Usually, compiling the year-end top 20 isn't a huge problem but looking over my cd collection showed me that 2006 was probably the most solid year for metal in several years. It was a great year to be a melodic death fan, as you'll see from my list below! In addition to three discs so good they've probably earned spots in my top 10 of all time, I don't think I've ever spent so much time trying to figure out the proper order, and to be truthful, there are probably a few in there that might jump up or down in the mix depending on the day. But, all of them are quite worthy to be in any metal fan's collection. Before I get to the top 20, let's take a look at some of the cds I wanted to toss in the dump and forget they ever existed:
Killswitch Engage - As Daylight Dies: Well, not necessarily a bad cd but it certainly falls far from the Killswitch standard.
Entwine - Fatal Design: In most cases, I love it when bands get heavier, but in the case of Entwine it just doesn't work.
Dissection - Reinkaos: After waiting so many years, a lackluster (even by average melodic death standards) release isn't going to go over well. RIP Jon.
Atreyu - A Deathgrip on Yesterday: I had a soft spot for this band, but this disc is terrible.
Shadows Fall - Fallout From the War: I think I've lost all hope for this band, even if this was a rarities disc.
As I've already mentioned, 2006 was an outstanding year for metal and was a bit of a struggle to condense everything down to just 20 discs. So here are 10 more releases that I enjoyed quite a bit that just didn't make the cut into the top spots.
The Haunted - The Dead Eye
Cellador - Enter Deception
Yyrkoon - Unhealthy Opera
Zyklon - Disintegrate
Cannibal Corpse - Kill
To/Die/for - Wounds Wide Open
Torchbearer - Warnaments
Blind Guardian - A Twist in the Myth
Strapping Young Lad - The New Black
Insomnium - Above the Weeping World
And now, my top 20 discs of 2006! I've added a small piece for our download-happy society, in the form of one recommended track to check out if you haven't heard the band before.
20. All Shall Perish - The Price of Existence: If the gigantic breakdowns and thundering riffs of this disc have no effect on you, you probably should have your hearing checked. "Wage Slaves" is an audio injection of adrenaline.
Check out this track: Wage Slaves
19. Anaal Nathrakh - Eschaton: Armageddon in musical form. So abrasive it may not be for everyone, but this disc is guaranteed to peel the paint off your walls. This band continues to improve with age.
Check out this track: When the Lion Devours Both Dragon and Child
18. Suffocation - Suffocation: This is the album many were expecting of the band last time around. Pure NYDM goodness! "Redemption" and "Bind Torture Kill" are some of the best songs Suffocation has penned, period!
Check out this track: Bind Torture Kill
17. Eluveitie - Spirit: Braveheart metal! The melding of melodic death and celtic music has never sounded better, somewhat due to a wide variety of genuine celtic instruments as well as the fact that the riffs aren't watered down as many folk albums often are.
Check out this track: The Song of Life
16. Noumena - Anatomy of Life: Noumena's third release sees the band sticking to what worked best on Absence and further diversifying the formula. A must for Finnish melodeath fanatics!
Check out this track: Triumph and Loss
15. Enter My Silence - Coordinate D1sa5t3r: Despite a five year absence, EMS is back with a disc that completely obliterates their 2001 debut. Pure old-school melodic death goodness.
Check out this track: Coordinate D1sa5t3r
14. Amorphis - Eclipse: Comeback of the year! After several watered-down albums, Amorphis rediscovers their roots with an album that can stand along-side Elegy and Tales From the Thousand Lakes.
Check out this track: Leaves Scar
13. Raunchy - Death Pop Romance: Third time's the charm! With a new vocalist, heavier riffs, and even more addictive choruses, the aptly-titled Death Pop Romance is guaranteed to keep your toes tapping and head banging for quite some time.
Check out this track: This Legend Forever
12. Daylight Dies - Dismantling Devotion: I was always hesistant to check out their past offerings, but they've done everything right on this disc. Amazing Katatonia-influenced doom/death metal that has held my interest far longer than any other release in the genre.
Check out this track: A Life Less Lived
11. Arsis - United in Regret: Arsis tops their technical and melodic sensibilities in a manner that has me assured we'll be seeing top-notch releases from this band for many years to come. Only the short length and faulty cover song kept this one from reaching even higher in the list.
