All in all, I think this year was pretty weak, because looking back over my top 50, I can only wholeheartedly recommend the first 22 or so. Oh well, here's the countdown, ten at a time.
50. Kingdom of Sorrow- [I]Kingdom of Sorrow[/I]
It is so bad. Seriously. Awful stuff. Kirk Windstein forgets what made his riffs in Crowbar and Down so awesome and gives Dimebag Darrell an hour long blowjob, while Jamey Jasta does his best to sound EXACTLY like Phil Anselmo circa The Great Southern Trendkill, when Phil Anselmo had already started sucking. The only attempt at sincerity, "Scream At the Sky", is a half-baked attempt at a, you guessed it, Dimebag tribute, and sucks horribly. Don't listen to this if you can at all avoid it.
49. Whitesnake- [I]Good to Be Bad[/I]
I like Whitesnake sometimes. In fact, the self-titled album and Slip of the Tongue are two of the most fun albums in my collection, with some of the best vocals in rock music from the amazing David Coverdale. This album, however, is a tepid attempt at recapturing their long lost youth, and the result is quite embarrassing. Steer clear.
48. DragonForce- [I]Ultra Beatdown[/I]
On their last album, DragonForce were still a power metal band whose music happened to fit Guitar Hero well enough to make them video game superstars. On this album, they intentionally made songs that they thought would fit Guitar Hero. It seriously sounds like a video game, and a parody of power metal in general. I will never spend another hour of my life listening to DragonForce.
47. Guns n' Roses- [I]Chinese Democracy[/I]
I don't believe Axl Rose for one second when he says he's been writing this since the mid-1990s. I think he scrapped whatever he had and replaced it last year, because there is way too much modernity and too many computer-generated sounds for this to be anything but a tired rehash of the band's weakest moments with a slightly updated backbone. Appetite for Destruction and the Use Your Illusion discs made Guns n' Roses legends, and rightly so. The twelve-year debacle that led to this album's release and its ensuing horribleness threatens to knock them down a peg.
46. In Flames- [I]A Sense of Purpose[/I]
Honestly, I don't know why I thought this was going to be any different. In Flames have burned me too many times. Reroute to Remain was terrible, Soundtrack to Your Escape was worse, and Come Clarity had four great songs, but the remaining songs were so awful that I barely remembered the good stuff. This album continues the streak of awfulness that they've been keeping up strong this decade, and there's really only a couple of listenable songs here ("The Mirror's Truth" and "Move Through Me" come to mind), which are only listenable because of their infectious grooves. I'd rather hear this than their pathetic metalcore, but it's still pretty lame.
45. Meshuggah- [I]obZen[/I]
Jesus Christ, I can't believe this bland "progressive" metal band is headlining over Cynic. The detuned Meshuggah-chugga-chugga riffs belong on a Ministry album or some shit, but people still consider this to be progressive, forward-thinking music. Don't be fooled. This album is what would happen if Tool accidentally dropped their tuning another step, got really drunk, and traded Maynard for a chimp who was bad at growling. The only real redeeming qualities are the few times the music gets pretty: they're much better at atmosphere than at being heavy.
44. Flametal- [I]Master of the Aire[/I]
I like "Battery". I like "Arc of Space". I even like the Mars Volta songs that dabble in flamenco. But an entire band whose shtick, right down to the ridiculously stupid name, is flamenco metal is a terrible idea. The songs are more like flamenco intros and solos pasted into bland 80s metal parodies. The effect is sickening. The guitarist of this album should put out a solo album, though, because the pure flamenco parts are actually quite beautiful.
43. Testament- [I]The Formation of Damnation[/I]
I'm really not sure why Testament have felt obligated since 1999 or so to play way heavier music than they really should. They've been releasing "death thrash" albums for some time now, and none of them are really all that memorable. At least there are some catchy choruses on here, namely the ones to "More Than Meets the Eye" and the title track. Still, this album is difficult to recommend with a straight face when much better thrash, death, and death thrash exists, and the new Metallica album sounds much more youthful and fresh.
42. Tiamat- [I]Amenethes[/I]
The 90s doom-gone-gothic rock thing that Anathema, Paradise Lost, Katatonia, and a dozen others are doing is actually pretty cool in my book, but Tiamat just make the entire thing one giant cliche. There is nothing interesting on this album. It is competent doom, through and through, but not one second of it will stick with you or demand a repeat listen. Leave it to the masters, guys.
