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Second-Chance Favorites

I heard recently that 99% of all new music bought was released in the previous 18 months. I think that's stupid. People should go back and listen to the classics, but apparently they don't.

There are also many albums from the past that aren't classics but are really very nice, and would make low-risk purchases for jaded listeners who want something fresh but don't want to risk shelling out a lot of money for the fad of the moment.

This article is devoted to albums of the second type - very good albums that never gained a following or the accolades that they deserved. You could think of it as a "most underrated albums" list, except that I've tried to exclude true masterpieces that have obtained some following, even a small one. These are albums that were never great enough to make anyone fanatical, but have shown their staying power. This first rule for the list is a bit subjective, and there have been some judgment calls (for example, I excluded Anacrusis, Eucharist, Haggard, Mithotyn, October Tide, Tourniquet, and Yearning on the grounds that they are not obscure enough, but others may disagree).

The second rule about the albums on this list is that they must be at least five years old: released in 2000 or earlier. So without any further ado, the list of Second-Chance Favorites, in alphabetical order by band name:

Abyssos - Fhinsthanian Nightbreed (1999) - An album of the style I like to call ULTRAmelodic extreme metal. This isn't "melodic" in the sense that it has a few hooks here and there scattered amidst crunchy brutal riffs. This album is founded on melody - fast, complex dual guitar harmonies and solos everywhere. If Dragonforce covered Naglfar, it might sound a bit like this. A one-man project.

Armageddon - Crossing the Rubicon (1997) - How many people are familiar with this side project of the Amott brothers? I'm guessing not many, since their albums are only released in Japan nowadays. This melodeath album, despite its short length, is possibly better than anything Arch Enemy has ever done.

Believer - Sanity Obscure (1990) - This technical thrash/death outfit was limited in their appeal somewhat by their Christian outlook, although the lyrics are generally not at all preachy and are in fact rather well done. I think this album almost qualifies for masterpiece status, but how many people know about it? Great Blasphemer/Jan-Mikael type of music. Dimensions (1993) was a jazzier, stranger album with a metal symphony in three movements and could also be included on this list.

Cemetary - Last Confessions (1997) - A 28-minute EP stocked with amazing songs. Just really heavy, really catchy tunes with a slightly ironic, devil-may-care attitude. A classy album that is by far the band's best work - most of their other stuff is too slow-paced.

Daylight Dies - Idle (2000) - No Reply didn't make much of a splash, so people still don't seem to know this band well. Idle was a really great melodic death metal album with a strongly melancholic side a la Katatonia. There are really just three full songs on this EP, but it is really worth buying anyway. Only one of them was later lifted for No Reply.

Deathrow - Life Beyond (1992) - An awesome technical thrash album with riffs aplenty. This CD used to sell for $200 on ebay before it was reissued. The more technical, chaotic Deception Ignored (1988) could also fit on this list. Why Coroner was more popular than this band I'll never understand.

Dismal Euphony - All Little Devils (1999) - Not a masterpiece by any means, but a very pleasing, unusual album all the same. Difficult to describe, but it's melodic, grim, and bizarre without being avant-garde. I really think any metal fan who listens to this album will end up enjoying it, although I don't see an outpouring of grief over the band's demise.

Dreams of Sanity - The Game (2000) - Now this band deserved an outpouring of grief at their demise, but they unaccountably seem to be almost unknown among progressive, gothic, and metal fans. The music (progressive gothic metal with femme vox) is perhaps near the lighter edge of metal, but it's just so damnably well done that anyone who can't get into this is deaf, dumb, and blind. Masquerade (1999) could also be on this list. Miles better than anything Edenbridge has produced.

Lothlorien - The Primal Event (1998) - Longtime writers and readers of this site know all about this album, so I won't say anything more about it.

Mekong Delta - Dances of Death (And Other Walking Shadows) (1990) - I've never stopped singing the praises of this seemingly defunct technical thrash band. Delicious riffage abounds on all their albums, but this and The Music of Erich Zann, Kaleidoscope, and Visions Fugitives are particularly worthy. The band's catalog is a real treasure trove if you strike it first in the right spot.

Mercury Rising - Upon Deaf Ears (1994) - I remember this CD made a huge splash in progmetal circles when it came out, but that splash died down very quickly. It deserves a nod now and again as one really damned good progmetal album, quite a bit heavier than most of what goes by that name. A bit like Fates Warning's Guardian album, but more "modern."

Misanthrope - Visionnaire (1998) - Another underrated Holy Records band. This album and Immortal are both very good melodic death metal albums with unusually frenetic (and at times gorgeous) piano and keyboard playing.

On Thorns I Lay - Orama (1997) - Similar to Septic Flesh, but doomier and more atmospheric. None of OTIL's other albums come close to touching this one.

Persuader - The Hunter (2000) - Power metal on steroids. Fast, exuberant, melodic, even virtuosic at times. I've only heard one song from their second album so far, and it doesn't compare.

Saviour Machine - Saviour Machine (1993) - While well known in the gothic scene, they are not well known among metalheads. This, their debut album, was their heaviest and in my view best. Definitely worth picking up - gothic metal before the term existed.

Scanner - Ball of the Damned (1997) - At one time this band was moderately well known, but they fell off the face of the earth, then came back with a mediocre effort (Scantropolis). This is really good power metal with sci-fi themes. Definitely recommended for any power fan.

Sculptured - The Spear of the Lily Is Aureoled (1998) - One of The End Records' first releases. Not a masterpiece or anything, but it's intriguing avant-garde death-ish metal with jazzy moments. I enjoy the piano playing in particular. Their next album, Apollo Ends, was inferior to this one. I've heard that they will be releasing their third album soon. About time!

Sobre Nocturne - Serpentine Dreamweaver (1999) - Potrokh disagrees with me, but I think this is exceptional symphonic metal, right up there with Therion and Haggard.

Solstice - New Dark Age (1998) - Solstice started out as Solitude Aeturnus worship, but on this album they really came into their own. Enthralling epic doom metal that should appeal to any metal fan who enjoys the drama of a perfectly introduced and executed guitar harmony.

Veni Domine - Fall Babylon Fall (1992) - If you like metal in the classic style, you really can't miss this album. A bit doomy, definitely epic, a cross between Candlemass and Queensryche but possibly better than both on this one amazing effort.

White Skull - Tales from the North (1999) - Just another faceless power metal band, right? Not so fast. Their other work fails to impress, but this album for some reason just has really good songwriting. Not a masterpiece, but a no-brainer purchase for power metal fans.

So what's your list?

August 9, 2005
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