Monday, August 31, 2015

Niburta - ReSet

L-L-L-L-LADIES AND DJENTLEMEN

This... truly is a piece of work.  To really understand what this is, I need to give you a brief history lesson about Niburta.  They were a folk metal band.  That's it, lesson over, be sure to turn in your essays by the end of the week.  Really, they just took the Eluveitie route of blending folk metal with melodeath and calling it a day, with their only distinguishing feature being that the folk twanging they chose was Balkanic instead of Celtic.  Otherwise they were a complete clone band replete with In Flames reject riffs and melodies with random female vocals and fiddles and whatever twangboxes they have in Bulgaria.  They had one song that was maddeningly catchy ("Balkanic Heart") and were otherwise completely forgettable and not worth listening to.

The band realized this, and so they decided that they needed to do something to stand out.  Something to... say, reset their career on a clean slate so the endless comparisons would stop.  How could they do this?  How could they possibly rejuvenate a style like folk metal, whose moon has been on the wane ever since Korpiklaani became popular and made extremely clear how shallow and dumb 90% of the bands in the style were?  There had to be some fresh new idea that nobody had thought of yet.  Well in early 2015, Niburta figured it out, they decided to blend their lukewarm brand of played out folk metal with djentcore.

Here's what they forgot: djent cannot save folk metal.  Then again, djent couldn't save a game of Final Fantasy if the entire game took place within a save point and the only command in battle was "save" and it was called Final Fantasy: Save Point.

That opening preamble that consisted of calling the band shitty for trying a stupid idea and predictably failing at it is really all the musical description I need, you've got the gist of what this sounds like.  Three songs, thirteenish minutes, one stupid experiment.  The title track, "ReSet" stands out a slight bit for having an extended quiet folk section in the middle, but it's not a good reason to stand out, because Niburta was never particularly good at folking, and their metalling was always even worse.  Trying to modernize a once trendy style with another flashy trend (though admittedly it looks like djent might be here to stay, even if its popularity is dwindling slowly) is a dubious agenda to start with, but it's made apparent within the first few seconds of gentle cooing clashing harshly with the classic Meshuggah tone of robotic scooped mids, which also clashes against the soft and yet somehow still frantic fiddling that this is dead on arrival.  No individual performances stand out, it's djust a djumbled mess of white noise that goes nowhere.

I'm being a tinge unfair, because it's not djust djent they added, as they also moved away from the light melodeath and decided to try going a more metalcore route with their riffing.  Since that's essentially djust still light metalcore, the new tone and focus on rhythmic chugging makes ReSet sound less like "In Flames with fiddles" and more "Veil of Maya with no breakdowns, shittier vocals, and fiddles".  That's the long and (mercifully) short of it.  It doesn't seem like the band has gained any new traction with this new direction, so hopefully they can djust lay down and fade away painlessly instead of further assaulting good taste djaunty bullshit.


RATING - 15%

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Archspire - The Lucid Collective

Literal pornography

I mean it, this album is equatable to porn, and I don't mean it in a good way.  I've once heard pornography defined as "anything you lose interest in as soon as you finish masturbating", which is completely brilliant and it embarrasses me to admit that I can't for the life of me remember the source.  The point is that Archspire is astounding.  I listen to The Lucid Collective and I'm reminded of the first time I heard genre stalwarts like Origin or even bands who flashed in the pan extremely brightly before abandoning the style or just going generally MIA from the studio like Fleshgod Apocalypse and Decrepit Birth.  The percussion is monstrous, lightning quick, and precise.  The guitars shred at light speed through insanely technical leads and generally unimportant riffs, but they take the Decrepit Birth approach of loading everything down with melody so the riffs are really more of an afterthought anyway.  The biggest standout is probably the vocalist, as he rivals Corpsegrinder, Sean Killian, or the dude from Streetlight Manifesto in how insanely fast he delivers his lines.  The lyrics for any given song are basically a full chapter from any novel, and he just never lets up with his rhythmic staccato.  It's like Busta Rhymes joined Origin, listen to the intro of "Fathom Infinite Depth" and try not to be impressed by his full throatal assault.

And then the album finishes.  And that's it!  A-thibby thib-thit-thit THAT'S ALL FOLKS!

As soon as "Spontaneous Generation" draws to a close, the album evaporates from your memory like your last wet dream, leaving you only with a curious stain and no memory of why you were so damn excited.  For all of the mind-bending skill on display, Archspire is woefully lacking in staying power, with songwriting skill on par with Rings of Saturn or Brain Drill, despite managing to avoid their style of incessantly cramming six second snippets of practice exercises in a random order dozens of times and calling it a song.  When listening to The Lucid Collective, it's obvious that they know what they're doing, it's just a shame that they aren't particularly good at it.  There was a browser game from a few years ago where you'd create a band, get points every hour or so, and spend those points on improving the band, touring, releasing albums, writing songs, etc.  Fun little timekiller and all, and if I recall there was a strong roleplaying community with it, but the point was that there were three factors that influenced the overall rating of the songs you'd write: creativity, playing ability, and songwriting.  If Archspire played that game, they'd have creativity sitting at about 75, playing ability at 150, and songwriting at 20.

As instantly ear catching as tracks like "Fathom Infinite Depth" and "Lucid Collective Somnambulation" are, they have no staying power beyond their initial runtime, and it's a shame because in terms of skill the band is right on par with early Fleshgod.  Maybe this is just a sign of the declining popularity of Unique Leader and Willowtip styled tech death, or maybe it's just my own waning patience with bands who are loaded with technical skill but lacking in songwriting prowess, but Archspire could have been on top of the world back in 2008, but are struggling to reach an audience in 2015.  They have a bit going for them with the rapid fire insanity of the vocalist and some interesting themes (like their ode to "I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream" in "The Plague of AM"), but unless they can fully utilize the ability to throw in some more hooks, stronger melodies that do more than just dazzle with flashiness, they're going to fade back into the white noise with Arkiak, Signal the Firing Squad, Viraemia, and the rest of the field that used to be a big deal that nobody cares about anymore since the advent of the dissonant, twisted, atmospheric OSDM explosion.  Archspire has a lot of skill, from a frantic bass player that manages to keep the music grounded instead of hopping on a trampoline and hoping everybody notices like Beyond Creation, to a blitzkrieg vocal assault from a deep throated lawn mower, but they need to buckle down and write songs with more strong, memorable moments before they reach any sort of echelon above "decent enough porn".


RATING - 60%

Friday, August 21, 2015

Krisiun - Forged in Fury

Teasiun Pleasiun

One of the most universally praised albums in all of metal history is... well not a Krisiun album.  October Rust by Type O Negative is held in high regard by virtually every fan of the band and even people who couldn't really care less about their genre.  It has a legendary opening track, with nearly 40 seconds of total silence before the band bursts out in laughter, introduces themselves, says they hoped you like the joke, and then the album starts.  It's a shitty joke, to be perfectly honest, but I can't help but feel like Krisiun owes us something similar for this album.  Before the first track truly starts, I want to hear silence before the band starts laughing and says:

"Hi, I'm Alex"

"I'm Moyses"

"And I'm Max"

*all together* "And we just don't give a shit anymore!  Hope you enjoy this album we shit out without actually writing any songs for!"

Because damn, Forged in Fury is a fucking bore.  I have a habit of lumping Krisiun in with the group including Cannibal Corpse, Vader, and Motorhead, where they really don't do anything new with each album, but they're so good at what they do that they don't really need to experiment with their sound.  In truth, every Cannibal Corpse album sounds like "a Cannibal Corpse album", every Motorhead album sounds like "a Motorhead album", but every Krisiun album sounds like "Conquerors of Armageddon".  For as consistent as the band is, it becomes more and more apparent with each subsequent album that they really blew their wad with that 2000 masterpiece.  They really and truly only have three great albums, with Black Force Domain being one of the most unruly and insane albums released in the mid 90s, Conquerors of Armageddon laying the blueprint for their signature blend of high speed, groovy, and punishing stop-start riff onslaughts, and fluking out with Southern Storm basically being Conquerors but better.

Forged in Fury?  Nah, this is pretty much interchangeable with any of their mid 00s albums.  It's truly the sound of a band on autopilot, just going into the studio and doing what they know how to do, but not really applying themselves towards the goal of getting better with each try.  It's like they figured out what they did best and just never bothered honing their skills.  The technical skills and execution are serviceable enough, with their jarring shifts from frenzied blasts and bassy tremolo assaults to pounding, Bolt Thrower style grooving being just as capable as always, but none of these songs contain any riffs or breakdowns or vocal patterns or solos or memorable moments or anything to really distinguish themselves from each other.  The album is a faceless blur of nothing-riffs.  It's just not particularly interesting or well written, which is unfortunate because that's the hardest criticism to explain.  There aren't any memorable blasts of intensity like the intro to "Combustion Inferno" or the main riff to "Sentenced Morning", it's just incessant tremolo abuse and blasting with no further thought put into it.  I don't even really know how to elaborate further, every song sounds like the song before it, and they all sound like "Abyssal Gates" from fifteen years prior except not as hungry and exciting.

I think one of the biggest problems is simply that the songs have been getting longer as of late, with this album being nearly an hour long and having four songs break the six minute mark (with another one being within seconds of that cutoff).  There simply aren't enough ideas at play to justify the songs being as lengthy as they are.  You get every idea the song will introduce within the first minute and that's it, nearly every track could be a minute or two shorter and it'd greatly improve the album.  This has been their issue for a while now, the three brothers just seem woefully incapable of trimming the fat.  The best song is easily "The Isolated Truth", and it's unironically the shortest one (though the fact that it's basically just a rewrite of the stellar "Combustion Inferno" certainly helps its standing with me).  In fact, the only two songs on here I'd ever see myself listening to again are that one and "Oracle of the Ungod", and it's for basically the exact same reason.  They're the two shortest songs and they're the most interesting interpretation of their stop-start brutality that's dominated their sound for the past decade.  That's it, they're well written and well executed versions of what the rest of the album tries to do but fails because it's too busy repeating itself.

