DethMaiden's 2007 In Review
40. Vital Remains- Icons of Evil- If death metal were high school, Glen Benton would be the dumb jock who people seem to like no matter what he does. This pathetic piece of excrement is the most tedious, tepid death metal album I have ever heard, and strays not one micron from the Jesus-hating, blastbeat-lampooning formula of every Vital Remains album that came before it.
39. Queensr˙che- Take Cover- In retrospect, Operation: Mindcrime II was incredibly lame for the most part, and that’s due to the fact that Queensr˙che still think they should be playing metal. This covers album’s rendition of “Neon Knights” is further proof that they should not, and falls amidst a collection of bland songs that only make the original artists look bad.
38. Megadeth- United Abominations- Whew, and you thought Risk was a stinker. MegaDave and Co. serve up a steaming pile of rehashed, melodic thrash crap with apparently “witty” political lyrics unparalleled in awfulness. They even manage to make one of their own good songs into a bad song with the unnecessary re-recording of “A Tout le Monde” featuring a bored-sounding Cristina Scabbia on guest vocals.
37. Puscifer- V is for Vagina- Ever wonder what Tool would sound like if Maynard exclusively sang through a vocal effects processor and there was no guitar or actual drumming? Neither have I, but Maynard apparently has, and the result is embarrassing.
36. Behold…the Arctopus- Skullgrid- The trend of being technical for the sake of being technical is already old, and these instrumental jazz-metal progsters are the embodiment of this. Sometimes a total lack of song structure and embrace of improvisation benefits a band, but for the Arctopus, it makes them sound like a sans-vocals, poorly produced DragonForce.
35. The Hidden Hand- The Resurrection of Whiskey Foote- Who doesn’t love good sludgy southern stoner metal? Answer: no one I respect. Stoner legend Scott “Wino” Weinrich has unfortunately cranked out an album with no memorable riffs whatsoever, and that’s what makes stoner rock worth listening to: the riiiiiiiiiffs, man.
34. The Red Chord- Prey for Eyes- I’ve long expressed my distaste for this album as a result of its mediocrity following 2005’s damn-near-perfect Clients, one of my favorite death metal albums of all time. And, well, Prey for Eyes isn’t awful, but it just doesn’t bring anything new to the table whatsoever.
33. Obituary- Xecutioner’s Return- A stale update on Cause of Death that is only worth hearing more than once because of Ralph Santolla’s stellar lead guitar. In fact, if he hadn’t joined Obituary before the recording sessions, I would probably have to consider this in the same realm as the new Vital Remains.
32. Dream Theater- Systematic Chaos- Did somebody say progressive for the sake of progressive? Sweet Jesus, this album is most certainly that. In case you didn’t know, John Petrucci is a very good guitarist. Also, Mike Portnoy is a skilled drummer, Jordan Rudess is a good keyboardist, and, hey, that Chinese girl is pretty good at bass, too. James LaBrie sucks, though. Lame album.
31. Shadows Fall- Threads of Life- It’s about as good as a Shadows Fall album can be. That said, it’s only 31st on my list of 40. What does that say about them as a band? Some of their best songs are on here, but inconsistency is a problem they’ll have to deal with in the future. Nah, who am I kidding, they’ll sell millions of records no matter what.
30. Arch Enemy- Rise of the Tyrant- As a big fan of Anthems of Rebellion and an even bigger fan of Doomsday Machine, I should certainly like to hear the same album the third time in a row, except with Angela Gossow singing even more like a man! Well, I don’t, and there are hardly any memorable songs on here.
29. King Diamond- Give Me Your Soul…Please- It’s just like The Puppet Master, except the story sucks and all of the songs are just weaker versions of songs we already heard on that much better album. Stick to the classic King rather than listen to this saddening album that hints at an end to his reign.
28. Symphony X- Paradise Lost- While one of their worst albums overall, it has one of their best songs in the title track. I really don’t think it’s as good as a lot of people make it out to be, nor as bad as I once thought. It certainly isn’t essential but it wouldn’t kill you to hear it if you’re already a fan.
27. Swallow the Sun- Hope- If you’ve ever heard melodic death/doom metal, you’ve heard Hope. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If you’re into the style, you’ll find nothing to complain about here, but objectively speaking, it’s not really a great album by any means.
26. Devin Townsend- Ziltoid the Omniscient- Bizarre genius oozes from this album, but it’s just a little bit too wacky for me, and the constant goofy dialogue, triggered drums, and acid rock chord progressions strike me as a tad bit pretentious.
