Saturday, August 1, 2015

TOP 50 ALBUMS OF THE 00s: Part I

Well guys, it's no secret that I have a bizarre obsession with top whatever lists.  I do my own every year and I've been flirting with the idea of doing something like this for some time.  Well now I've finally just gone and done the research and the math and the HOURS of stupid bullshit thinking and internal debating before finally deciding on enough worthy albums and a proper order.  I picked out well over 150+ albums to rank.  I think finally, finally finally finally I have enough confidence to decide the eventual winner and most importantly overall accurate order for this range.  I chose this era for a few reasons.  One is because, well, I started this blog with a "Best of 2010" list four years ago, so none of these have been touched by me in a similar "Best of" way, so it's all new for both you and myself.  Second is because, let's face it, most of my readers are fairly close to my age or below it.  This means that during this decade, most of you either went through the most substantial period in your musical development and have a strong sense of nostalgia for the time, or you started getting into metal juuuust after the decade turned, and as such didn't get to see how important so many of these albums were in their time.  I was in high school for a majority of these, and even if they weren't my cup of tea at the time (I was strictly a traditional, power, and thrash metal guy until roughly 2007/2008), they've since made themselves visible and I've learned to love them all.  This was fun to run through and reminisce, see how well everything has held up over time, and just talk a walk down memory lane, back to the time when my hair was long and my hands had yet to feel boob skin.  So walk with me, take my hand and join me down the twisting forest path of our adolescence and see what has held up as....


And yes, it doesn't go to 2010 because by that logic, 1980 was part of the 70s.  I'll never understand people who think the decade doesn't end on the 9 year.  Friggin' weirdos.  Only rules are metal exclusive to keep it cohesive (and also because people reading this site don't give a shit about how much I love Protest the Hero), and full lengths only.  Damn shame because there are some incredible EPs from this era, like Fleshgod Apocalypse's Mafia and Diamond Plate's Relativity, but it's an arbitrary restriction I do with every list so you'll have to forgive me.  Anyway LETS GO!

50. Celtic Frost - Monotheist (2006)
Celtic Frost has a well documented history of weirdness.  And I'm not just talking about "Hip Hop Jugend" which I absolutely refuse to let anybody forget exists, I mean they started their career with so much good will that it seemed almost impossible to fuck up, with Morbid Tales and To Mega Therion being bona fide, indisputable classics of whatever proto extreme metal you want to label them.  And then in came contentious, confusing, polarizing albums like Into the Pandemonium and Vanity/Nemesis, along with the absolutely deservedly maligned glam rock curveturd that is Cold Lake.  After all that controversy and frankly fucking bizarre career choices, the band just decided to cut their losses and disappear.  And that, mein friends, is what makes Monotheist such a heralded triumph.  In the early 2000s, Tom G. Warrior and company charged back out of nowhere to announce the reformation of Celtic Frost, under their own label and everything so as to have complete control over their music.  With a new trademark beanie and ten pounds of guyliner, he delivered on his promise of making up for Cold Lake.  After unleashing this absolute fucking behemoth of an album, it was as if it was 1985 again and the band could do no wrong.  This is absolutely monolithic, a pummeling, crushing, glacial paced ode to despair and misery.  Monotheist is genuinely one of the heaviest albums ever recorded in terms of the sheer force it exudes.  I like my music to be fast and melodic most of the time, and this is exactly the opposite.  The pace never picks up above a menacing, Ent sized stomp, writhing underneath a smothering atmosphere of dread, oppression, and just unrelenting hatred and nihilism.  This is bleak, this is brutal, this is depressing, this is the brooding, edgy anti-hero that everybody thought was fucking cool in the 00s, except it showcased the rampant negativity in the darkest light possible.  I'd want to say that it's sad in that this wound up being Celtic Frost's swansong, as they disbanded shortly after the release of the album, but in all honesty it doesn't matter because Warrior formed Triptykon almost immediately afterwards, and it just continues and expands upon the ideas that Monotheist presented.