41. The Sword- [I]Gods of the Earth[/I]
Now, I'm the first to defend the Sword if so-called true metalheads call them out as hipster metal or question their sincerity. That doesn't automatically make their music any good, however, and this is kind of awful. It doesn't deviate from the standard 4/4 Sabbath-on-downers formula in any way, and accentuates the fact that there are much better bands doing the 70s worship thing right now. This just isn't that good.
40. Keep of Kalessin- [I]Kolossus[/I]
There's some really good moments on here, but the rest of the time it feels like they're making a constant effort to sound like Dimmu Borgir without anyone noticing. The orchestral passages are unfortunately useless. They make great use of the quiet acoustic moments, and the singer's black metal voice is actually not bad, but the striking resemblance to post-Enthrone Darkness Triumphant Dimmu makes the experience kind of dull.
39. Dismember- [I]Dismember[/I]
There is absolutely nothing wrong with this album. But that's the problem. On their 90s classics, they managed to be groovy and heavy and brutal at the same time, and on The God That Never Was they were able to integrate lots of melody without becoming melodic death metal. The new self-titled album is just plain death metal. Forty minutes of death metal, nothing more, nothing less. That wouldn't really be a problem if any of it was remotely catchy or made you want to hear it twice. Burly dudes who work in record stores and have gory posters on the walls of their parents basement would probably name this safe-ass shit album of the year.
38. Ihsahn- [I]angL[/I]
You caught me, I only listened to this album because of the Mikael Åkerfeldt guest spot. But it's really not awful, it's just a little too proggy-for-the-sake-of-prog as far as black metal goes. Emperor's swansong, Prometheus: The Discipline of Fire and Demise, saw Ihsahn doing this sort of stuff at the peak of his abilities, but maybe he actually needed Samoth around to do it. This is kind of just "meh", as was his debut.
37. The Sound of Animals Fighting- [I]The Ocean and the Sun[/I]
I like wacky shit as much as the next guy likes wacky shit, and some of my favorite albums have been derided as "throw shit at the wall and see what sticks" music. But this is seriously the least cohesive prog album I've ever heard. It has some moments of brilliance: in fact, it has lots of moments of brilliance. The problem is, none of those moments are woven together properly, and the result is a clusterfuck of epic proportions. Twenty-plus person collectives perhaps aren't the best way to make music if this lack of cohesion is any evidence. If they trim down the roster, this band could be serious business in the future.
36. Black Tide- [I]Light From Above[/I]
If you haven't heard of Black Tide by now, you probably live under a rock. A bunch of meddling teenagers got together and decided to declare their love for Metallica in a musical offering, and they sound like they're at least in their twenties. But hype rarely is justified by an end product, and this is unfortunately no exception. There are definitely some very catchy songs on here: "Shockwave", "Warriors of Time", and the cover of "Hit the Lights" especially, and this band is very promising. Their debut may not show it, but I think in five years they could really start rocking. And kudos to a group of young kids who can withstand the rigors of touring and recording.
35. Agalloch- [I]The White[/I]
Most days, if you ask me what my three favorite movies are, I'll tell you The Big Lebowski, Fargo, and the original Wicker Man. This folksy EP samples the hell out of The Wicker Man, so why don't I love it more? Well, the sad truth is that the band uses The Wicker Man as a crutch: the most interesting musical moments are the ones playing behind Christopher Lee's brilliant dialogue ("A heathen, conceivably, but not, I hope, an unenlightened one" gives me chills!). The songs without samples tend to feel aimless, and even though they're very beautiful, there is little substance. I realize that this was meant as an exercise in minimalism, but I like a little more meat to my Agalloch.
34. Pharos- [I]The Light of the Fire As the Power of the Sun[/I]
This band is kind of an enigma: over the last year, they got together, made this album, self-released this album, toured with Minus the Bear, split into two bands, and started writing a new album. Yikes! The record in question, however, weaves an Isis-like post-metal sound with unfortunately screamocore vocals in the vein of And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Our Dead and the like. Once you get used to the vocals, however, the sound is pretty damn good. Again, this is a band who are too young and inexperienced to make something great yet, but show a lot of potential.
33. Gathiens- [I]Nesh[/I]
This is a little-heard post-rock band from Sidney, Ohio, and their debut CD is a couple of years in the making. Honestly, though, they're yet another post-rock band whose live show is exhilarating and great but whose recorded output is terribly underwhelming. It's a shame, because they're extremely nice guys who put a lot of sweat and blood into their craft, but only about half of this album is interesting. It's good post-rock to put on and space out to, but nothing to focus intently on or look for nuances in.