I'm glad they've solved their production woes, as this is as heavy and thick as the previous two albums, but the actual content is disappointingly lacking.  If Forged in Fury is the first Krisiun album you hear, then you'll love it to death.  All of the ideas and quirks that have made the band relevant and respected enough for me to still care about despite thinking they're overall pretty meh are here like all the rest of the albums, but they're running on fumes at this point.  Nothing breaks out, grabs you by the balls, and hurls you against a wall like "Ravager" or "Slaying Steel" did years and years ago.  It's one dimensional, which used to be one of their greatest strengths, but it's now pretty heftily their biggest problem.


RATING - 45%

PS: "Milonga de la Muerte" is a cool acoustic bit, but it's stupid to end the album on what feels like an interlude as opposed to a true outro.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

TOP 50 ALBUMS OF THE 00s: Part V

Well folks, this is it, the end of the road.  It's been a fun week reminiscing about all of these undisputed classics within their genres, and I'm glad this finally came to fruition (aka I got off my ass and actually wrote something).  I just want to head into this last segment with an editor's note: YES I've heard the complaints about me not limiting the list to one album per band because that stunts diversity and just means I'll load the list down with my favorite albums from a few bands.  A) That's kind of the point, and B) fear not, there will be a featurette after this segment for honorable mentions and a sample packet (basically meaning "these are the albums that would've made it had I implemented that rule" and links for one or two songs from each album for anybody curious about something they haven't heard).  But first things first, it's time for the top ten of the decade!  They were chosen using a barometer of me.  I'm the barometer.

AND NOW FOR THE HOME STRETCH:

10. Primordial - The Gathering Wilderness (2005)
The inclusion of The Gathering Wilderness probably won't garner too much vitriol from readers, as most fans of this music can readily agree that it's a phenomenal album of emotional black metal anthems.  Mid paced, ethereal, and triumphant, it stands for everything that makes this particular subniche of the genre so majestic.  However, the fact that Primordial's 2007 followup, To the Nameless Dead was snubbed will probably make some fans irate.  I'll admit, my initial assessment of it being a nothing-album with great intangibles but a boring base of songwriting were almost completely unfounded, formed by a contrarian 17 year old version of myself who just couldn't get behind something so thoughtful and classy, as it actually is a very good album with a lot of good songs.  The problem with it is that the entire album is overshadowed by "Empire Falls", which is one of the greatest songs in the genre.  Nothing else even comes close to "Empire Falls", and the album suffers for it.  It's a bunch of great songs with one genre defining classic.  The Gathering Wilderness, on the other hand, is that song seven times in a row.  This is the perfect representation of larger than life, anthemic black metal, drenched in Celtic pride and anguished suffering.  Alan Averill has always had a unique voice, sounding like a tortured and broken man screaming his dying breaths for the pride of his country, and he's in top form here.  The songs themselves are among the most emotional ever written, with odes to the Irish famine in the 1800s with "The Coffin Ships" and tributes to long lost pagan gods with "The Golden Spiral", the entire album is focused on tragedy and a fascination with the past.  I've always said, in regards to my personal life, that the past shouldn't be ignored because it made you who you are, but the past belongs in the past.  Basically, remember where you came from, but don't dwell on it.  The Gathering Wilderness is a staunch "fuck you" to that idea, and it works extraordinarily well with a very starkly bleak beauty.  Primordial revels in death and tragedy and presents it in a very romantic light, and that macabre splendor is what makes them, and this era of their music (Spirit of the Earth Aflame and Storm Before Calm are also amazing albums) so otherworldly and gorgeous.  It's grim and unapologetic, and even a guy like me who couldn't possibly be less Irish can feel the pride flowing through my veins as it goes along.  It's definitely one of the best of the decade and deserves this spot without question.


9. Vektor - Black Future (2009)
Even though I admit that I have an issue with how long this album is (all three tracks over ten minutes could have easily been shortened), and how some songs tend to write themselves into a corner and fix it with extremely amateurish and jarring transitions, I still can't help but heap all the praise imaginable upon Black Future for a few reasons.  One of which is that these riffs are among the best thrash riffs of, and I'm not exaggerating, all fucking time.  "Black Future", "Oblivion", "Hunger for Violence", and "Forests of Legend" all carry more than their fair share of completely unhinged, frenetic creativity that manifest themselves inside some of the most stellar riffs I've ever heard.  This doesn't focus on Bay Area excitement like Exodus or Testament, nor does it focus on German brutality like Kreator or Sodom, instead opting to take most of their influence from the Canadian progressive thrash legends, Voivod.  They take the spaced out technical weirdness of the Quebecois stalwarts and run in a different direction with it, taking influences from everywhere imaginable on their avalanche run through Hell like a malevolent katamari of uncompromising and dead technological nightmares.  The second reason I love this album more than my children is because it's quite possibly the most important thrash album ever recorded.  I mean this because while bands like Exmortus will occasionally break the mold and take influences from all over the place, Vektor does it strictly within the confines of thrash metal itself.  All of these progressive elements and technical showcases and howling screeches wouldn't fit in any other genre, despite how creative and forward thinking Black Future is, it's all done with the cliche elements of thrash metal that every band adheres to.  They took those parts and made something completely and wholly new out of it.  It's like they took a box of Legos meant for a standard medieval castle and used the pieces to make a Death Star instead.  And it's because of this boundless creativity and outside-the-box songwriting and riff building that they showed the metal fandom as a whole that thrash truly wasn't a dead genre, and they did it by taking old parts and creating something new instead of just wearing hi tops and screaming THRASH'S NOT DEAD at the top of their lungs from under their flat billed caps.  They moved thrash forwards by moving it sideways.  In the six years since release, the only band to have even come close to utilizing the lessons taught on Black Future were Vektor themselves, with 2011's Outer Isolation managing to be equally as stunning while fixing all the tiny and ultimately insignificant problems present here.  Released with less than a month and a half left in the year, this snuck in right before the deadline and acts as the freeze frame high five at the end of the decade, concluding almost thirty years of growth with one of the most fresh takes on an established genre of all time.


8. Slough Feg - Hardworlder (2007)
I promise this is the last Scalzi project on the list, I swear.  While the band may have been at the top of their game in their "Lord Weird" days, they actually released their best album after the name change, the 2007 space opera, Hardworlder.  Mike Scalzi has said that he spent much of the band's early days trying harder and harder to one up himself in an effort to prove that he could be one of the best in the game, and he feels like he achieved it on Traveller, and ever since then has been much more laid back about his music and just writes whatever he feels like writing.  Most of that stuff ends up being kinda dry and lifeless half-songs, but his laid back, bluesy metal/rock on this album actually manages to be the best stuff he ever managed to write.  It doesn't follow a hard story like that 2003 opus, but the songs are all unified in the theme of galactic travel and wartime, so it still feels like one.  Once again the band runs the gamut of styles, and all of them are incredible.  "Tiger! Tiger!" is a very laid back and bluesy track, featuring a very emotional dueling guitar solo, "Poisoned Treasures" is a more traditional metal song with speedy riffing and Scalzi's wailing croon, "The Sea Wolf" is a more reflective and sorrowful ballad, while the trifecta of "Hardworlder", "The Spoils", and "Frankfurt-Hann Airport Blues" runs through all three styles.  "Galactic Nomad" acts as a throwback to the more quirky, angular frenzy of the Lord Weird era as well, and pretty much every single song can be singled out as a masterclass in whatever subset of music it nestles within.  I can only say so much because this is the third album by this band on the list, but it's truly the best there is when it comes to them.  Their Brocas Helm meets Thin Lizzy style is as unique as ever, and this one amps up the latter influence with much more heavy blues.  Slough Feg is a band that seems to be much more popular on the internet than in reality, which is a total shame because the quality and showmanship is high enough to be headlining the big European metal festival circuit, and yet they seem doomed to play grungy pubs in southern Illinois for the rest of eternity.  And even then, that's where they seem to be the most at home, so maybe they've never been cursed in the first place.  They just love hanging out in the gutters with the rest of the blue collar everymen, and that down to earth respectability translates through their music, even when it's based beyond the furthest stars.  Bonus points for this basically being the only metal album in history to be great while also having two cover songs.


7. Children of Bodom - Follow the Reaper (2000)
It may seem strange considering the fact that this is listed in the top ten, but I almost didn't even include it in the first place.  My love for early Bodom has been remembered mostly for the nostalgia of them being such a huge influence on me back in the earlier years of high school, back when they were still respected musicians, before kickflipping their way to the bottom of the barrel in later years.  Upon relistening to Follow the Reaper, not only did I realize that I have no shame for my Bodom fandom, but it actually still holds up as one of the most entertaining melodic metal albums of all time.  Back during this era of the band, they played what was essentially sped up Nightwish songs with harsh yowling vocals (with lyrics so laughably bad that they were usually made up on the spot in the studio and not listed in the album inserts) instead of the operatic coos of some pretty woman.  Nah, Bodom was a bunch of ugly Finnish dudes who just had no fucking clue how to restrain themselves.  This is the same principle that rocketed Dragonforce to stardom during their early years, and Follow the Reaper is the best example of how to make this idea work.  Everything is self indulgent and overblown, and anybody who has ever read a word I've written knows that that also describes my own style quite well.  I don't just love this for vicarious narcissism, the songs are all classic melodic death/power metal like no other band could manage.  Kalmah, Norther, Skyfire, Imperanon, there were tons of bands out of Finland trying to do what Bodom did, and none of them could ever write a song as engaging and adrenaline pumping as "Mask of Sanity" or "Children of Decadence".  Bodom knew how to make this style as unrestrained and ridiculous as possible while still being accessible, which lead to poppy tracks like "Hate Me" and four minute shredding solos like "Kissing the Shadows".  The dueling leads between Laiho's guitar and Wirmen's keys were never better than they were here (except maybe arguably on this album's predecessor, Hatebreeder).  The nostalgia may be strong with this one, but it's backed by the best album in the style, and I'll never apologize for that.