49. Hammers of Misfortune - The Locust Years (2006)
Now, this is admittedly sort of a weird choice for me, because in terms of individual tracks, there are really only two I'll ever find myself listening to when I just want a snack instead of the entire eight course meal the album offers (those tracks being "The Locust Years" and "Trot Out Your Dead").  But if I'm being honest with myself, The Locust Years is greater than the sum of its parts by an almost cartoonishly large margin.  While the two aforementioned songs are certainly the best on display, the album runs through so many different ideas and moods without ever breaking from the thematic elements that create the backdrop for the twisting, simultaneously cacophonous and mellifluous music.  It's so hard to describe what this album even is, given the personnel behind it are so usually rooted in fantasy styled settings, it's strange that the lyrical themes seem to be about oppression and impending apocalypse, but put through the filter of modern politics.  This is one of the more truly progressive albums I've ever heard simply because everything flows together so incomprehensibly well, with soothing piano melodies giving way to driving trad metal riffs which stealthily fade into haunting coos from the female vocalist which slowly morphs into a martial war march.  Everything shifts and transitions so naturally that all eight songs are dangerously close to sounding like one huge song.  It really feels like you're part of something larger than yourself when listening to this album.  It encompasses something so much more grand and magniloquent than the ideas it presents, and it's easy to be swept off your feet.  The lyrics are expertly written and delivered by Jamie Myers and the inimitable Mike Scalzi, who himself was currently in the middle of his freakishly impressive run of albums with his main band, Slough Feg.  Everything about this album hits bullseye, even when you're not paying attention.  Hell even when the band isn't paying attention, they roll through so many shifts and twists that I just don't even know how to describe a damn thing that happens.  Between the acoustic murder ballads, neoclassical explosions, Deep Purple rock, avant garde whatthefuckishappeningohchrist moments, this is, if nothing else, sure not to ever get dull.

48. Vomitory - Revelation Nausea (2001)
In all honesty, I could really sum up the entire appeal of Vomitory by simply quoting what my colleague/peer/friend/fellow reviewer, lord_ghengis had said when news of their disbanding in 2014 reached him.  "They were a band that understood that music needed more explosions".  And god dammit almost no other band packed as many fucking explosions into their music as Vomitory.  Most people tend to peg the 2002 followup, Blood Rapture, as the band's high point, but for my money, the answer has always been Revelation Nausea.  The first two albums I featured on this list are very larger-than-life.  They're massive experiences meant to be taken in with full emotional investment for maximum enjoyment.  Vomitory does not do that.  Fuck no, Vomitory was crotch grinding, blisteringly fast and punishing Swedeath of the highest order, and this 2001 ripper reached heights that only predecessors like Entombed ever fully managed to reach.  Yeah I'll be the first to admit that this band hits one note throughout the runtime of the album (with that note being bug fuck insane tremolo abuse and more double bass than a Wagner opera), but they're so good at that one note that I'd never, ever, ever hold it against them.  As much as I love the previous two albums here, Revelation Nausea is a testament to how metal can truly work as a measure of strength.  This just brute forces its way past all of its peers, elbowing its way through a crowded scene full of creative individuals before giving all of them wedgies and stealing their lunch money.  This is powerful, punishing, and about as brutal a form a death metal you can find before you just turn into the muggy swamps of actual BDM.  I'm not gonna pretend this is some creative masterpiece, this is just death metal turned up to 11, and it's perfect for that.  Because always remember, music needs more explosions.