32. Evergrey- [I]Torn[/I]
How about that album cover? Pretty goddamned awesome. Unfortunately the contents are only sometimes as awesome, and oftentimes just disappointing considering the pair of awesome album it follows. True Evergrey fans will scoff at the prospect of it, but I think Monday Morning Apocalypse was a better album with a much more concise vision. This is a good record, for sure, but nothing to write home about. Just standard melodic progressive metal with some beautiful vocals courtesy of Tom S. Englund.
31. Immortal Technique- [I]The 3rd World[/I]
There's nothing inherently wrong with a lot of this album. It's very different from his earlier recordings, and that's fine. But he was so much better at his old style that the change of pace seems unnecessary and simply confusing. "Golpe de Estado" is the best song on here because a) it's as angry as he used to be, and b) rap in Spanish sounds really fucking cool. But the problem with this album is the "candy-ass beats" he used to hate on and the shift to a more commercial sound, only with his name, beats, and politics pasted on top of it. The whole album feels hypocritical, and even though not all of it is bad, it's a far cry from the classic Revolutionary albums.
I dont think he ever hated the 'candy-ass beats'...he hated the corporate sell outs that were 'rapping' over them.
Rap as an art form, as well as Immortal Technique's entire existence, is based upon the words of the song, and I dont think more commercial beats dilute Tech's message. The message is still there, even if the music has changed a little bit (its not bad music.)
30. Ben Folds- [I]Way to Normal[/I]
Ben Folds is one hell of a cool dude, a great songwriter, and a talented piano player to boot. But when your genre is "singer-songwriter" or whatever the hell they're calling it these days, shouldn't your songs be VERY VERY strong? Shouldn't you just blow people away every time you sit down at your piano since that is your entire musical purpose? He does that on several occasions on this album: "Hiroshima", "Brainwascht", and especially the emotive "Kylie From Connecticut" (which very nearly sneaked on my top 10 songs list), but the rest of the album is just pretty damn good. That's not quite enough from you, Ben. Sorry.
29. Torche- [I]Meanderthal[/I]
What an album title. Jesus, who thought puns could be metal. I do really like this album, but I'm just not creaming my jeans over it like everyone else in metal right now. It's definitely an interesting combination of groovy stoner metal and pure pop (see the perfection of this on "Grenades" and "Healer"), and I expect that a Torche live performance would knock me on my ass, but I'm not sold that this is the future of metal. If it is, I'm frankly kind of disappointed. I'd rather have Mastodon and Isis clones.
28. Lair of the Minotaur- [I]War Metal Battle Master[/I]
This is pure fucking metal. This is, like, get drunk and beat up your neighbor for looking at your girlfriend metal. This is put on a full suit of armor and go out in public metal. This is Maiden, Priest, Slayer metal. True fucking metal. Beyond the image, though, the songwriting kind of takes a backseat. You'll bang your head until it hurts listening to this sludge-meets-modern thrash monster, but you won't listen to it ever unless that's what you're planning on doing. Like cookies, Lair of the Minotaur are a sometimes food.
27. A Silver Mt. Zion- [I]13 Blues for Thirteen Moons[/I]
Post-rock with vocals can get kind of weird, because the voices have to serve as instruments, and do unusual things to match the unusual things traditional post-rock instruments do. This Godspeed You! Black Emperor spinoff has some bizarre intonations, and some unusual choices in instrumentation, but is overall a pretty unique experience, and an exciting introduction to the world of vocal post-rock. Songs like "1,000,000 Died To Make This Sound" and "BlindBlindBlind" show the band's addiction to punk and application of that affinity to a completely different genre, and the result is pretty damn interesting. It's a flawed album, but given the odd goals, that's not even really an insult.
26. Bloodbath- [I]The Fathomless Mastery[/I]
It might be unfair to Dismember to put this album so much higher than theirs, because it is most certainly also "just death metal". But man, there are some great death metal songs on here. It comes down to songwriting, and the guys in charge on this album (Mikael Åkerfeldt and Jonas Renkse among them) are some of the best in the Swedish death metal business. "At the Behest of Their Death", "Mock the Cross", and "Earthrot" are especially headbanging, and the band fires on every cylinder, often making you wish they were a legitimate touring act and not the just-for-fun studio project of Swedes with even better day jobs.
25. The Mars Volta- [I]The Bedlam in Goliath[/I]
I'll be the first to admit it: I spent half the year hating this album. Just hating it. This was somewhat misguided hate, because I was hating it for doing exactly what it set out to do: fuck with your mind and do things that music probably shouldn't. I guess that's what makes it progressive, but even as a prog nut I found a lot of this album off-putting at first. I warmed up to it, though, and there is some excellent stuff to be found on here. As a full album experience, it still feels very disconnected at times, but with songs like "Aberinkula" and the still fucking amazing "Wax Simulacra", it's hard to care. The Mars Volta get more obtuse with each successive album, but it hasn't made me hate them yet, so I guess they can do whatever they want.
