As I stated in an earlier blog, it is impossible to properly review a CD after one listen or two. Good music takes a while to appreciate and understand. It is impossible to tell after only a short time. Sure you can tell if it is garbage or not, but true greatness takes a while to recognize. With that, and with it being a new year, and with CRAIG’s last blog about 1970 movies, I thought it would be appropriate to give my top 10 albums of the year.
10. DoomSword – Resound the Horn. These Italian kings of Viking Metal are so cool. I mean when you think of Italian metal, you think of wussy Power Metal like Rhapsody. These guys are all about Vikings and epic battles and stuff like that. Their music is usually slow paced, but heavy, and never dull. With a lead singer like Deathmaster, you can’t go wrong.
9. Running Wild – The Brotherhood. We go from Vikings to Pirates. Running Wild has carved out a niche as the only band to write about all things Pirate. While Running Wild has better albums than this, it is good enough to crack the top ten in a relatively weak year. Also, it marks and improvement for the band since their last album Victory; which was somewhat weak.
8. Hammerfall – Crimson Thunder. Another album from Hammerfall in the same vein as the first three. A little more grown up and raw with more power than Renegade. While I am not crazy about the two cover songs, as a whole they work with the rest of the album. I certainly wouldn’t call this a classic, but Hammerfall is not about classics, they are about good Power Metal and they do it relatively well.
7. Eidolon – Coma Nation. From the metal hot bed of Canada comes Eidolon. This is an interesting band. Not Thrash because they are too melodic, not Power Metal either, but I don’t need no stinkin’ genre to describe them, they rock!! The album is very heavy, very intense, and very enjoyable to listen to. The last track (Within the Gates) is probably the best epic song of the year.
6. Rush – Vapor Trails. Speaking of Canada…Rush returns in 2002 with Vapor Trails. Certainly not their best work, but there are enough bright spots here (Earthshine, Peaceable Kingdom, etc.) to put this album up with the year’s best.
5. Halford – Crucible. The hot leather dude himself returns with his second solo album. Not quite as good as his first, but more consistent. Maybe not as traditional or “Priestish” as Resurrection, but still a real solid effort for the self proclaimed Metal God.
At this point, I would like to pause. The reason is this; the six albums above are all very good. However, none I would consider outstanding or classic. The next four are clearly a step above. So much so, that they really belong on another list. So, I will pause.
4. Sentenced – The Cold White Light. This is the album Metallica should have made after Load. I must admit, Sentenced comes dangerously close to sounding too much like Metallica on this record. However, the songs, production, and general vibe of this album are so great, that I can overlook a little lack of originality in some aspects of the songs. Sentenced writes depressing lyrics and themes in the most upbeat and catchy songs I have ever heard. The album is schizophrenic, but it really is great.
3. Agalloch – The Mantle. Agalloch is tough to describe. I have heard them described as avant-garde progressive folk death metal. Well, I don’t know if that is right, but I do know this album is a really enjoyable listen. Very dark and atmospheric, and perfect for a long car ride in the rain. A truly unique and excellent band.
2. Iron Savior – Condition Red. In my review for Hammerfall, I said that they do Power Metal relatively well. These guys do it better, if not best. This is the first Iron Savior album without Kai Hansen, and unbelievably, they don’t miss him. This is the best Iron Savior album to date, and the other three are really good, too, but this one is at the next level. I love the opening, no sappy intros here, just bang!
1. Opeth – Deliverance. That’s right Opeth. Call me a fanboi if you want to, but this album is brilliant. Yeah, it’s not quite as good as Blackwater Park, but it is close. Their use of fast and slow tempos, death growls and clean vocals, and other contrasts are well done. Some of the criticism of Opeth is that the songs are drawn out, and I can see that to a limited extent, really I find no useless filler here. Maybe a bit of self-indulgence, but these guys have earned it.
So that’s it. Stay tuned for my 2003 list, coming in early 2006!!