47. Nile - Annihilation of the Wicked (2005)
Everything I just said about Vomitory works equally well with Nile when they're at their most brutal.  Indisputably, their fourth full length, Annihilation of the Wicked, is by far their most brutal.  After Karl Sanders got a lot of the mystical, soothing ethnic music out of his system with his solo album the year prior, Nile got a lot less creative.  Seriously, Amongst the Catacombs of Nephren-Ka and In Their Darkened Shrines are easily more creative albums that this one, with so much more thought put into blending the Egyptian scales and melodies in with brutally technical death metal, whereas from this point forward they were basically just like "yeah we're just gonna rip your face off from here on out".  And you know what?  I love it.  I don't care that this is a much more "normal" album by the standards Nile had set for themselves with the previous three albums, because they are absolutely at their best when they are just powering forwards with reckless abandon.  In all seriousness, I consider this the defining Nile album for several reasons.  For one, it really solidified their beautifully crushing guitar tone, with a steely tinge and density yet unmatched by anybody.  It was also the album that introduced most of the world to George Kollias, who still stands in my mind as one of the greatest drummers in modern death metal, hell in metal history period.  There is so much intensity on display that it's overwhelming and can actually make finishing the album difficult, but I mean this in the best way.  I've given people crap before, for knocking this album for just being mindless brutality instead of some of the slower, more epic grooves and hooks that permeate the albums surrounding this one, because yeah, while most people remember "Sacrifice Unto Sebek", "Cast Down the Heretic", and "Burning Pits of the Duat", which are precisely the mindless brutality that smart people claim to grow tired of, this album also features a bunch of their longest songs, with two clocking in at over 9 minutes, and a third one being only a few seconds short.  And even then, those songs mix the crushing grooves so well with the blistering brutality that saturates the rest of the record, so this critic isn't complaining about a minute of it.  This is widely cited as Nile's finest hour, and you'll never see me arguing against that.

46. The Black Dahlia Murder - Nocturnal (2007)
Now, this is where I'm going to start losing people, because TBDM has been a punching bag within the metal community for almost fifteen years now.  But honestly, it's one of the most unfounded phenomena in all of metal history.  There is nothing metalcore about this band other than their logo and the vocalist's thick glasses.  This is straight up At the Gates worship from minute zero, and it never stops impressing me.  Yeah yeah, astute readers may remember that I've actually given this album a full review, and gave it a score that, while positive, wouldn't translate to a top 50 of the decade with most.  In all honesty, maybe it's Stockholm Syndrome, but every listen to this album just reveals more I like about it, and my complaints seem less and less legit as I go along.  Strnad's voice isn't that bad, his lows are definitely better than his highs and the ratio isn't quite what you'd hope considering that fact, but it's an inseparable component that makes up the greater whole of this album.  If At the Gates had kept going after Slaughter of the Soul, they could have wound up with something along the lines of Nocturnal, and I know that SotS is a favorite of hardened metal vets when it comes on things to pick on, but in theory, melodic death metal is an amazing idea, and I feel like TBDM really nailed how to present it on this album.  The band themselves would grow to get better in different areas and write songs that are individually better than anything here, but when considering the total package, Nocturnal reigns as the champion.  "Orgasmic Mutilation" is legitimately one of my all time favorite death metal songs, and that's not a joke.

45. Symphony X - Paradise Lost (2007)
After three death metal representatives in a row, it's time for the Jersey Boys to thunder through and remind everybody that I have a softer side as well.  People unfamiliar with the band/album will probably look at this and scoff before immediately disregarding it as some faggy, riffless "gothic" "metal" like Within Temptation or Evanescence.  Those people are fools, because at this point in time, this was doubtlessly the heaviest and riffiest album that the prog metal stalwarts, Symphony X, had released.  A lot of fans of their older sound have given this album the shaft for dumbing down their music, focusing more on groovy, heavy, chunky riffs and flashy leads and vocal acrobatics instead of the subtlety and class they had shown in spades on previous albums in the 90s.  See, I like subtlety plenty, I really do, but I also like simplicity, focus, and drive.  This album is driven and focused like no other, and there are riffs abound to keep things interesting, no matter what directions the songs might wander off into.  Russell Allen is one of the greatest singers in heavy metal history, with a gruff, masculine voice that keeps a high register with a powerful timbre, and it's showcased amazingly on Paradise Lost.  From the blisteringly fast bass run to start off "Domination", to the sorrowful, heartfelt ballad of "Paradise Lost", to the high octane power metal of "Eve of Seduction", to the epic "Walls of Babylon", nearly every idea presented here hits bullseye.  At the time, this claimed the title of Album of the Year for 2007, and the fact that several albums from that year have since cropped up and stolen the title with aplomb does nothing to take away from the feat of songwriting and emotion that is Paradise Lost.  Don't be fooled by the angel and the rose on the cover, that's actually a valkyrie with a bloodstained stielhandgranate.