24. Landmine Marathon- [I]Rusted Eyes Awake[/I]
Landmine Marathon are definitely a band with a shtick: cute as a button, fierce as a lion lead growler Grace Perry sells more albums than the bands sped-up Bolt Thrower songwriting, but that's actually okay. Once you listen to the album, you tend to forget a girl is growling so fiercely, and get swept up in the excitement of the new twist they're putting on classic American death metal. This band, along with The Red Chord, will carry the death metal torch far into the next century, and when the final chords of the brutally epic "Bile Towers" strike, it doesn't matter who's singing.
23. Edguy- [I]Tinnitus Sanctus[/I]
While it is somewhat of a step down in quality from the excellent Hellfire Club and goofy-but-great Rocket Ride, the new Edguy does pack a nice punch by balancing the styles of the two albums. The best songs are the catchy hard rock tracks, "Ministry of Saints" and "Dead or Rock", and the two full-on power metal tunes, "The Pride of Creation" and "Speedhoven", showing that they can play both styles with skill and efficiency. Tobias Sammett's voice gets better every year (I love the somewhat rough edge he's adopted, personally), and they get, like, a million bonus points for writing a song about an aardvark. Who does that?
22. Russian Circles- [I]Station[/I]
It's somewhat misleading to even call this a true post-rock album considering how groovy it gets at times and how rock-n'-roll the drumming tends to be. The duo play like the dirty hippies they are and create just enough atmosphere to be lumped in with Explosions in the Sky and the like, though, and in the process break down a lot of barriers post-rock bands have traditionally adhered to. This album is more grimy and less beautiful than a lot of similar crescendo aficionados' works, and their upcoming gig opening for Clutch makes a lot of sense in a weird way.
21. Mogwai- [I]The Hawk Is Howling[/I]
Despite the fact that these poor Scots obviously don't know the difference between a hawk and an eagle, this album is pretty damn good. The bizarre song titles intentionally distract from the beauty hiding in the songs: unlike an Explosions in the Sky-like approach which finds incredibly fitting song titles for the emotional journeys the music takes you on, Mogwai come up with jarringly inappropriate titles to trick you into thinking the song will be goofy when it is, in fact, probably the most beautiful thing you will hear on a given day. Such examples include "I'm Jim Morrison, I'm Dead" and "I Love You, I'm Going to Blow Up Your School" and "Batcat". The one serious sounding title, "Scotland's Shame", is ironically home to the album's best and most beautiful song. Their bairns will be very proud of them.
Despite the fact that these poor Scots obviously don't know the difference between a hawk and an eagle, this album is pretty damn good.[/QUOTE]
20. Men As Trees- [I]Weltschmerz[/I]
The Detroit sometimes quartet, sometimes quintet are *this close* to making a masterpiece. All that's missing is a bit more professional recording, better production values, and less tiny fuck-ups during the fast parts. This album is by far their strongest performance to date, with LVNGS drummer/violinist Mick Evans providing guest strings and the band's hero, Dick Proenneke, offering touching voiceovers. The mellow parts are more evocative than ever, the buildups are more climactic, and the fast parts are more ferocious. I honestly think the next Men As Trees album might be an album of the year contender whenever it comes out.
19. Toxic Holocaust- [I]An Overdose of Death[/I]
This is how modern thrash should sound. Joel Grind furiously shreds through thirteen brief, concise, awesome tracks and never sounds exactly like any 80s act unlike most of his counterparts (well, okay, pre-Beneath the Remains Sepultura is evoked on more than a few occasions), and the lyrics are dripping with the apocalyptic cheese that makes thrash metal history. The MTV video premiere is a slight drawback, but as long as Grind keeps pumping out the jams, I really could care less what he does to supplement his earnings. Nuke the cross!
18. Metallica- [I]Death Magnetic[/I]
Before I heard anything from it, I really expected this album to suck balls. I heard that Ozzfest recording of "Cyanide" and thought it would be just alright. Once I heard "The Day That Never Comes" when they released it to radio stations, I thought I'd give it a chance. Once I actually listened to it, I was pleasantly surprised: this is the album they've been waiting to make since 1988. It actually surpasses the Black Album in terms of consistency, and it has a couple of bonafide classic tracks. If you're dead-set on hating it, it won't change your mind, but if you go in open to something new from Metallica, it's a pretty sweet little package.