Check out this track: United in Regret
10. Soulscar - Endgame: A continually under-appreciated and overlooked band that consistently produces some of the tastiest riffs you've ever heard. Andrew Staehling did almost the entire disc himself, so consider that and you'll see how talented the man is. Even the instrumentals are awesome!
Check out this track: Liar's League
9. Disarmonia Mundi - Mind Tricks: Admittedly, it took some adjusting when I first listened as Speed Strid's role was dimished quite a bit, but Mind Tricks is just as enjoyable as it's break-through predecessor. Multi-track vocals, continued innovative keyboard use, and great melodies secure DM as one of melodeath's go-to bands.
Check out this track: Process of Annihilation
8. The Arcane Order - The Machinery of Oblivion: Speedy melodic death/thrash done just the way I like it. Featuring Flemming C. Lund of Autumn Leaves, you can count on plenty of standout guitarwork and soloing. Kasper Thomsen (Raunchy) really shines on vocals as well. Fans of old-school Soilwork should go nuts over this one.
Check out this track: Bloodlust
7. Katatonia - The Great Cold Distance: While it's no Viva Emptiness to my ears, it's still quite an amazing album. Providing a darker and colder atmosphere and even stronger songwriting should give fans plenty to talk about, as this disc does solidify with age. Additionally, some of the lyrics on The Great Cold Distance (see "In the White") are more powerful than anything you'll find in metal.
Check out this track: In the White
6. In Flames - Come Clarity: Yet another standout release from everyone's favorite Swedish band. Bringing back guitar melodies to the fore-front was a wise choice and earned them back some fans. CC has held up surprisingly well, considering I've been listening it to a year, literally. It's nice to see the band getting some commercial success off of this disc.
Check out this track: Dead End
5. All That Remains - The Fall of Ideals: I was really torn between this one and In Flames for the #5 spot but ATR won out due to the fact there is no filler on this disc. Despite the increased use of cleans (which sound fantastic), it never feels cheapened, as the band's heavier side is just as strong, if not more so ("The Weak Willed"). As with This Darkened Heart, it took a few listens to really grasp this one but again, it continues to get better with age. This is THE metalcore band you should be listening to.
Check out this track: Become the Catalyst
4. Into Eternity - The Scattering of Ashes: New vocalist Stu will make or break this band for most with his high register but truth be told, this is the most consistent IE release to date. While they've streamlined some things, it's only worked out to the better. They've also drained most of the metalcore elements that were present on previous releases, opting for more traditional and progressive elements, keeping their massively diverse yet incredibly coherent sound intact.
Check out this track: Severe Emotional Distress
3. Eventide - Diaries From the Gallows: I'd say I've been waiting years for this disc, but the truth is, I had thought they'd fallen off the face of the planet! Six years since I had heard any new material from the band, they're back with a melodic death release that simply buries the competition. Drool-inducing guitar melodies, excellent rough/clean vocals, acoustic guitars and violins, melancholic atmosphere and keyboards, and intelligent lyrics. An instant melodic death 'classic'!
Check out this track: No Place Darker
2. Scar Symmetry - Pitch Black Progress: I must have listened to this disc for almost 3 months straight with little or nothing else. Standout vocal work from Christian Alvestam and memorable guitar solos made for one of the best discs I've heard in years! Extraordinarily diverse and innovative in a genre that many consider dead and stale, I still stand by everything I mentioned in my review of Pitch Black Progress, as it's easily entered my top 5 discs of all time...it's that good.
Check out this track: The Path of Least Resistance
1. Mercenary - The Hours That Remain: Here it is, the number 1 album of 2006 and the best disc of the twenty-first century so far. After all the praising I did for Scar Symmetry, Mercenary's The Hours That Remain made me completely eat my words. Mikkel Sandager's vocals are some of the most compelling and charasmatic in metal today, and coupled with the equally engaging guitarwork, driving bass, spot-on drumming, and enchanting keys, it's vitually flawless! I've been listening to this one for a 1/2 a year and it's urgency is still just as strong as the first play. My #2 album of all time, regardless of genre, and within a few years, may even take the top spot. Mandatory listening for anyone who considers themself a metal fan
Check out this track: Soul Decision
Well, that's it for this year, here's to a great 2007!
Feel free to discuss this and other editors' choices here