44. Cannibal Corpse - Kill (2006)
Cannibal might be known for their upfront and grotesque imagery more than their actual music at times, especially to the non-metal listening person, so the brutal simplicity that adorns this album's cover was actually a pretty jarring change.  But while this may be the Buffalo/Floridian stalwarts most plain and boring cover to date, it also stands as one of their most intense, tight, and well written albums.  Kill is important for several reasons, one is that this solidified the lineup of Corpsegrinder, Barret, O'Brien, Webster, and Mazurkiewicz that continues to this day, and it's just simply one of their best albums.  The band's trademark blend of technicality (that never veers into tech death), brutality (that never veers into BDM), and groove (that never veers into whatever godawful thing Six Feet Under plays) is in top form here, as nearly every song should be a live staple in my mind.  And even though amazing tracks like "Purification by Fire" and "Maniacal" haven't quite reached that status, damn near half of the album has managed to do exactly that.  Rarely will a live show go by where you aren't bludgeoned into the ground by "Death Walking Terror" or torn to shreds by "Make Them Suffer".  This is one of the many albums I'll readily point to when Cannibal endures the ever prevalent criticism of simply making the same album over and over again, because there are very few songs in their oeuvre as menacingly grim as "Infinite Misery" or as well put together in terms of build and release structure as "The Discipline of Revenge".  Yeah, Cannibal knows what they're best at and they usually stick to it fairly closely, but they're good at a lot of things, and Kill showcases it with a murderous flair and tightness that improves with nearly every album.  A lot of card carrying fans will point to this as the best of the Corpsegrinder era next to Bloodthirst (which unfortunately missed the deadline for this list by a year, otherwise it'd definitely make an appearance), and I'm not arguing with that.  Kill is an incredible album from a band of veteran professionals, and it shows.  There can be class within the mayhem, and it doesn't just mean wearing a suit and doing weird things for the hell of it like Akercocke or Fleshgod Apocalypse.

43. 1349 - Hellfire (2005)
Black metal is known for the frigid north and how well the music usually conveys the imagery of frozen fjords of Scandinavia.  But sometimes, we'll get a band that aims more for fire than ice, and one of those bands is 1349.  I couldn't get enough of this album when I first heard it, which is sort of ironic considering I found a music video for "Sculptor of Flesh" semi-at-random to show a buddy how cruddy black metal tries to sound on purpose (he was a power metal fan and I was trying to be both edgy and holier than thou).  Upon listening to the song, I was blown away not only by the perfect blend of clarity and rawness on the record that my still fairly noobish taste didn't think was possible for the genre, but also by just how god damned brilliant the riff writing was and how unrelentingly intense it was.  A decade later, I'm still just as awestruck with the divinity of the riffs and sheer balls to the wall insanity of the pace.  Atmosphere isn't always built with flittery synths or quiet acoustic passages.  Sometimes that atmosphere is one of dread and hatred, and it's built and presented with unending passion and drive.  Hellfire is fucking driven.  It throws some of the genre's roots out of the window with the aforementioned lack of coldness, but it's so drenched in hatred and intensity that it more than makes up for any perceived slight against the Darkthrones of the world.  1349 doesn't present death with an elegant romanticism or beautiful morbidity, it's presented as an ugly, destructive force that tears apart literally everything you've ever known and rends it asunder into the bowels of your darkest nightmares.  There is no heaven, only hell, and it's a dry wasteland of agony and malevolence.  This is what hell sounds like, it's noisy, dissonant, uncomfortable, and punishing.  You don't wallow in an uncomfortable haze of misery, you get your shit whipped with knotted penises and buttfucked by pineapple dicked demons for the rest of eternity.  Enjoy your stay!

