2008 Metal Year in Review
1. Grand Magus: Iron Will: This is it. The best metal album of 2008, and since I hate all other types of music, it's my personal pick for best album overall in 2008. This is a great, melodic, old school sounding metal album. Grand Magus sounds like a cross between Cirith Ungol and Judas Priest, doom meets traditional heavy metal. Easy to listen to, fun, and catchy as hell. The mark of a great album is memorability and this album definitely has that.
2. Eluveitie: Slania: It was actually a fairly close decision to pick Grand Magus over Eluveitie. I had Slania much earlier than Iron Will so for much of the year, Eluveitie was going to be my pick of the year. There's nothing wrong with finishing second though and this album is great in its own right. Melding melodic death metal to Celtic folk music and having it come out sounding good is no easy task but Eluveitie pulled it off. They often even use traditional Celtic folk instruments such as the hurdy-gurdy. The slow songs are beautiful, while the fast ones are sure to get your head banging.
3. Mictlantecuhtli: Warriors of the Black Sun: If you threw Storm of the Light's Bane-ear Dissection and Reign in Blood-era Slayer into a blender, this is what would result. An amazing album from an American black metal band, no less. This one came late in the year but made a major impression.
4. Toxic Holocaust: An Overdose of Death: Toxic Holocaust is a one-man band who is clearly influenced by the likes of early Sodom, Venom, Bathory, and Celtic Frost. These influences shine through and make this probably one of the most memorable, fun albums this year.
5. Lair of the Minotaur: War Metal Battle Master: I would have thought it would be difficult to combine thrash metal, a genre noted for its speed, and doom metal, pretty much known for being the exact opposite of fast. However, Lair of the Minotaur pulls it off in this campy, metal cliche-ridden album that is a blast to listen to.
6. Hail of Bullets: ...Of Frost and War: When I heard that members of Dutch death/thrash titans Thanatos were joining forces with Martin Van Drunen of Asphyx and Pestilence fame, I knew I had to check it out. My faith was rewarded by this gem of an album that pays tribute to Autopsy, Bolt Thrower, and the early 1990's Swedish death metal scene.
7. The Gates of Slumber: Conqueror: A great traditional doom metal album in the vein of Candlemass, Trouble, and Cirith Ungol. Every once in awhile, the band wakes up to put a faster song together, but otherwise remains lethargic and punishing.
8. Septicflesh: Communion: Greek Hellenic black/death metal with some surprising orchestral sections added for good measure. One of the more unusual albums I have heard this year. Septicflesh don't hold a candle to countrymen like Rotting Christ or Varathron yet, but a few more albums like this will certainly help.
9. Holy Moses: Agony of Death: One of the major differences between the Bay Area thrash bands and the German thrash bands of the 1980's is that many of the German bands are still actually playing thrash. Holy Moses is one such example of the German groups. Backed by Sabine Classen's inhuman shrieks and some of the best thrash metal in years, this album is nonstop punishment from start to finish.
10. Nocturnal Fear: Code of Violence: American black/thrash metal band in the vein of the 1980's German thrash metal bands. A true throwback album to a great scene.
Because I live in rural Nebraska, concerts are few and far between. The only two concerts I went to were out of state, although there were a couple of concerts I tried to get to in Omaha.
1. Metallica/Down/The Sword in Des Moines, IA: Forgive me, but I remain a Metallica fan. Their latest album was actually worthwhile and they still kill live. Surprisingly they still manage to play their old stuff quite well and they seem to have denied the Load/Reload/St. Anger past. Down is fantastic and I have been a fan since NOLA first came out. A great southern/stoner doom metal band, the only real problem was when Phil Anselmo's mic went out. I haven't paid much attention to The Sword but they put on a reasonably decent show despite seeming a little intimidated by the larger than life bands they were supporting.
2. Trans-Siberian Orchestra in Kansas City, MO: I love to point out to people who express shock that I would attend a TSO concert that the band started off as a project for a bunch of guys in the 1980's metal band Savatage and that they frequently have guest appearances from other luminaries of the metal scene. The Christmas program part was very good, if a little long, but where the band really shines is the neo-classical/shred/power metal part of the performance. I would be more inclined to purchase an album if they stuck to their instrumental stuff, but it was a hell of a good show and the lighting was amazing. I'm slowly turning Lindsay over to the dark side.