6. Bolt Thrower - Those Once Loyal (2005)
You know, I still think Bolt Thrower is overrated to an extent, and I still think that Karl Willetts isn't that great of a vocalist, but with that in mind, do you have any idea how amazing these songs areThose Once Loyal is so fucking good that the band decided not to record any more albums until they personally feel like they managed to top it, and as a result haven't released anything in over a decade.  This album is so incredible that it actually managed to kill one of the greatest death metal bands that ever existed.  Their themes of war come across in their music in a vicious way, with everything they release being pummeling and visceral, with an added emphasis on heaviness and groove that every death metal band wishes they could perfect.  This actually sounds like a tank, it sounds like a several ton death machine crushing skulls in the trenches while it fires shells the size of a Jeep at a fortified bunker.  The groove elements are just so fucking brilliant, I legitimately can't think of anything to compare them to, it's all so deep and heavy and crushing, nobody sounds like Bolt Thrower and they reign as one of the most influential death metal bands of all time for a reason.  Those Once Loyal is suffocating, and it's basically the antithesis of the common tech death criticism of "all style, no substance".  This is is nothing but substance, and the style comes not from flashy noodling or inhuman drumming, but just from extremely well written riffs and songs.  I can't describe this, I really can't, there are only like three adjectives I can use and they're all the best versions of those adjectives I can think of.  Nothing is more crushing, nothing is more groovy, nothing is more heavy, everything they do is perfect.  This is superlative death metal and the absolute best thing the genre managed to create during this decade.  That's all there is to it, if you can't rock out to the beastly grooves of "The Killchain" or the pummeling brutality of "Last Stand of Humanity", then I don't want to know you.


5. Melechesh - Emissaries (2006)
Remember how hard I ejaculated over Sphynx in the last entry?  Well Emissaries is somehow better in every conceivable way.  All of the Mesopotamian fury, all of the black/death/folk insanity, all of the masterfully written riffs intertwined with sublime melodies, all of it is here and better than ever.  The fire that burned within the band was at an all time high during this period, and they never managed to match what they had here.  Later albums are still good, but they're focused more on mid paced grooves and chanting ancient incantations.  Melechesh still did those thing back in 2006, but it was with so much more vitriol and wrath.  When the band plays something like "Rebirth of the Nemesis" or "Touching the Spheres of Sephiroth" live, it sounds like a completely different band took the stage.  Emissaries was just on a whole other level, a completely different plane of existence when writing this.  This is what would happen if Satan had written the Dead Sea Scrolls.  It sounds ancient, it sounds like long sleeping gods have awoken and learned how to play metal, and in doing so have crafted something otherworldly in spirit while remaining malevolent and vicious.  As great as Sphynx is (and I should remind you that it's really really great), everything about Emissaries is just a little bit faster, a little bit heavier, and a little bit bigger.  I love albums that sound larger than life, like you're part of something greater for merely listening to it, and this is one of the best albums for capturing that feeling.  Even with the ethereal majesty lifting the album over almost all of its contemporaries, it's still loaded down with brutal riffing.  It's just strong, powering through swaths of unsuspecting slaves and sweeping them up in its mighty jaws, devouring everything in its path.  I'll never get over Melechesh's ability to riff like they do, with the unique percussive elements and powerful melody playing off each other so well in the background.  This is decidedly more in line with black metal than the more nebulous entity that Sphynx was, but it doesn't work to the album's detriment.  I can't gush forever, just fuck everything else and get this album.


4. Persuader - Evolution Purgatory (2004)
HA!  You thought I implied that When Eden Burns was the superior album back in their entry, didn't you?  Well psyche, because Evolution Purgatory, despite not being quite as melodic or catchy as its successor, is loaded down with such a hefty fucking set of testicles that it manages to club everything else to death like a tanuki.  This was the go-to album for me and everybody back in the mid 2000s whenever power metal was criticized as being too melodic and flowery and girly, because there is more testosterone in these 47 minutes than the Detroit Lions locker room.  And that's not to say this is entirely amelodic.  Tracks like "Masquerade" and "Passion/Pain" aren't afraid to throw in some light keys and powerful guitar melodies into the forefront, with most of the harmonized vocals populating every chorus sounding like any given Blind Guardian track from the mid 90s.  But even when the melody is in the forefront, Evolution Purgatory is thick and muscular.  Carlsson's vocals are even more chaotic and driven here, as he showcases his versatility more than ever.  The opening verse of "Turn to Dust" basically cycles through every possible style of vocal for a metal band, and it's natural instead of gimmicky.  There are groovy, hooky tracks like "Godfather" mixed in with thrash influenced rippers like "Fire at Will" and "Sanity Soiled", along with more standard power metal flare (though with a huge emphasis on face punching attitude) like "Strike Down" and "Masquerade".  I once described this as "Blind Guardian on PCP", and it's still true, all these years later.  I'll admit that this is another album that probably has nostalgia helping it rank as high as it is, being that this album is basically the soundtrack to the summer before my senior year of high school, sonically guiding me through probably the most significant personal growth I've ever experienced apart from my comically brief stint in the military and the first time I punched a clown.  But unlike Children of Bodom up there, I never doubted for one second that this would rank in the top ten.  Evolution Purgatory is genuinely one of the greatest power metal albums of all time, and certainly the best that wasn't released by Blind Guardian, Helloween, Gamma Ray, etc.


3. 3 Inches of Blood - Advance and Vanquish (2004)
Seriously BH? You're telling me this gimmicky piece of shit is the third best album of the decade?  Look at that stupid band name, look at their stupid bespectacled metalcore screamer, look at that stupid album cover, it looks like the focus is on that dope's thigh.  I'm not sorry, I'm really not.  3IoB was never really given their due, as far as I'm concerned, because Advance and Vanquish is a modern classic in every sense of the word.  This is a band that sort of snuck into the throngs of metalcore that was coming out at the time and burst up so strongly that they rightfully should've been considered the next Judas Priest and carried off into infamy.  Unfortunately, these hooks, riffs, and perfectly written songs were completely shunned by a huge contingent of metal fans because the vocals were so jarring.  The band utilizes two, Cam Pipes, who sings like a blend of Rob Halford and Brian Johnson, and Jamie Hooper, who screams in a high pitched monotone harsh rasp.  I want to sit here and cry about how unfair it is that Hooper got a ton of crap thrown at him specifically, and how the band was constantly mislabeled as metalcore posers due to his rasp despite these riffs and melodies being straight out of 1984, and I want to whine about how the music suddenly got really shitty once he was kicked out (it was said he left because he blew his voice out, but the fact that he's been screaming his lungs out with Congress ever since then shows that it's a load of bullshit), leading me to believe he was the secret genius behind the riffs the whole time.  But I shan't, instead I'll focus on how fucking incredible these songs are.  The "Upon the Boiling Sea" trilogy that's scattered throughout the album is probably the highlight throughout, with "Fear on the Bridge", "Lord of the Storm", and "Isle of Eternal Despair" being the best songs on display, with a huge influence coming from classic European metal groups like Judas Priest, Running Wild, and Accept.  They keep the aggression high with pummeling numbers like "Deadly Sinners" and "Dominion of Deceit", while showcasing their impeccable ear for melody in songs like "Axes of Evil", "Revenge is a Vulture", and "Swordmaster".  Advance and Vanquish is loaded to the gills with classic metal riffage and ohrwurm hooks at every turn, and they do this without ever fully descending into relying on cliches and leaving it at that.  In a way, 3 Inches of Blood was the precursor to bands that have fared much more favorably in the underground like In Solitude, Enforcer, and Striker.  Granted that means they're also responsible for White Wizzard, but we can't control who likes us.  Pretty much the only time you'll ever see me slip up and use the classic non-attack of "elitism" is when people trash Advance and Vanquish, because it has everything that metal fans claim to want, and somehow found itself maligned for over a decade.  Don't be fooled, this is the best thing 2004 gave us.


2. Sigh - Hangman's Hymn (2007)
This was my introduction to Sigh.  I had ordered it on a whim from The End records (back when they were still a respected distro) based on word of mouth and got the package shortly before I left for work.  I was working an overnight lock in at a bowling alley, it was raining at the time, and I put it on in my car for the drive there.  I almost didn't go to work that night.  I seriously contemplated just sitting in my car, staring in awe at my stereo.  I really think the only other time I found myself doing that was when I sat cross legged on my bed, jaw agape, staring at my speakers while I listened to Ride the Lightning all the way through for the first time.  Sigh put me in a trance that only the most popular metal band of all time ever managed to do almost a decade prior.  Hangman's Hymn is one of the most well written metal albums of all time, with repeating themes coming and going in such well timed cycles amidst a whirlwind of hellish insanity.  I mentioned in the entry for Imaginary Sonicscape that Sigh was nearly impossible to describe, but that's actually sort of facetious here, because this album is firmly rooted in metal, as hybrid and challenging as it may be.  There is a ton of thrash and black on display, amidst bombastic horns and choirs and a very progressive approach to songwriting, with classic trad metal shredding solos all over the place.  This is one of those rare albums that takes influence from basically everywhere and manages to make it palatable and cohesive.  This difficult to define style of extreme metal coupled with huge strings and orchestrations is based around a concept that I've never truly been able to follow, but it's never mattered because you know how the story is supposed to go anyway based on how the music shifts and churns.  The explosive opening of "Introitus - Kyrie" sets the stage for the chameleon eyed lunacy to come, and from the more sinister "Dies Irae - The Master Malice", to the relentless blast beating and haunting choirs of "Memories as a Sinner", to the epic and somber conclusion of "Hangman's Hymn - In Paradisum - Das Ende", everything moves so smoothly and appropriately that it's comparable to an actual opera.  There's nothing I don't love about this, it has everything I've ever wanted in a more experimental metal album.  It's unconventional while being accessible, huge while being relatable, furious while being exquisite, ferocious while being bombastic, it's everything and nothing at the same time.  The superficial elements are massive and vicious while the more conceptual ideas are just as hungry and malicious while being much darker and subdued.  I love this, I love this, I love this.  I can't praise it enough.  Sigh is one of the greatest bands of our time, and almost nothing showcases it quite like Hangman's Hymn.