42. Municipal Waste - Hazardous Mutation (2005)
Municipal Waste is often blamed for starting the rethrash craze of the mid to late 2000s, and that isn't entirely untrue.  Tons of terrible bands from Merciless Death to Fueled By Fire owe a lot to Waste for kickstarting the trend and getting the exposure they got.  Despite what became of the scene (oversaturation of kids who put ten times more effort into their fashion than their riffs), Municipal Waste was the real fucking deal, and their watermark has been and frankly always will be their second full length, Hazardous Mutation.  Yeah there are lyrics about partying and mutants and all the other awful cliches that would eventually signal the early death of the resurgence, but nobody did this with more flair and focus than these guys.  They nailed the attitude and focus on insane riffage like it was still 1987, and not because they just wished super hard that they were Exodus.  When you put a lot of effort into your craft, you can make some truly wonderful music, and Hazardous Mutation is exactly that in the most poignant way that a one-note crossover band can muster.  There are cool curveballs like the punk catchiness of "Guilty of Being Tight" and sub-minute hookfests like "Abusement Park" and "Black Ice".  There are flat out and out rippers like "Unleash the Bastards" and "Deathripper", along with chunky hooks and grooves in songs like "The Thrashin' of the Christ" and "Mind Eraser".  The ill will this band and, by extension, the album has earned over the years is just a truckload of horseshit, as there's nothing to dislike here if you want to have fun for a half hour.  Metal isn't cool anymore when it's dead serious all the time, I like Primordial as much as the next guy, but with no levity in your listening cycle, you're likely to become jaded and lose sight of what makes metal as a whole such a diverse and colorful genre.  Bands like Municipal Waste are a shitload of fun, and fun is something we all like to have.  This isn't for everybody, but it should be.

41. Amon Amarth - With Oden on Our Side (2006)
Absolutely fucking nobody writes hooks like Amon Amarth does.  Really, almost no band can focus almost exclusively on midpaced chugs and grooves and manage to keep their songs on such a consistently impressive tightrope between catchy melody and pummeling brutality.  There's something to be said about being able to toe the line between accessible catchiness and thunderous, muscle-bound groove at nearly all times.  This is a personal favorite album of mine, and while this happened after they ditched their fast paced songs almost entirely (though "Asator" is definitely a fucking barnburner that deserves WAY more love than it gets).  There's a lot working against them in the grand scheme of things, like the viking aesthetic and collectible figurines and whatnot.  There's a prevailing belief that they're much less serious than they actually are, and an album as focused and hard hitting as WOOOS should be enough to dispel that notion.  Everything ranges from a visceral war march to a mournful dirge, and most especially the bittersweet triumph of their best song, "Cry of the Black Birds".  That song right there is what would happen if Insomnium would quit weeping for ten seconds and focus on writing something with real hooks.  Actually, between the prominent soaring melodies and grounded ballsack punching riffery, "Insomnium, but with riffs" isn't the worst way to describe Amon Amarth.  They both share a similar style of insanely deep and voluminous vocals that will never not impress me.  Like, Karl Sanders has a really deep rasp, but it's thin.  It works for Nile, but Johan Hegg is deep and beefy.  You can seriously hear this guy's beard, he is a monster truck that walks like a man.  Listen to "Under the Northern Star" and try to contain your orgasm.  He has a thick, powerful tone to his bellowing howls that almost nobody can match.  Between the stomping, powerful grooves, memorable melodies, and meatball truck of a vocalist, there's very little to disappoint any fan of melodeath.  It's a fairly maligned genre on the whole and it's not entirely without merit, as throngs of talentless hacks like Soilwork and Arch Enemy will forever stink up the name of such an awesome idea, but Amon Amarth fucking rules at it, and despite their mainstream popularity, they deserve more love from the underground.

And that's that for now kids!  The rest will come as the week goes on, check in for more tomorrow.  Any albums strike home for you?  Any of them just cement how stupid I am and you want to call me a gigantic homofag?  Let me know and I'll promptly fire you into the sun.  LOVE YOU!

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