I felt like reassessing my old picks once we started thinking critically of the 2007 releases, so I cranked out a list and some reviews in the vein of Brady's big thread in about an hour earlier tonight. Enjoy, and comment at will:
1. Mastodon- Blood Mountain
- Even with the benefit of an additional year's listening and reflection, I can safely say that the finest album to come out in 2006 was Mastodon's magnum opus to date, Blood Mountain
. The blend of hardcore punk aesthetic, heavy metal swagger, post-whatever meander, prog rock spazz-out, and brilliantly utilized guest performances from members of Neurosis, Queens of the Stone Age, and the Mars Volta prove that Mastodon have what it takes to go the extra mile and, in a crowded nowadays metal scene, stand out from the pack.
2. The Decemberists- The Crane Wife
- I hadn't actually heard this album at the end of 2006, but when I did come across it I was greeted with shock at how unbelievably good it was: after all, it's just indie rock, right? Wrong, and while I have come to enjoy a good deal of indie now, this Portland quintet are not limited to that genre. In truth, The Crane Wife
sounds a lot like a long-lost Jethro Tull album much of the time, with prog-bombast mellotron explosions weaving in and out of folksy acoustic melodies, all beneath frontman Colin Meloy's one-of-a-kind warble. The Decemberists released their masterpiece in 2006, and anyone who hasnít heard it is missing out.
3. Iron Maiden- A Matter of Life and Death
- Itís tough to judge the legend that is Iron Maiden objectively, but I'll try. Their umpteenth (fourteenth, actually) full-length is a mature perspective on the horrors of war, with the epic slow intro building to metal crescendo followed by guitar solo sound they've been honing since 2000's Brave New World
sounding arguably as good as it ever has. Not much new ground is actually tread on the album, but they're just so damn good at what they do that itís impossible not to love them. And God knows I do.
4. Johnny Cash- American V: A Hundred Highways
- Johnny Cash was more than a man; he was a legend. This collection of recordings, the last songs he finished before his death in 2005, is a testament to his strong will even in his darkest hour. The songs are appropriately melancholic, and range thematically from death to love, with heartfelt singing and a gently weeping acoustic guitar comprising nearly the entire sonic atmosphere. If you can't get into this, you probably lack some synapses that permit human beings to know what true sorrow sounds like.
5. Tool- 10,000 Days
- Tool are a band that famously only work sporadically, and while albums may be few and far between, the result always justifies the wait. 10,000 Days is another brilliant Tool album, building even more on the aggressively progressive sound of 2001's masterpiece, Lateralus
, and taking cues from early 90s shoegaze and modern post-rock, whether intentionally or not. The incredible rhythm section paired with the syncopated technical brilliance of guitarist Adam Jones continue to prove that Tool are one of the best bands, able to work off of each other's strengths and produce music that will truly stand the test of time.
6. Mouth of the Architect- The Ties That Blind
- Post-metal has become a crowded genre lately, but the bands in that field that most readily cross the lips of most people (Isis, Pelican, Jesu) have yet to put out an album able to match the caliber of Dayton natives Mouth of the Architect's most recent full-length. Syrupy sludge riffs in the vein of EyeHateGod have come to characterize the bandís sound just as much as the traditionally post-metal interludes. The vocals on here sound like they were recorded three rooms away from the mic, and the distant drone works to great effect. MOTA have much more in common with classic prog than any of their contemporaries (guitarist Greg Lahm once said his favorite bands were Mahavishnu Orchestra, King Crimson, and Yes), which may be why I like them so much, but regardless: this is music that deserves to be heard on a much larger scale than it has been.
7. Edguy- Rocket Ride
- Humor isn't easy in music. You have to be willing to sacrifice some integrity and pray that the end result comes off tongue-in-cheek and witty rather than just plain stupid. While not all of Rocket Ride is comedic, the parts that are succeed like all hell in being truly goddamned funny. Rock-n'-roll lampooners "Fucking With Fire (Hair Force One)" and "Rocket Ride" as well as palm tree pop song "Trinidad" are hilarious without losing an ounce of catchiness or good songwriting. The serious power metal numbers on the record are just as strong, and show that Edguy can have a good time, but also be dead serious, and rule at both.
8. Sparrows Swarm and Sing- O' Shenandoah, Mighty Death Will Find Me
- While a lot of this album's greatness comes from the fact that the live performance of it I saw in August of 2006 in the basement of Stillwater Photography remains the best live performance I have ever seen, the home version is nearly as awe-inspiring. It's probably a cop-out since thereís a genre for just about everything these days, but this music is literally unclassifiable. Its long, ambling pieces which disregard every musical "rule" every set forth are so indescribably organic that the final product is probably the truest, realest thing ever put on tape. In terms of mind expanse, this is incomparable to almost everything but classic Pink Floyd, and in a few respects, is even better.
9. Katatonia- The Great Cold Distance
- When Katatonia frontman Jonas Renske sings "I am ice, I am clear, let the world be cold," on the fantastic "Deliberation", he might as well be describing the bandís most recent album. Yes, it's true that Katatonia are no longer the death-doom metal band that released such classics as Dance of December Souls
and Brave Murder Day
, and that they've taken a turn towards brooding gothic rock, but such a style change doesn't always spell disaster, and The Great Cold Distance
proves it. Shoegazing melodies and distant, delicate vocals complement each other in an icy world of sound that is worth visiting over and over again.
10. The Devin Townsend Band- Synchestra
- Devin Townsend has proven time and again that he is the Frank Zappa of our day: his albums range from the beautiful to the bizarre, his projects can't be counted on just two hands, and he is more prolific than any other recording artist in progressive music. Unfortunately also like Zappa, the result is generally a gloriously kitschy but mostly forgettable pseudo-masterpiece. Synchestra
is an exception. From beautiful opener "Let It Roll" to acid-washed hidden track "Sunshine and Happiness", Hevy Devy grabs you by the balls and doesn't let go until he's done saying what he intends to, and you'd be insane to argue with him judging by the greatness of this album.