17. Romance of Young Tigers- [I]Marie[/I]
This might be the most difficult to get into post-rock band on the planet, but the Dayton foursome knows how to make some deeply disturbing and beautiful noise. It took until the third time I saw them live to "get" them, but it is so rewarding once you do. The songs don't have a beat unless you make one. They don't have notes unless you look for them. They don't have a backbone unless you feel it in your own spine. The beauty is really beyond words and not easy to grasp, but once you find it, the result is worth the wait. This EP is probably their least accessible recording to date, but that's where the beauty lies. A lot of music is said to "challenge the listener", but it rarely means anything. This will challenge the shit out of you.
16. Earth- [I]The Bees Made Honey in the Lion's Skull[/I]
The title comes from something in the Bible that I've never read, and the cover is the greatest piece of art in modern metal this side of John Dyer Baizley. Fortunately, the music is able to back up the great imagery the package conjures up. The desert rock ambiance and addition of Zombi ivory-tickler Steve Moore makes for a totally unique album in the Earth discography, and one with an almost post-rock vibe. The true moments of beauty are the ambling Neil Young-esque guitar solos that grace the title track and "Engine of Ruin", among other tracks. If this is drone metal's contribution to Americana, I think we could do a lot worse.
15. Warrel Dane- [I]Praises to the War Machine[/I]
Although I frankly would have rather had a new Nevermore album, this is an excellent addition to the Warrel Dane catalogue, and a chance for him to showcase his amazing (best in melodic metal?) pipes in a less technical, guitar-oriented environment than his main band. The songs here are basically straightforward metal songs, but the total creative control Dane has over the lyrics, vocal phrasings, and especially vocal effects makes the disc very effective as a solo album. Dane again proves his unmatched prowess in dealing with cover songs, creating entirely new versions of the Sisters of Mercy's "Lucretia My Reflection" and Simon & Garfunkel's "Patterns". Now make that follow-up to This Godless Endeavor, please; I'm getting impatient.
14. An Horse- [I]Not Really Scared[/I]
Well, here's a band I knew nothing about before I saw them open for Tegan and Sara back in May. They fit that bill, as they play a style of indie rock that is fairly consistent with that duo's, but with a more enunciated nod to Modest Mouse. This is only an EP, but the Brisbane, Australia duo grasp the importance of making extremely catchy songs when your style isn't overly complex. From the two-minute joyride "Postcards", to the Melvins-fuzzed outro of album closer "Shoes Watch", this is a great debut for a band that promises to turn some heads in the very near future.
13. Mouth of the Architect- [I]Quietly[/I]
While it feels a little more passive and less sure of itself than its genre-defining (yeah, I fucking said it) predecessor The Ties That Blind, MOTA's new album dabbles in some new things and still makes 99% of post-metal look silly. The brilliantly effective samples in "Hate and Heartache" and the unaccompanied shouting in "A Beautiful Corpse", along with the two keyboard-centric segue tracks, "Pine Boxes" and the simply heart-wrenching "Medicine" show that Mouth of the Architect plan to keep Dayton on the modern metal map for years to come.
12. Flogging Molly- [I]Float[/I]
On the positive side, this is the most consistent Flogging Molly album to date. Every single song is good, while there have been some serious filler tracks on each of their other three records. Unfortunately, this album isn't going to produce any classics like "Black Friday Rule", "What's Left of the Flag", or "The Seven Deadly Sins". It's still a damn good album, and an incredibly quick listen. They keep a very consistent sound throughout the album, and Dave King's woeful Irish tales stay believable even nearly twenty years after he moved to the United States. That's what makes a great storyteller, I suppose: believability.
11. Bigelf- [I]Cheat the Gallows[/I]
When I commented earlier that The Sword are doing that 70s thing wrong while other bands are doing it right, I definitely had Bigelf in mind as an example of the latter. This combination of Ozzy-era Sabbath, Pink Floyd psychedelia, and the whimsical nature of ELP'S "Karn Evil 9" anthology creates a totally unique blast from the past that alludes to every great band from the 1970s and plagiarizes none of them. Your move, Witchcraft.
And that was kind of exhausting, so expect a top ten either much later tonight or sometime tomorrow.
That Bigelf album is definitely something I should hear...
[QUOTE=SomewhereInTime72;199241]That Bigelf album is definitely something I should hear...[/QUOTE]
That's why you write all this shit out [I]before[/I] you start posting it, jerk :tp: ;)
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