AND THE WINNER IS...

1. Skeletonwitch - Beyond the Permafrost (2007)

What?  Wait no, that can't be right, let me check my cards.
*shuffles*

Well I'll be damned, this is right.  This is actually my favorite fucking album released in this timeframe.  When I had started this project, I was pretty set on Sigh taking the throne, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that Beyond the Permafrost is really and truly one of my all time favorite albums.  It seems weird, because they can easily come off as a flavor of the week trendy band at a glance, but really, Skeletonwitch sort of accidentally redefined thrash in a similar way to how Vektor and Exmortus did it.  They took influence from everywhere, they took the best of black metal, the best of death metal, the best of traditional metal, they took all of the best of everything and put it against the baseboard of the best of thrash and made the best album of the decade.  Beyond the Permafrost is one of the greatest modern metal albums because it managed to cram so many ideas into one succinct timeframe and have such an astoundingly high amount of them hit bullseye. It has a sense of melody that most thrash bands could never quite nail, because it doesn't just come from overt Maiden/Priest style leads or wailing vocals, it just comes from expertly written riffs that convey the melody despite the punishing nature of the music and varied growls and rasps of the vocals. There are out and out barnburning thrashers ("Beyond the Permafrost"), insanely technical exercises ("Soul Thrashing Black Sorcery"), contrastingly simple shows of restraint resulting in great hooks "Vengeance Will Be Mine"), Marduk styled tremolo abusing morbidity ("Limb from Limb"), and straight up traditional metal riffing and melody drenched hooks ("Within My Blood"). I know I mentioned the same album in the last entry, but while Ride the Lightning sort of defied what thrash was supposed to be before thrash was even a thing, Beyond the Permafrost took a style that had been defined pretty solidly for over 20 years and completely broke all the chains within those confines. It's their ability to stay firmly rooted in what came before them while branching out with so many new ideas that grew this album into the monstrous uncutdownable tree that it has become, and as long as I live I will hail it as one of the few definitive modern classics of this current generation.


And there we have it!  BH's Top 50 Albums of 2000-2009.  I hope you enjoyed this as much as I did, and I hope everybody enjoyed at least most of the albums on display here, as I'm clearly a huge fan of them all.
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AND NOW FOR SOME HONORABLE MENTIONS!

I mentioned that I ranked far more than 50 albums for this list, and I also mentioned that this album wasn't exclusive to one album per band.  With that in mind, the fact that Sigh, Gargoyle, Cannibal Corpse, Persuader, and Melechesh all had two albums on the list, and Slough Feg had a whopping three, that leaves seven albums that got snubbed that would have ranked if I'd've just selected one from each.  So, to sate those who were curious as to what juuuuuust barely missed the cut, here are the seven next spots that almost made it.

Arsis - A Celebration of Guilt (2005): This was James Malone's one flukey masterpiece.  His ability to write riffs that are as insanely technical and melodic as they are has always been impressive, but almost every Arsis album has been a slapdash hack job of random ideas in random places.  The debut is the one time he managed to get them in the right order.  "The Face of My Innocence" is a phenomenal song.

Dying Fetus - Destroy the Opposition (2000): This sort of suffered the same fate that I mentioned To the Nameless Dead facing; that being that it's basically one phenomenal, genre defying classic song ("Praise the Lord") and then a bunch of other good songs that don't measure up.  As such, it didn't quite make the cut, which is a shame because it's brutal as fuck and easily the best Dying Fetus album.

Mastodon - Blood Mountain (2006): I've written all about this band across five different reviews, and I really don't feel like beating a dead horse.  Just know that they never topped Blood Mountain because they never wrote songs as frantically hooky as "The Wolf is Loose" and "Circle of Cysquatch" again.

Anaaal Nathrakh - In the Constellation of the Black Widow (2009): There is basically no album even half as insane as this one.  The stellar blend of black metal and grindcore creates a frenetic echo chamber of torture.  Basically this never slows down and never relents, and gleefully vaporizes listeners in a swath of nuclear hellfire.

Ahab - The Divinity of Oceans (2009): I know almost every single person in the universe considers their debut, Call of the Wretched Sea, to be the superior album, but I've always loved their more melodic approach to baby's first funeral doom.  Also I mean, come on, this is the album that spawned Fast Ahab, which is my all time greatest contribution to humanity.

Rotten Sound - Exit (2005): All I need to do to describe Rotten Sound is describe the time I saw them live.  They were opening for Finntroll and Ensiferum, and they were so fast, grindy, and relentlessly brutal that all of the kids with furs and facepaint stood against the wall looking scared while my two friends and I stood up front headbanging and moshing with each other.  The vocalist said after about a hundred and ten songs, "We're gonna play some fast ones now", and the buddy to my left (who was also there for folk metal but was a good sport about the grind) looked at me in disbelief that they could possibly have any faster songs.  The vocalist had a head vein that was about six inches wide.

Nevermore - This Godless Endeavor (2005): This is the one time Nevermore ever truly nailed it.  They had a few good albums here and there and were pretty decent about making their music accessible and poppy while still being respectable enough to rock out to, with Dead Heart in a Dead World being their shining moment in this department.  But This Godless Endeavor was their all around best album by a long shot, with tons of different ideas spanning their entire career up to that point.  It was very nearly the band's swansong, and in all honesty should have been.  If "The Psalm of Lydia", "A Future Uncertain", "Final Product", and "This Godless Endeavor" don't get your blood pumping, then you're an android and should be destroyed.


SAMPLE PACKET

This is for people who may be interested in something I've listed here, but haven't heard the album before.  This here will give you all a little taste of everything, two tracks from each album, with the exception of Wormphlegm and Altar of Plagues, since they only have three and four tracks on their two albums, respectively.

Hammers of Misfortune - The Locust Years: "The Locust Years" , "Trot Out the Dead" 
Vomitory - Revelation Nausea: "Under Clouds of Blood" , "Revelation Nausea" 
Nile - Annihilation of the Wicked: "The Burning Pits of the Duat" , "Sacrifice Unto Sebek" 
The Black Dahlia Murder - Nocturnal: "What a Horrible Night to Have a Curse" , "Climactic Degradation" 
Symphony X - Paradise Lost: "Set the World on Fire" , "Eve of Seduction" 
Cannibal Corpse - Kill: "Make Them Suffer" , "The Discipline of Revenge" 
Municipal Waste - Hazardous Mutation: "Unleash the Bastards" , "Guilty of Being Tight" 
Amon Amarth - With Oden On Our Sides: "Cry of the Black Birds" , "Asator" 

Arghoslent - Incorrigible Bigotry: "Quelling the Simian Urge" , "Flogging the Cargo" 
Hour of Penance - The Vile Conception: "Misconception" , "The Holy Betrayal" 
Wormphlegm - Tomb of the Ancient King: "Epejumalat Monet Tesse Muinen Palveltin Caucan ja Lesse" 
Altar of Plagues - White Tomb: "Earth: As a Womb" 
Dragonforce - Sonic Firestorm: "Cry of the Brave" , "My Spirit Will Go On" 
Exhumed - Slaughtercult: "Decrepit Crescendo" , "A Lesson in Pathology" 
As I Lay Dying - An Ocean Between Us: "Within Destruction" , "Forsaken" 
Gargoyle - Kemonomichi: "Kichiku" , "Bakudan Chuudoku" 
Deathchain - Deathrash Assault: "Napalm Satan" , "Venom Preacher" 
Immolation - Close to a World Below: "Father, You're Not a Father" , "Close to a World Below" 

The Axis of Perdition - Deleted Scenes from the Transition Hospital: "In The Hallway of Crawling Filth" , "One Day You Will Understand Why" 
Torture Squad - Pandemonium: "Horror and Torture" , "Towers of Fire" 
Exmortus - In Hatred's Flame: "Triumph By Fire" , "War Gods" 
Ensiferum - Iron: "Tale of Revenge" , "LAI LAI HEI" 
Fleshgod Apocalypse - Oracles: "Embodied Deception" , "As Tyrants Fall" 
Type O Negative - Dead Again: "Halloween in Heaven" , "Tripping a Blind Man" 
Gamma Ray - No World Order!: "Dethrone Tyranny" , "Follow Me" 
Cannibal Corpse - Gore Obsessed: "Grotesque" , "Pit of Zombies" 
Vader - Impressions in Blood: "Helleluyah!!! (God is Dead)" , "The Book" 
Persuader - When Eden Burns: "Judas Immortal" , "Sending You Back" 

The Lord Weird Slough Feg - Down Among the Deadmen: "Warrior's Dawn" , "Traders and Gunboats" 
Gargoyle - Future Drug: "GUSH!!" , "B.B" 
Timeless Miracle - Into the Enchanted Chamber: "The Red Rose" , "Curse of the Werewolf" 
Vader - Litany: "Wings" , "Xeper" 
Ensiferum - Victory Songs: "Ahti" , "Victory Song" 
Misery Index - Traitors: "Traitors" , "Occupation" 
Sigh - Imaginary Sonicscape: "A Sunset Song" , "Nietzschean Conspiracy" 
The Lord Weird Slough Feg - Traveller: "Asteroid Belts""Vargr Theme / Confrontation (Genetic Prophesy)"
Melechesh - Sphynx: "Incendium Between Mirage and Time" , "Annunaki's Golden Thrones" 
The Crown - Deathrace King: "Blitzkrieg Witchcraft" , "Rebel Angel" 

Primordial - The Gathering Wilderness: "The Coffin Ships" , "The Golden Spiral" 
Vektor - Black Future: "Black Future" , "Forests of Legend" 
Slough Feg - Hardworlder: "Tiger! Tiger!" , "Poisoned Treasures" 
Children of Bodom - Follow the Reaper: "Mask of Sanity" , "Kissing the Shadows" 
Bolt Thrower - Those Once Loyal: "At First Light" , "The Killchain" 
Melechesh - Emissaries: "Rebirth of the Nemesis""Deluge of Delusional Dreams"
Persuader - Evolution Purgatory: "Fire at Will" , "Sanity Soiled" 
3 Inches of Blood - Advance and Vanquish: "Revenge is a Vulture" , "Lord of the Storm" 
Sigh - Hangman's Hymn: "Introitus - Kyrie" , "Salvation in Flame - Confutatis" 
Skeletonwitch - Beyond the Permafrost: "Limb from Limb" ,  "Within My Blood"

That's everything!  I hope you all enjoyed this little project of mine.  I certainly had fun with it.  Now's the time to let the debate rage and, hell, if you're so inclined, make your own top 50 and see how much fun it is.  Thank you all for joining me! 