25. Men As Trees- Six Waves In- Not as exciting, raw, and youthful as their Crow’s Nest EP, but an epic journey into the heart of the genre of experimental screamo by its only practitioners I know of nonetheless. Certainly worth anyone’s time who is looking for something very different.
24. Porcupine Tree- Nil Recurring- God, I shouldn’t have this album this high, but it’s Porcupine Tree and I really like it if only for that reason. This EP has four Porcupine Tree songs that you couldn’t mistake for being by any band except for Porcupine Tree. If that’s enough to get you to hear it, you’re like me, and you’ll probably like it at least a little.
23. Cephalic Carnage- Xenosapien- This is the album The Red Chord should have made this year. Technical grindcore with just enough other genres thrown into the mix to keep things interesting, Xenosapien is the album of the year for its particular burgeoning subgenre.
22. Nile- Ithyphallic- It’s definitely a Nile album, so that’s a plus off the bat. While lacking the crushing brutality and strength of its predecessors, Ithyphallic doesn’t lose an ounce of Karl Sanders’ obsession with Egypt, lyrically or musically, and that pulls the album through.
21. Sonata Arctica- Unia- No power metal album has ever been more controversial than this one, mostly because Sonata Arctica tried to change their sound too much at once (a huge no-no in the anything but progressive power metal community), and sure, some of the sounds they come up with sound downright unfinished, but the zest they bring to this album in progging up their sound makes the listener excited for the band’s future.
20. Modest Mouse- We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank- Most Modest Mouse fans stuck to the Hipster Code and hated this album because it’s their newest and because it takes steps in a different direction from their earlier work, but don’t be fooled: this is a great indie rock album that can go from raw and unapologetic to beautiful Depeche Mode-esque electronica in a second’s time.
19. Men As Trees- From the Crow’s Nest, Looking Out- It’s only two songs long, but this EP is a maelstrom of emotion, and ultimately makes you wish all screamo acts sang with the matter-of-life-and-death conviction as this Michigan quintet.
18. Wolves in the Throne Room- Two Hunters- I didn’t actually listen to any other black metal albums this year (shame on me, I know), but this one was just fantastic and a shining example of what epic black metal should sound like. Unfortunately, a few of the songs run on a little too long, but otherwise, this is a tremendous blend of Immortal and Isis.
17. Three- The End Is Begun- This album belongs solely to Three’s Geddy Lee-channeling, finger-picking flamenco guitarist frontman Joey Eppard. His honey-sweet vocal delivery and unique style of playing makes this a band to watch for in the future, no doubt.
16. Rush- Snakes & Arrows- It’s been said before and will be said again, but no band who debuted thirty-four years ago should sound this exuberant. The songs aren’t breaking any new ground, but you’d expect Rush to have run out of ideas long before now. Snakes is a perfectly worthy investment for any fan of the band, but obviously not a good starting point.
15. Skeletonwitch- Beyond the Permafrost- Controversially called thrash, blackened thrash, death thrash, and all kinds of other things, Skeletonwitch basically just play heavy fucking metal, and do a good job of it. These songs are reminiscent simultaneously of Slayer, latter-day Immortal, and Arch Enemy, and that’s a hell of a combination to rip off.
14. Type O Negative- Dead Again- Peter Steele has always been an expert at making the macabre downright hilarious, and this album is no exception. There are some unmemorable moments, but for the most part, this is classic Type O, recalling the Bloody Kisses glory days, as well as early Danzig.
13. Novembers Doom- The Novella Reservoir- Much like the Swallow the Sun album that didn’t fare nearly as well, the new Novembers Doom is a death-doom-by-numbers album that leans on My Dying Bride and Opeth like a crutch. But goddammit if they didn’t do a perfect job of that style, and made one of the best albums in it that I’ve ever heard.
12. Rwake- Voices of Omens- This album recalls most chiefly a twisted, backwoods acid trip recorded and set to music, and I can’t think of a better band to do that than Rwake. With a good pair of headphones, this album can be beautifully painful, and almost requires the listener to be no longer of sound mind upon its closing “Fuck…you!”
11. Blackfield- Blackfield II- I might be a Steven Wilson fanboy, but that fact notwithstanding, this is a terrific set of dark rock songs sung with Israeli pop star Aviv Geffen in the vein of the sadder Beatles music, and is recommendable to most anyone who likes music. So, most anyone.
