2005 hath been laid to rest in the spike-filled iron maiden of history, only to be instantly replaced in a coup de tour de force by the increasingly more timely 2006. (Be sure to mark 06/06/06 on your calendar this year and make it a metal holiday!) So as we begin a new year, let us try our best to forget that such a thing as emo exists, and let us always remember that there is more to life than hating one's self or one's ex-girlfriend. Amen.
Thus begins my top 10 list, from bottom topward...
10. Spiritual Beggars - Demons. This album was my introduction to Spiritual Beggars. Did you know Mike Amott (Carcass/Arch Enemy) plays guitar for this band? They sometimes get lumped in with stoner/doom, but to me it sounds like really heavy classic rock, with retro-sounding keyboards and powerful lead vocals. An all-around good album that's not as genre-bound as a lot of stuff is these days.
09. Strapping Young Lad - Alien. Not so much a step forward as it is simply another resounding stomp upon the same ground long since broken by the very band itself which I am currently in the process of speaking about. Nothing too deep here, just more ultra-heavy, mega-fun songs that will make good additions to SYL's live set.
08. Meshuggah - Catch 33. An interesting little tangent for Meshuggah, although I enjoyed the style of "I" more than this. Is Meshuggah becoming the Radiohead of metal, releasing musical abstractions so bloated with symbolic symbolism that even they themselves fail to understand it? No, of course not; dont be silly. They understand it perfectly.
07. Arcturus - Sideshow Symphonies. Although Garm was one of my all-time favorite singers, Mr. Vortex is no slouch, either. His vocals are peculiar enough to sound at home with this avant-garde musical background. Speaking of which, this album would probably sound a lot better if the music wasn't so far back in the mix compared to the vocals.
06. Samael - Reign of Light. Seriously, I love this album. It's like a less industrial-sounding Eternal, with better songs and punchier, metaller production. Lots of electronic sounds driving the songs, but plenty of good riffs, as well as some real sitar playing and female vocals. An uncharacteristically upbeat and positive sounding album.
05. Isole - Forevermore. Wow, I almost forgot that doom metal could be this good. Building upon the foundations laid by Candlemass and Solitude Aeternus, Isole's lengthy songs are driven by powerful harmonized riffs, haunting clean vocals, and slow but interesting drumwork (check out the strange de-evolving beat in the song "Deceiver"). One of the best surprises of the year.
04. Leaves' Eyes - Vinland Saga. After leaving Theatre of Tragedy, Liv Kristine evidently came to her senses and realized that electro-pop was a dead-end path to self-ruin. Hence, Leaves' Eyes is more romantic and elegant, and metal all the way.
03. Dark Tranquillity - Character. What can I say? DT just know how to write great songs that sound fresh and classic at the same time.
02. Nevermore - This Godless Endeavor. What kind of metal is this? It's Fucking Metal, that's what it is! Not as good as Neon Black or Dead Heart, but it's solid, and perhaps their most well-balanced album. "I foresee the future, I see the coming plague!"
And now, the album that's least likely to be listened to by politicians, preachers, poseurs, popstars, or prehistoric pterodactyls...
01. Nomansland - Hammerfrost. I'm so glad I stumbled upon this album, because it's one fine nugget of pagan/viking/folk metal gold. Hailing from Russia, this band is an excellent example of the Russian melodic metal sound, as contrasted with the trademark Swedish or Finnish metal sound. Outstanding melodies, good dual vocals, and a very inspiring, triumphant mood. Sounds like it could've come out in the mid-90's. Check it out!