Friday, August 7, 2015

TOP 50 ALBUMS OF THE 00s: Part IV

Once again, we join together.  Hold my hand as we continue down this twisted, craggly experience that is fear stained nostalgia of metal passed.  The previous three parts are right below/next to this one, so if you're curious as to what my #28 album was (and I know you are now), go there to discover some cool stuff for yourself!

CONTINUING ON:

20. The Lord Weird Slough Feg - Down Among the Deadmen (2000)
Jesus H Hellchrist was Mike Scalzi an absolute fucking genius or what?  I may have become fairly vocal about how underwhelming he's been across the last handful of albums with Slough Feg, but when the title of Lord Weird predicated that name, he was practically unstoppable.  The previous two albums were very good, with the previous (1999's Twilight of the Idols) polishing up the unique sound of the band from their self titled debut and truly starting the impressive run they went on.  Most fans will point to the 2000 effort, Down Among the Deadmen as the best of the streak, and if I'm being honest with you, it's a hard claim to argue against.  Slough Feg's blend of hard rocking heavy metal is completely inimitable.  With an equal mixture of Brocas Helm, Thin Lizzy, and Iron Maiden, coupled with arguably the most unique clean vocals in metal history, Slough Feg takes you on a ride that ranges from the mythical to the scientific, rolling through jovial, bouncing grooves  and neck wrecking speed riffs without ever truly taking their foot off the gas outside of a few curveball moments (like the acoustic "Beast in the Broch" or just the downright primally strange "Troll Pack").  The fact that there isn't a unified theme on this album like there are with so many of their other classics adds to the charm in a big way, as it doesn't matter what sort of gibberish you're in to, Scalzi is going to touch on it.  From his fallbacks in Celtic myth ("Fergus Mac Roich", "Cauldron of Blood") and science fiction ("Traders and Gunboats", "Death Machine"), he runs through everything else you can think of as well, like Native American warriors ("Marauder", "Warrior's Dawn") and just weird shit he thought of after dropping acid ("High Season"), the themes are just as versatile and interesting as the music on display.  Like Gargoyle, Slough Feg is a really hard band to describe, with Mike once claiming in an interview "we just play Slough Feg music".  Yes.  Keep doing that.  Keep just playing Slough Feg music, because these rolling riffs and charismatic rockers need more listeners.


19. Gargoyle - Future Drug (2001)
Hey speaking of Gargoyle.  I often internally fight with myself as to what the best Gargoyle album truly is, and as much as I adore most of their 90s work, particularly Tsuki no Toge, Tenron, and Furebumi, I've found myself fairly consistently deciding it to be Yotaro's swansong, Future Drug.  For all the bizarre, Japanese, proggy thrashy powery warbly weirdness that defined the band up to this point, I find it sort of strange that their most straightforward and balls out heavy album before the Moderngoyle period actually stands out as the best one.  But let's be real here, their strength always lied in two areas: Kiba's completely fucking out there voice (I implore you to check out some random tracks if you haven't heard the band yet, he sounds like he got punched in the throat right before recording), and the riffs.  The riffs.  They were never all about the riffs, they always had so much else going for them that they never really had to buckle down and focus on one area, but for whatever reason, the decided to spend all of Future Drug focusing on riffs, and my god I love them for it.  There are so many tracks that would be staples of thrash fans everywhere if the band had ever attained any semblance of popularity outside of Japan and weird internet people like me.  "B.B", "Open the Gate", "Genom", "Ese Gari", "Gaki Teikoku", "It's Battle Time", and especially "GUSH!!" (yes, it must be capitalized with two exclamation points, every time), all of these are speed fest destroyers worth every thrash fan's time.  And even though the band focused on just thrashing faces into vapor for most of this album, even those songs have nifty twists thrown in all over the place like the insane bass on "Gaki Teikoku", the natural harmonic runs in "Open the Gate", the shamisen in "It's Battle Time".  And even then there are still plenty of their trademark quirks like the proggy dirge of "Mandara no Tami", the soothing acoustic "Toki to Kaze", and the punk filled, Toshi-sung "ZIPANG".  There is just too much to love here, I can sit here listing examples all day if left unchecked.  This is just damn worth it, and I won't stop screaming from the mountaintops about it until it's loved on a level with Feel the Fire, Agent Orange, By Inheritance, and all the other classic thrash records of the day.  They never got better than this, and they were always consistently phenomenal.


18. Timeless Miracle - Into the Enchanted Chamber (2005)
Throughout all of the death and thrash metal I've been throwing at you, you've surely noticed that I have an incongruous soft spot for super dorky flower metal as well.  I've highlighted it before, but it's still worth noting when talking about Timeless Miracle, arguably the fluffiest and dorkiest band to ever sing about mass murder.  Their sole album, Into the Enchanted Chamber, is rife with tales of the occult, the supernatural, vampires, lynchings, demons, romance, and versions of Little Red Riding Hood where the Big Bad Wolf actually eviscerates and publicly displays Little Red's tiny, lifeless corpse.  All of this dark shit is backed by potentially the bounciest and most optimistic sounding music ever recorded.  There isn't a malicious note played on this album, it's just the happiest damn thing ever recorded, even the vocals are of the extremely high pitched clean nature that saturates flower metal, there is absolutely no gruffness anywhere to be found outside of the lyrics themselves.  Perhaps that's why Timeless Miracle stood out at all during their time in the full moon, but that'd be selling these songs short.  Yeah the juxtaposition may be intriguing and all, but the songs are so damn good that they never needed the gimmick in the first place.  They cover every possible cliche in the genre, with galloping romps ("Down to the Gallows"), keyboard laden fruit salads ("The Gates of Hell"), folky riff jams ("The Devil"), long, sprawling epics ("The Voyage"), and double bass abusing, palm mute riding, nasal crooning monsters ("Curse of the Werewolf", "The Red Rose", "Return of the Werewolf").  Even the interludes and the ballad are good in the absolute nerdiest, cheesiest way possible.  This is the kind of album for Sonata Arctica fans who loved Reckoning Night and Ecliptica over Unia and Stones Grow Her Name.  This isn't subtle, this isn't mature, it's just over the top silly bombast from the word go and it never stops.  "The Red Rose" is one of the best power metal songs ever written while simultaneously being one of the stupidest.  Maybe the appeal here is the same appeal that MXC has.  It's just weird and silly and entertaining, no matter how low brow and dumb it is, and that's what I love about it.  This isn't ashamed to be what it is, and I love it for that.


17. Vader - Litany (2000)
The fight between most Vader fans comes down to De Profundis or Litany.  While I have grown to actually see the former as the superior album, it wasn't chosen because A) it's ineligible anyway since it was released in 1995, and B) it doesn't have the added nostalgic value of being the first death metal album I ever loved.  Hell, the title track was possibly the first death metal song I ever loved.  This was released smack in the middle of Vader's utterly mindbogglingly good streak of albums with Doc on the drums.  Really, that man could blast like no other, and it's no surprise that possibly his best performance graces possibly their best album.  I never really agreed with Vader getting the "death/thrash" tag, as the thrash influence has always been pretty low, and I think it's probably the lowest it'll ever be on Litany, but the rocking grooves rock and groove so fucking hard that it almost gets close to death'n'roll at times if you squint and stretch the definition so thin that even Mr. Fantastic has to raise an eybrow.  All in all, this is a pure death metal album in every sense of the word, and every member of the band thunders forth with their best performances on their best songs.  There are no less than five stone cold classics and live staples here.  When I saw them play all of De Profundis live, they still couldn't help but throw "Wings" in at the end of the set, it's that iconic.   That's not even taking into account the title track, "Xeper", "Cold Demons", "The Calling", "A World of Hurt" or any of the other tracks.  It's unbelievable how staggeringly high the quality of songs are here, and the fact that it pretty much never dips below "best god damned thing I've ever heard" is an everlasting testament to why Vader will always remain in the halls of the vaunted death metal giants of yore, right next to Morbid Angel and Suffocation.  The pace is relentless and every single song carries at least two memorable riffs.  Vader never really got enough credit for their riffs, I think, even in present times when they're still releasing future classics in the new decade.  The breakdowns and hooks are always just as speedy and brutal as the blasting tremolo sections, and overall it'll really only take one listen for you to become hopelessly addicted to the band and album.