10. 3 Inches of Blood- Fire Up the Blades- They might come off as a “joke band”, but these drunken Canadians’ unabashedly old-school approach to the Judas Priest-with-growls formula has finally come to fruition with this, the windows-rolled-down driving album of the year.
9. Coheed and Cambria- No World for Tomorrow- Finally! Coheed and Cambria have shed almost every drop of their poppy emo roots and replaced it with heavy progressive rock in the vein of the band they’ve always sort of sounded like, Rush. Earlier C&C albums just couldn’t have rocked this hard, and I’m anxious to see what they come up with next.
8. Redemption- The Origins of Ruin- Ray Alder, formerly a worshiper of Geoff Tate and Michael Kiske who had no real vocal identity, has turned in what may well be the vocal performance of the year on this stellar progressive metal album that Dream Theater and Symphony X wish they could have made.
7. Explosions in the Sky- All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone- Post-rock is a hit or miss genre a lot of times, and people can call it moving just as readily as they can call it boring. Explosions in the Sky struck just the right balance of crescendo and decrescendo and put out a beautiful “collection of memories”, as the liner notes call the album.
6. Baroness- Red Album- The most impressive thing about this pseudo-sludge prog metal album is that it is the Savannah quartet’s full-length debut. They’re worlds ahead of where Mastodon were with Remission, so I expect this band’s pairing of Floydian soundscapes and southern-bred ass-kicking to take them to the promised land of modern metal greatness in the near future.
5. Between the Buried and Me- Colors- Name a genre. It’s on here. However, unlike some bands who throw a bunch of genres together just to show their wide range of influences, Between the Buried and Me nail all of the styles that they play in, oftentimes sounding even better than bands who play those genres exclusively. If that ain’t progressive, I don’t know what is.
4. Witchcraft- The Alchemist- These stoned Swedes play early Sabbath almost as well as early Sabbath played early Sabbath, but with more progressive tendencies and the occasional flute or saxophone interludes, The Alchemist is the best honest-to-God heavy metal album I’ve heard in a very long time.
3. Pig Destroyer- Phantom Limb- It’s very difficult to listen to this album in any more than one sitting. And as many times as I listen to it, I can’t help but get my ass kicked by it all over again every time I do. Brutal yet thoughtful, pummeling yet well-planned, a finer slice of modern death metal may never be cut.
2. Clutch- From Beale Street to Oblivion- Clutch are the best rock-n’-roll band on the planet, hands-down. Their newest full-length is the bluesiest album they’ve ever made, but transcends its influence and adds to the Clutch legacy of producing a sound that is in and of itself.
1. Porcupine Tree- Fear of a Blank Planet- Well, here it is. The best album of 2007. Upon hearing Fear of a Blank Planet in April when it came out, it was as though some Hawkwind-loving, blunt-passing deity had intervened and showed me that progressive rock could still be as awesome as it was in 1975. Porcupine Tree have carved their own niche as a heavier version of classic 1970s space rock, but still owe a debt to the early Yes and Pink Floyd albums. Fear of a Blank Planet outdoes every Tree album that came before it and brilliantly utilizes its guest musicians (Alex Lifeson, “Anesthetize” and Robert Fripp, “Way Out of Here”). All the while, Steven Wilson has never sounded better vocally or on guitar, and Gavin Harrison has what may be the drum performance of the year. Simply a perfect album, and well deserving of topping my list.
Top Five Songs of the Year
Porcupine Tree- “Anesthetize”
Coheed And Cambria- “Mother Superior”
Modest Mouse- “Little Motel”
Symphony X- “Paradise Lost”
Pig Destroyer- “Heathen Temple”
Music DVD of the Year
David Gilmour- Remember That Night: Live at Royal Albert Hall
Riff of the Year
Baroness- “Isak” (0:54-1:07)
Lyrics of the Year
J.R. Hayes (Pig Destroyer)- “Alexandria”
Vocal Performance of the Year
Ray Alder (Redemption)- “The Suffocating Silence”
Bass Performance of the Year
Geddy Lee (Rush)- “Malignant Narcissism”
Drum Performance of the Year
Gavin Harrison (Porcupine Tree)- “Anesthetize”
Guitar Solo of the Year
Alex Lifeson (Porcupine Tree)- “Anesthetize”
Album Art of the Year
John Baizley- Baroness’ Red Album
Live Performance of the Year
Tool- June 29th- Cincinnati, OH
Top Five Anticipated Albums of 2008
Mouth of the Architect- TBA
The Mars Volta- The Bedlam in Goliath
Mortals are mortar and life is the fuse.