Shows I missed: Nile was in Omaha, although most of the bands they were there with were complete crap. I would have liked to see the brutal death metal band with a fixation on Egyptian topics. Also, the Summer Slaughter tour had a stop in Omaha as well. It featured some terrible bands like Born of Osiris, Whitechapel, and The Faceless, as well as the terrible new version of Cryptopsy. However, Psycroptic, Aborted, Kataklysm, The Black Dahlia Murder, and most importantly Vader were also there. It would have been worth it just to see Vader.
1. Metallica: Death Magnetic: There was a lot of discussion over just what would happen with this album. Some people, including the band, believed it to be a return to form and billed it as the missing link between ...And Justice for All and the Black Album. Others said it would be further circling the drain. The truth is that both camps were wrong. This is not a return to form and it is not further evidence of the band's decline. It is the best album they have released since the Black Album easily though and it is a good album. For that, I am happy.
2. Sothis: De Oppresso Liber: I didn't know what to expect from this group. They were billed as the next big thing in American black metal, a tag that, let's face it, is not terribly exciting. They were also hugely hyped and carried by Hot Topic (yuck). When I heard the album though, I was impressed. They sound like an earlier version of Dimmu Borgir, symphonic black metal, so opinions will depend on how one feels about that band. Since I like early Dimmu, I liked Sothis.
3. Testament: The Formation of Damnation: Not surprising because the album is good, no, it's surprising because after nine years of promises and letdowns, we finally have a new album from this great band. Testament was one of my early favorites. This isn't a great album, and it didn't come close to my Top 10, but it is a good album.
4. Cavalera Conspiracy: Inflikted: Early Sepultura is one of my favorite bands. It's been no secret that they have been going downhill since Chaos A.D. was released and have been even worse since Max Cavalera left the band. Max created a band called Soulfly who are also terrible for the most part. So when Max (vocals, guitar) and Iggor Cavalera (who continued playing drums in Sepultura until just recently) joined up and put together this neo-thrash/groove metal album, it proved that the two still had something left.
5. Nachtmystium: Assassins: Black Meddle Pt. 1: Nachtmystium is one of the most famous American black metal bands, although they have been stretching beyond the genre for some time now. Assassins is a psychedelic black metal masterpiece.
1. In Flames: A Sense of Purpose: Holy shit. I am not one of those people bashing In Flames later-era material, in fact I really liked Reroute to Remain, Soundtrack to Your Escape, and Come Clarity. Not as much as their early stuff, but it was catchy and interesting. What the hell happened? They seemed like on Come Clarity that they were trying to get back to their early sound, then crashed into a wall and never got back on track.
2. Cryptopsy: The Unspoken King: One of the greatest brutal death metal bands loses its iconic singer Lord Worm, then hires some metalcore singer. No thanks.
3. Judas Priest: Nostradamus: It is so hard to complain about these guys since they were the second big metal band, behind only Black Sabbath. However this year, they decided to try something different, they wanted to add an orchestra and put out a double album rock opera, and then they fell flat on their face. Judas Priest was great because they were straightforward and simple. Why after nearly 40 years would they mess with that formula?
4. Destroyer 666: They failed to put out a release again this year after tons of hype saying that they would. Their last release was in 2003 and it was a five song EP.
5. Bolt Thrower: Apparently Bolt Thrower broke up. One of the most amazingly consistent death metal bands ever is no more. I am very sad. But at least they went out on a high note as Those Once Loyal, which came out in 2006, was one of their best albums, which is really saying something for this band.
Best Reissue of the Year: Hellhammer: Demon Entrails: And it's not even close. The Hellhammer demos are some of the most desired, yet difficult to find recordings in extreme metal. Hellhammer was the precursor to Celtic Frost and recorded a series of demos in the early 1980's which were traded heavily early on. Now anyone can get them.
Looking Forward in 2009:
1. Suffocation: Blood Oath: The brutal death metal pioneers are back.
2. Kreator: Hordes of Chaos: German thrash metal band with their first album in three years.
3. Wintersun: Time: The much delayed, much anticipated second album from the former
guitarist/songwriter of Ensiferum.
4. Dawn of Azazel: Hopefully they will release a new album soon, no other details available except that they are recording.
5. Destroyer 666: Please?