16. Ensiferum - Victory Songs (2007)
This album got a lot of unnecessary shit thrown at it when it was first released.  This was at that beautiful point in time when Jari Maenpaa hadn't generated enough ill will to power a typhoon and Petri Lindroos was still just the weaselly shit in that one band of Bodom wannabes (at a time when Children of Bodom was squandering whatever good press they had left with people kickflipping flaming skateboards around Alexi Laiho's painted fingernails and guyliner).  Between the controversial personnel decisions and accusations of them being "the Christina Aguilera of folk metal", they didn't have much going for them in the underground.  But even on release day, I fell in love with this album so hard that my heart nearly imploded.  That annoying split between awesome fast songs and shitty slow songs had finally been abolished, as Victory Songs was (and still is) the only Ensiferum album to focus almost exclusively on what they're best at.  The power metal influence had been ramped up considerably on tracks like "Deathbringer from the Sky", and the orchestrations were more bombastic than ever before.  "Blood is the Price of Glory" starts the album on such a high note that I was almost afraid to listen to the rest of it at first.  Luckily I did, as it ended up housing their two best songs, the crazy fast "Ahti" and the stunning epic "Victory Song".  The riffs and melodies are at their best here, and almost every single idea they throw at the listener hits bullseye.  Even the ballad this time, "Wanderer", is 1000000x better than the ballads on the previous albums, since it maintains a brisk trot instead of a dull, exhausted stroll.  It also helps that Markus Toivonen's clean voice is leagues better than Jari's inconsistent yowling (though his screams are admittedly better than Petri's), so the chants, choirs, and mournful, reflective passages in both English and Finnish are instantly memorable on every track.  There's a frantic tapping bass passage in "Deathbringer from the Sky", a cleanly sung interlude in Finnish in "Victory Song", and a bouncy folk anthem in "One More Magic Potion".  There's just so much they tried on this album, and all of it managed to be an improvement upon the already Top 30 ranking Iron, somehow.  I love it.  They would experiment even more on the 2009 followup, From Afar, but they'd sort of lost the plot a bit by then and would eventually fall off the deep end shortly afterwards.  Victory Songs ranks as the one and only time they managed to be both daring and focused, and it resulted in their best album, and the best folk metal album of all time in my eyes.


15. Misery Index - Traitors (2008)
One album I had nominated for this list that ultimately didn't make the cut was Dying Fetus's crowning achievement, 2000's Destroy the Opposition.  Luckily for the world, the band behind Gallagher on that album had decided he was impossible to work with and wound up forming their own band in the wake of their split from Fetus, Misery Index.  Even more luckily for the world, Misery Index would go on to release on of the all time great deathgrind albums in 2008 with Traitors.  I can't possibly say enough great things about this album, the intensity is off the charts no matter what they're trying to do, with a straightfoward brutal punk song in "The Arbiter", a mid era Morbid Angel love letter in "Thrown Into the Sun", to just out-and-out insane bursts of grindtastic insanity in "Ruling Class Cancelled".  Everything they do works so fucking well because of that thing I keep mentioning throughout this list, the same thing that made Deathchain so special in their early days.  This is hooky, holy shit are there memorable hooks all over the place.  3:13 into "Theocracy" has the hands down greatest riff ever put into a deathgrind song, and it's the band's tendency to do little things like that that set Traitors so far apart from their contemporaries.  The title track has some of the catchiest vocal lines I've ever heard in a song that brutal, "Occupation" and "Theocracy" are both loaded to the gills with incredible riffs, "Black Sites" rides on one of the most easily headbangable riffs ever written outside of the 80s, and so, so, so much more.  No band has ever taken the shitnards bonkers intensity of grind and combined them with so many incredible riffs and hooks and that includes modern day Cattle Decapitation holy shit let it go they're not that good.   Remember how the previous release, Discordia, was pretty solidly good the whole time except for the one completely insanely well written blast of nihilistic fury that was "Conquistadores"?  Traitors is "Conquistadores" eleven times.


14. Sigh - Imaginary Sonicscape (2001)
My god what can I possibly say about Sigh?  That's not a rhetorical question, I genuinely have no idea what to say about them.  They're pretty much the strangest fucking band to ever really take hold in the underground, and their strangest album happens to be one of the best darn things ever.  Imaginary Sonicscape, their fifth album, almost ditches their metal roots entirely in favor of bizarre, electronic soundscapes and lo fi surf rock with black metal vocals.  Between all of the strange, progressive rock and trip hop, everything is reined in via incredibly good songwriting and boundless imagination.  Remember how hard I jizzed over their 2012 album, In Somniphobia?  Well Imaginary Sonicscape is the closest point of that comparison with that album, with just how bizarre and out there it is.  And, as trendy and phony as it sounds, that's really what I like so much about the band.  Sigh doesn't follow any rules, they've been thinking outside the box ever since Infidel Art back in 1995, and have been pretty solidly removed from their black metal roots since Hail Horror Hail.  By this point, they're something so far from anything else I'd ever heard before that it took a while for the album to even take hold in the first place.  When I say that Imaginary Sonicscape has everything, I really mean it.  The opening tracks are basically black'n'roll, and by the third song they're playing spaced out trip hop, and it just never settles down from there.  This runs the gamut of every kind of avant garde, progressive, just plain weird music ever written, rife with strings and keyboards and industrial elements and just plain damn awesome rock riffs.  I hesitate to call this a metal album as well, but Sigh has always clearly been a metal band, despite however much jazz they might be cramming into any given album.  As a result, all of these genre bending ideas are run through a black metal filter, despite the lack of blast beats and tremolos that you'd normally associate with the genre.  If you wanted to be super pretentious and only moderately accurate, you could call this a dirty BM rendition of Bjork, but even that doesn't do the sheer creativity justice.  Of all the albums on this countdown, this is truly the hardest to write about, so all I can really do is implore you to hear it for yourself.  It's strange and trippy and impossible to describe, just know that it's loaded with groovy riffs and spaced out ambiance, mostly at the same time somehow.


13. The Lord Weird Slough Feg - Traveller (2003)
Remember how I said Slough Feg was untouchable once upon a time?  I fucking meant it.  Traveller is their love letter to science fiction and tabletop RPGs, and they wound up writing possibly the greatest concept album of all time in the process.  The story itself isn't the most out there thing ever imagined (at least in terms of structure... I can't say I can list too many metal albums that deal with unethical gene splicing creating a race of humanoid wolves to enslave the galaxy), but the way it's told is flawless.  I'm being genuine when I say that there is no better paced concept album in all of metal, as the entire thing flows so perfectly from one idea to the next; from one theme to another and one riff to the following, everything sounds organic and focused.  There is home grown, rocking, groovy, hooky, high speed heavy metal around every corner, from the high octane dogfight that is "Asteroid Belts", to the sorrowful reflection of "Baltech's Lament", to the catchiest riff ever written in "Gene-ocide", to the just damn near best metal song written in "Vargr Theme", there isn't enough space for me to gush about Traveller.  That last song really does encapsulate the entire album, running through three distinct sections, dealing with the crux of the story and providing some of the most exciting material on the album.  The confrontation between Baltech and The Professor is handled amazingly and presented with vengeful hatred on one side and arrogant pity on the other.  How Scalzi can so exquisitely emote both characters within the same verse without even changing his singing voice is impressive on a scale for which I don't even have words.  The entire album is extravagant and ballsy, over the top and muscular.  There is so much excitement across so many tracks, with the epic closer, "Addendum Galactus", being the appropriate climax for such a legendary journey.  Traveller runs the entire emotional spectrum throughout its runtime and never disappoints.  It stands as one of the most popular Slough Feg albums and it's rightfully deserved.


12. Melechesh - Sphynx (2003)
Melechesh is an extremely interesting beast.  They release albums at a snail's pace, rivaling even Macabre in their pursuit of "one album per generation", and they've been getting progressively more relaxed and esoteric with each album for a while now.  But back in 2003, they were at the top of their game, unleashing the absolute fucking behemoth that is Sphynx.  I remember first hearing about this band when somebody had mentioned them as "being like Orphaned Land, but actually good".  I recalled Orphaned Land having an interesting idea but being kinda shitty at the time (I've since revisted their catalog and... yeah I'm still right, Orphaned Land is awful).  So, expecting some folk metal with better hooks and vocals less stupid, I started up "Of Mercury and Mercury" and promptly had my face ripped to fucking shreds.  Whoever compared them to Orphaned Land dropped the ball hard, because the folk elements of Melechesh are created entirely within the confines of a balls heavy riff juggernaut.  Apart from the two traditional interlude tracks, there aren't any silly twangy instruments or fruity whistles, this is just riff after riff after riff of ferocious black/death/thrash/whathaveyou metal of the highest order.  I still don't know exactly how to pigeonhole the music on display, MA lists the band as "Black/Death/Middle Eastern Folk Metal", which I guess is about the least inaccurate way to describe it.  What matters is that it's hugeSphynx actually has what I consider to be my favorite album cover in all of heavy metal, and it's mostly for the two objects that aren't the focal point: the ziggurat and the man next to the Lamassu's hoof.  It puts in perspective just how unbelievably huge the mythical Mesopotamian beast is, and that represents Melechesh very well.  Everything here is larger than life; odes to ancient gods of a long dead religion of one of the oldest civilizations on Earth.  They tackle a lot of ideas, but most of them are just high octane and magical.  The opening riffs of "Of Mercury and Mercury" set the tone for rest of the rippers you'll find, from the majesty of "Incendium Between Mirage and Time", to the non stop riffage of "Tablets of Fate", to the simplistic grooves at the end of "Annunaki's Golden Thrones", and the traditional, tribal stylings of "Triangular Tattvic Fire", all of it is furious and vengeful.  There's a lot of righteous anger to be found, and it's done in such a fresh, savage style and with such care and attention to detail that it still bewilders me to this day.  And as a cherry on top, who else performs the percussion on this album but fucking Proscriptor from motherfucking Absu.  This rocks like the stone age, and everybody who isn't familiar with the band needs to check out Sphynx and the followup, Emissaries.


