40. Keep of Kalessin- Kolossus
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- Dismember
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- angL
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- The Ocean and the Sun
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- Light From Above
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- The White
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- The Light of the Fire As the Power of the Sun
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- Nesh
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- Torn
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- The 3rd World
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.