventional classical composers they ascribe as their influence, blend USE their technicality to create a distinctly jarring, ominous atmosphere impossible to recreate without the insanity and advances found in their playing."
- Blood MountainWhy?:
A towering achievement of inspiration, passion, and creativity in metal. Not much needs to be said for this album (and yes, I'm getting lazy). It's just a wholly solid effort, filled with plenty of aggression, and a good bit of progression.
I MADE A RHYME!
- Ashes Against the GrainWhy?:
What is it about bands that make me think of the woods. Seriously. Opeth
, Agalloch, Into the Woods
... Ok, that last one might be an analogous example but... You get my point. This album transports me to a serene yet sometimes depressing forest, perhaps sitting at a mountainside covered with snow. It begins with the light coming over that mountain and me relishing in it's warmth and beauty reflected off of the frigid, pale snow. As the day moves on, I taste the cold, and at times it's downright depressing. And then, as night settles in, this snowy forest becomes a place of darkness and sadness.
Silly Poetical Imagery aside, Agalloch is just a band that seems to do everything right. From the opening of the post-rock influenced "Limbs" we see that Agalloch can be just as beautiful and hope-inspired as they can be desolate and melancholy. This is not really black metal, nor is it really just "folk metal" or post-rock. It is Agalloch. It is the beautiful sadness (and sometimes strength) of the woods.
- No HeroesWhy?:
The Perfect album? Yep, I'd say so. When I first heard this it didn't seem like converge had done anything differently than they had before. But clearly, I wasn't really listening at that point. While Agalloch is beauty in slow, evolving textures and themes, Converge is beauty in terror, sheer force, triumph, and at all times on No Heroes... Heart breaking honesty. Jacob Bannon's vocals are the most ferocious I've ever heard them, yet his inhuman cries are not the only vocals to be featured on the album, for we're also treated to some absolutely effective clean singing. The songs are-... You know what, I don't want to ramble on about this album or waste my time with half-assed descriptions. if you have any interest in metal, hardcore, punk, or any sort of aggressive music. Seriously, just do it. If you don't like it at first, alright... because as I said I wasn't super-sold either, even already being a converge fan to begin with. But you listen to this album a good few times. I won't even recommend specific parts, though there are certainly some that come to mind. If you have an interest in heavy music this is an album you will disservice yourself by never hearing. It has everything to offer and embodies the very core of what aggressive/hard music is about. It is crushing, it is violence, it is power, it is hope. With each listen I am just... blown away by this album's absolute purity, and that's the best way I can describe it, I guess. It's pure. And It is no doubt THE heavy album of 2006, reigning above all things metal, -core, and otherwise. For this I am sure.Augury
- Demo 06Why?:
I couldn't include a demo, but good golly... These two songs are just gorgeous.Decapitated
- Organic HallucinosisWhy?:
Decapitated do the techie/meshuggah-ie thing well, but it's just too repetitive.Dysrhythmia
- Barriers and PassagesWhy?:
Instrumental Math rock/metal. It's cool stuff, but doesn't captivate me.Gadget
- The Funeral MarchWhy?:
Awesome grindcore that brings to mind one of my favorite bands in the genre Nasum
. Not as good/unique as Genghis Tron though.Gory Blister
Tech Death with all the right parts. I love some of the songs, but the album as a whole never did much for me.Nachtmystium
- Instinct DecayWhy?:
JUST got this album. It's really cool psychadelic black metal, with production that strikes a great balance of coherence and rawness. Had it been given more time, it might've made the list.Summoning
- Oath BoundWhy?:
It's cool, epic, blackened symphonic metal. It's Summoning. The band has never done a whole lot for me, but every release I've heard is definitely solid, including this one.Zao
- The Fear Is What Keeps Us HereWhy?:
Definitely a step up from the recent zao albums. I enjoy the techiness, I enjoy the sound. It just doesn't compare to their older stuff.
EDIT: You know, I'm just now listening to "Om" by Negurã Bunget
, and that's unfortunate, because it's sounding hauntingly magnificent and probably woudld've been on the list.
Aaaaaaaaaalright. That wraps it up for metal. Did I forget something? Do you hate how I ordered things? Do you hate me?
GOOD... TELL ME ABOUT IT THEN. And keep tuned-in for my non-metal list, target date 2009.