11. The Crown - Deathrace King (2000)
Holy fuck.  These Swedes released what is truly one of the most intense thrash albums of all time at a time when thrash all but didn't exist.  Yeah yeah, it's death/thrash, and the death metal portion is definitely significant, but the attitude behind these riffs and impassioned vocal performance is 100% unwashed thrasher.  The opening notes of "Deathexplosion" (which I mean, let's be real, is one of the greatest song titles ever) prove that in spades.  And as it goes on, we get the almost bluesy rendition of Sodom's Agent Orange with "Rebel Angel" (okay, this might actually be the greatest song title ever), leading eventually into one of the most relentless metal songs ever with "Blitzkrieg Witchcraft" (fucking lord this is the best song title ever), and around the end you'll get one of the fastest, most insane, and just outright fucking manic tracks with "Total Satan" (my god nobody makes song titles better than this band I'm in awe).  Joking aside, basically every song would be the most intense song ever written by any other band.  If "I Won't Follow" was on the newest Revocation album, it'd be the best thing they've written by miles, and if At the Gates had written "Back From the Grave" during the Slaughter of the Soul sessions, they'd've topped their entire career with one song, and that's one of the least amazing songs on this album.  Deathrace King is basically "Angel of Death" eleven times in a row and that sounds like the album of my dreams.  As much as I like everything on this list and everything yet to come on the final part, this is probably the most fun to listen to for all the tongue waggling lunacy it vomits out.  The entire idea of this album was just to stomp on the gas and not slow down, and that's exactly what they did.  Even the closing track, "Killing Star", only manages to pay homage to Black Sabbath for about a minute before just completely losing its mind with punk infused thrash ridiculousness.  Full speed or no speed, that's clearly the band's mantra, because it is unreal how frenzied the songs all are.  Honestly, I wish I could've just posted the lyrics to "Blitzkrieg Witchcraft" for this entry and written nothing myself, because nothing I could say could ever top that masterpiece in extreme metal  H-BOMB! SEIG SATAN! EXPLODING BODIES UBER ALLES! 


Well here we are everybody, the home stretch!  The final ten are revealed shortly, stay tuned for me and feel to yell at me for not liking everything you like.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

TOP 50 ALBUMS OF THE 00s: Part III

Hey hey hey, we're back.  By now you all know what the deal is so I'm just gonna keep going, and if you're lost, the previous two posts are right over there, they'll explain it for you.

CONTINUING ON:


30. The Axis of Perdition - Deleted Scenes from the Transition Hospital (2006)
Fuck.  This album is scary as shit, which is an adjective I use to describe precisely zero other metal albums, and that should mean something.  I know I mentioned that the list was metal exclusive, and this is the one album that sorta stretches that definition, as it gets more and more ambient as it goes on, and on the whole spends more time focusing on quiet horror in the background of insanity.  Nothing causes nightmares quite like a filthy, abandoned insane asylum, and The Axis of Perdition take this image and run with it so hard that it would rival Usain Bolt if it could actually do such a stupid metaphor.  Deleted Scenes from the Transition Hospital is terrifying nightmare fuel of the highest order, and the occasional black metal parts work astoundingly well in the scope of all the tense atmosphere.  I know that I said, once upon a time, that the metal parts were distracting from the creepy sounds of this long vacant death ward, but upon reflection they symbolize the idea of a crazy person very well.  Whenever the appropriately mechanical drums start churning and blasting into a hell soaked fever dream, it works as the musical manifestation of a psychotic episode.  Despite all of the slow building atmosphere and all the grinding and clanking and moaning, this version of insanity is still manic.  It's the sound of isolation in a confusing and clearly malevolent world, and the imaginary narrator hasn't had a grip on his own sanity in quite some time, causing semi random violent outbursts at unexpected times.  I hate to do this, but really the best way to sum up this album is to just quote myself.  "[This album is] the horror and madness of a long dead and abandoned insane asylum, roving with malevolent apparitions whose sole purpose is to mindfuck you so hard that you give mindbirth. To nightmares."


29. Torture Squad - Pandemonium (2003)
Man, remember when Torture Squad was the hottest shit on the block?  It's unfortunate that this band seemed to disappear so quickly after the following few albums managed to disappoint, but Pandemonium has stood the test of time like very few thrash albums post-1992 have.  There is a massive amount of death metal in here as well, and it helps keep the songs varied and stand out individually as worlds apart from where the genre was at the time.  The abundance of blast beats and the deep roars of the vocalist keep the riffs (which are fairly firmly rooted in the styles of Kreator, Sodom, and Sepultura) free to do their own thing within the thrash mold.  It's all very creative in a very specific way, with enough shifts in tempo and riffing style to keep things interesting for the listener.  The fact that there are truly only seven songs helps as well, since it never overstays its welcome, instead opting to do its job extraordinarily well and then buggering off to let you enjoy it again.  It's sort of sad that the mark this album left on the metal world finally seems to be fading (three "blah" followups certainly hurt your credibility), but it's still strong in my heart, fading as it may be.  Just because the relevance of something so unabashedly thrashy and powerful from a time when the genre was remembered as merely a style that had long passed and would never fully return has waned, doesn't mean the quality has dipped in any capacity.  The shock and awe may be gone, but the riffs never will.  Every single review I've ever read for any given Torture Squad album has mentioned or been compared to Pandemonium, and there's good reason for that.  This didn't get popular on accident.


28. Exmortus - In Hatred's Flame (2008)
Man remember when this was the hottest shit on the block?  No?  Well okay, that's because Exmortus never really took the world by storm like I was anticipating, which is a shame because while Torture Squad mixed thrash metal with some heavy elements of death metal, Exmortus took thrash metal and mixed it with fucking everything.  Everything here draws from different pools of influence, with neoclassical Andy LaRocque solos everywhere, a very death metal style of production and deep roar for vocals, European power metal riffs in "Triumph By Fire", black metal dissonance and atmosphere in "Fimbulwinter" and "Onward to Battle", and even a blend of Iron Maiden and Children of Bodom for "Valor and Might" (which incidentally starts with pretty much the coolest bass lick of all time).  This works in so many ways because, despite the band constantly being lumped in with the new wave of thrash bands cropping up around the time, they never really and truly played thrash at this juncture.  This album was something else entirely, some sort of melodic technical death/thrash with influences from everywhere in between.  What this is, more than anything, is memorable.  There are no filler tracks here, which is impressive for an eleven track album, and all of them have some sort of recurring theme, riff, melody, or even just a really gnarly dueling solo section that sticks with you like a tick.  It's a huge shame that the band decided to be more "normal" after this album and started eliminating all of the little flourishes from other genres that made In Hatred's Flame so memorable, instead opting for a toned down thrash with dashes of death metal here and there, essentially becoming the precursor to Battlecross (aka "being solid, okay, and inoffensive but having precisely zero songs or elements stand out").  I saw these guys a few days after Christmas in 2009, and there were probably thirty people there tops, and they did a wall of death for "War Gods" anyway.  Nine people did it, and it was still fucking awesome.  That's how rad they were back when this album was their only real claim to fame.


27. Ensiferum - Iron (2004)
It almost physically pains me to admit that something Jari Maenpaa was involved in was exceptionally good, but even the taint of his shitty rockstar attitude and utter inability to write to his strengths does nothing to hamper the classic status of early Ensiferum.  The self titled debut is usually hailed as the true classic in the band's discography, but I personally think it's a portrait of a band with a lot of ideas and no clue how to filter them, since half of the songs are slow and dull while the other half are a collection of the greatest folk metal songs ever written.  The followup, Iron, is held in fairly close to equally high esteem, but to me it irons out most of the kinks in the debut, as it is overall much more focused and unified.  The scope of the songwriting opened up considerably, as tracks like "Tale of Revenge", "Into Battle", and "LAI LAI HEI" are just huge songs.  It's a super cliche description of basically anything epic to say it takes you on a journey, but these songs really do such a thing for me.  "Tale of Revenge" still gives me chills to this day, it's really one of those flawless classic songs for a genre.  Everything about this album is really just that, it's huge, it's grand, it's massive, it's just a testament to these larger than life tales of heroism, and it spins these tales with all of the added flair and bombast of a jongleur's recitation as opposed to a somber bard's tale.  Yes, there is a problem with the album in that "Lost in Despair" and "Tears" are just boring, shitty songs, but the fact that those two stinkers appear and the album still almost makes it to the upper half of this list shows just how fucking incredible the rest of the songs truly are.  Even Jari's dorky falsetto screeching on "Sword Chant" comes off as a charming quirk instead of a boneheaded fuck up.  From the down to earth fury of the thrashing "Slayer of Light" to the hands-to-the-sky epic anthem of "Into Battle", all but two songs hit bullseye with every single second they're afforded.  I feel sort of bad freely admitting that this is a flawed gem and ranking it higher than albums I love all the way through, but the truth of the matter is that this would be in serious danger of being in the top ten if it weren't for them, it's that good.  Iron helped define what folk metal would sound like when taken seriously, and to this day almost nobody sounds like Ensiferum.


26. Fleshgod Apocalypse - Oracles (2009)
Before Fleshgod Apocalypse gained infinite notoriety and mainstream love for blending crazy death metal with bombastic symphonics, they were the greatest tech death band in existence.  What we know as tech death, the style popularized by Necrophagist and Origin as opposed to the early styles like Nocturnus and Suffocation, was perfected here, with an emphasis on bone crushing riffs just as much as jackhammering percussion and flashy leads.  Oracles blended all of the best elements from every school of tech death, taking the frenetic riffs of Neuraxis and the searing melody of Decrepit Birth and formed it all into this gigantic mutant of destruction.  Don't get me wrong, some of the classical elements that would eventually define their style are here, there are a handful of piano intros here and there, but none of the booming horns or screeching clean vocals.  At this point in time, they were still firmly a death metal band and they were out to death that metal like no metal had ever been deathed.  That's why Oracles is so much more impressive than Agony or Labyrinth.  Their later albums stand out because so few bands sound like them, and even though there are a few, most normal Metalsucks readers and Liquid Metal listeners aren't going to be familiar with Septic Flesh.  Their debut here, on the other hand, stands out for simply being better than any of their peers.  The songwriting on display here is phenomenal, as the intensity is already obviously through the roof by the very nature of the genre, but it's pushed even further than eleven, and there are catchy hooks thrown every which way without ever truly slowing down or relenting in any fashion.  That first riff of "Embodied Deception" isn't going to be found on any Brain Drill album, is what I'm saying.  I wish Fleshgod would have stuck with this direction, because as much as I love Hour of Penance, Neuraxis, and Spawn of Possesion, none of them were ever quite on the level as early Fleshgod.  Oracles stands as both the pinnacle of the genre, and as a resounding question mark as to what could have been.


25. Type O Negative - Dead Again (2007)
While Dead Again is usually considered one of the weaker Type O Negative albums, it's actually in serious danger of being my favorite one.  Type O was notorious for having albums that were nearly torturously long, with several songs approaching or breaching the ten minute mark on albums with 15 tracks, and Dead Again is basically the first one to break that mold, with only ten tracks and much more shorter, punky, poppy songs than Bloody Kisses or World Coming DownLife is Killing Me attempted this as well, but nothing really nailed it quite like their 2007 swansong did.  Peter Steele's inimitable baritone croon is in top form and the riffs range from the preposterously slow and oppressive, to the pummelingly speedy.  There's probably more variety here in more overt fashion than they ever showcased before, with the fast melodic thrash/punk of the title track, to the blatant Sabbath worship in "An Ode to Locksmiths" and half of "Tripping a Blind Man", to the fast, Carnivore throwbacks of "Some Stupid Tomorrow" and the other half of "Tripping a Blind Man", to just whatever beautiful fucking catchy thing "Halloween in Heaven" is considered, everything hits bullseye.  Admittedly, yeah there is a big flaw in "These Three Things" just being way too goddamn long for the few ideas present, but much like Ensiferum a few entries up, the rest of the songs are so well put together and flawlessly executed that it ends up not really mattering in the long run.  I haven't even touched on "September Sun" and "She Burned Me Down", because really there's just so much quality on display, tackled from so many different angles that I don't know how to talk about it without descending into googly eyed lunacy.  A vast majority of the album is dripping with that gothic doom swagger that so few bands can really manage.  There are hooks everywhere and pretty much all of them stick like glue.  As far as I'm concerned, this is the closest they ever got to sequelizing Bloody Kisses, and that's fine by me.  When people think of "gothic metal", they usually think "riffless symphonic metal with a shrill female vocalist that wishes she was in an opera", but that's why Type O is so great in this regard, as they're basically the only gothic metal band to truly earn the name by taking heaps of influence from gothic rock like Bauhaus and Fields of the Nephilim.  Ergo, Type O Negative is the only true goth metal band in existence, and even if they weren't, they'd still be the best by lightyears.


24. Gamma Ray - No World Order! (2001)
If anybody ever asks me why I love power metal so much when it's so sonically and conceptually the opposite of my usual stomping grounds of extreme metal, I just point to Germany and say that it's No World Order's fault.  The syrupy smoothness of Helloween and Sonata Arctica is all well and good, but Gamma Ray was always a little rough around the edges, and that's always been a huge draw for me.  Listen to just how dark and menacing the bridge of "Dethrone Tyranny" is, or the downtuned, frantic thrash chugs of "Heart of the Unicorn", or even the brutal stomp of "Damn the Machine".  It all blends in so well with the optimistic, double bass filled staples of the genre like "Heaven and Hell" and "Follow Me".  They make their music a little darker and heavier than most of their contemporaries without resorting to stupid tricks that sacrifice songwriting like slowing down or chugging for heaviness.  No, everything here is based in the whole idea of "sped up Judas Priest and Iron Maiden" that the entire genre is built on.  There are soaring harmonized melodies, speedy dueling solos, extremely high pitched vocals, ridiculously catchy hooks and choruses, and everything else that power metal is known for, but they do it with a sneer as opposed to a smile.  Gamma Ray may have gotten a ton of notoriety with rampant riff stealing after this album (though this one technically started it with "Solid" being a clear "homage" to Judas Priest's "Rapid Fire"), but at this point in their history their songwriting was still original and just as flashy as it was grounded.  The scariest thing about the band is that this is only what I'd consider to be their fourth best album, and if I ever did a "Best of the 90s" list, the previous three albums would rank easily.  This middle period of their career is just on a whole other level of songwriting and catchiness that only Blind Guardian could manage to surpass.  No World Order does everything its predecessors do, but it does it with a kind of crooked toothed, chainsmoking attitude in the forefront that was merely moderately present before.


23. Cannibal Corpse - Gore Obsessed (2002)
Hey asshole!  You already put Cannibal on this list like twenty spots ago with Kill!  Yeah I didn't specify that there was one release per band now did I?  Why should Kill not get the recognition it deserves merely because Gore Obsessed is better?  And in all honesty, Gore Obsessed is by far the most underrated Cannibal Corpse album.  Despite having fan favorites "Savage Butchery" and "Hatchet to the Head", it's normally lost in the white noise.  And that's silly, because there are like six other bona fide classics to be found on this album.  "Grotesque" is quite possibly my favorite Cannibal song, and it's normally swept under the rug in terms of fan appreciation and setlist appearances, not to mention rippers like "Pit of Zombies", "Dormant Bodies Bursting", and "Hung and Bled".  Even the trademark creepy, dripping slow track, "When Death Replaces Life", is fucking brutal on a level they almost never matched again.   This is probably their most focused and tightest work in the scope of their entire career, and the album is all the better for the dialed back technicality (unlike Bloodthirst, which is fucking insane (and still one of their best albums)) in favor of a more basic savagery.  Cannibal Corpse is really the last bastion of pure death metal, waving the flag they wove back in 1991 today as fervently as they ever have.  This is the apex of Corpsegrinder's career as well, even though his voice hasn't deteriorated one iota since joining in 1995, it's just that teeny bit further over the edge on this one.  I can't recommend this enough.  If you're a fan of the band who always sort of ignored this album in favor of the more popular albums, go back and rock out to this so hard your neck breaks, and if you've never quite gotten into the band, this is potentially the best place to start, since it sums up the Corpsegrinder era with one of their best performances.  If you don't like Cannibal Corpse, you don't get to pretend you like death metal.


22. Vader - Impressions in Blood (2006)
Vader was one of the first death metal bands ever, and the fact that over twenty years later they're still releasing classic shit like Welcome to the Morbid Reich and Tibi et Igni in the current decade is just completely astounding.  And sure enough, they were ripping just as hard in the aughties, with Impressions in Blood being an obvious standout.  This was really the first album of theirs to switch up their formula in any substantial way, as they were previously taking the Cannibal Corpse approach of refining their initial signature sound with each album and never making any sort of drastic change simply because they never needed to.  Well around 2006, they finally replaced their jackhammer (which is a way better metaphor than a sledgehammer, come on 18 year old BH that was an easy one) with a meathook, with a newfound focus on catchy hooks and pummeling chugs instead of just the straightforward furious blasting death they'd specialized in up to this point.  That's not to say that the endless blastbeats aren't still here, almost every song is still based around the double bass and tremolo riffs that they always were, it's just that it's a little deeper, a little more brutal, and a little groovier this time around.  This works so well for them because, as it turns out, Vader fucking rules at that style too.  The thrashing intensity of death metal blended with the grooving slams and chugs of... well, still death metal, makes for something that they managed to completely own.  Even the tribal beats and percussive breaks like the end of "Field of Heads" totally rule, not to mention the occasional symphonic overtones in "Predator" and "Shadowfear".  Impressions in Blood also has "Helleluyah!!!" (I will never stop finding their habit of putting three exclamation points at the end of song titles adorable!!!), which is a live staple and fan favorite for a damn reason.  "The Book" also stands out for being one of the best groovy death metal songs ever written.  Basically I want to have sex with this album.  Vader was possibly the first death metal band I ever fell in love with, and Impressions in Blood is as good of an example as any to illustrate precisely why that is.


21. Persuader - When Eden Burns (2006)
I'm gonna spoil something and say that there are no Blind Guardian albums on this list.  Honestly, even if they'd released more than two albums during this decade, it wouldn't really have mattered since most of the magic that made everything before this time so wonderful was gone.  That's where Persuader comes in, as they pick up where the German legends left off, and added a hefty set of balls and punishing riffage to the brilliantly catchy songs and soaring melodies.  When Eden Burns is Persuader's most overtly melodic album, and while I had initially taken this to mean that they were going to soften up in the future, I've come to appreciate it for the technical showcase that it really is.  Jens Carlsson is truly one of the greatest vocalists in power metal, as his insane ability to rip out fiery power couples so well with his ear for melody.  That ear for melody is especially important for a genre that hinges so much of its listenability on great choruses, and this album pretty handily shines for having the best choruses the band would ever pen.  "Slaves of Labour", "Sending You Back", "The Return", "Doomsday News", there are just so many classic moments across so many classic tracks that I just can't heap enough praise onto it.  While the previous album (the also stellar Evolution Purgatory) was based on crazy heavy riffage in addition to the melodic prowess of Blind Guardian, it never quite reached the level of nearly infuriating infectousness that When Eden Burns carries.  I mean seriously, listen to the outro of "Judas Immortal" and tell me that that isn't essentially power metal perfection.  I praised Gamma Ray up there for being a little bit darker than most of their contemporaries, but Persuader dives into that mindset headfirst, with the aforementioned "Judas Immortal" being a downright visceral song filled with gory imagery.  Not gonna hear a line like "The reek of your desecrated corpse" on any given Rhapsody album, that's for sure.  In fact, I'm just gonna go ahead and say that "Judas Immortal" is the greatest power metal song of the decade.  It's a bummer that it took them a whopping eight years to follow up this album, but that means that for nearly a decade this was looked at as the band's swansong, and you know what?  I'd've been okay with the world if The Fiction Maze never saw the light of day, because When Eden Burns is a stunning monument to what power metal truly can be.


Three down, two to go!  Come on back in a few days to see what unfolds when we begin the Top 20.  Don't forget to "like" and "subscribe" or whatever the fuck people always beg after Youtube videos, I don't know, just come back if you'd like, I'm always cool with company.  See ya soon!