Saturday, January 31, 2009

Jason Varitek Re-Signs with Red Sox


Pretty good news yesterday. Jason Varitek has been my favorite player for several years now and I really think he needs to finish his career with the Red Sox. His numbers are slipping and he is getting older, but he is still the leader of the team and he handles the pitching staff very well.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Ahab: The Call of the Wretched Sea



Funeral doom is a very odd genre. Extremely slow, the music sometimes does not resemble metal at all. Riffs ebb and flow over the course of minutes sometimes. Adding to this is the fact that most songs are 10 minutes in length or longer. It's not an easy genre to get into because the listener has to be patient and really pay attention. Funeral doom is most certainly not background music. It requires the listener to become engrossed into it. Once one does though, it is hard to deny the beauty in the sounds. All one really needs is a gateway into the world of funeral doom. Once this is found, it becomes easier to understand the complexities of the music.

My gateway was Ahab.

This is the German funeral doom band's first full-length release and what a release it is. The Call of the Wretched Sea is a slow, lumbering masterpiece of an album for this genre and is quite possibly one of the best representatives of the genre thus far. Telling the story of Moby Dick, Ahab manages to capture the extreme feelings of doom the tale is known for. The music even begins to convince the listener that he is on the Pequod hunting the massive beast himself.

The down-tuned guitar riffs are slow and swirling giving the feel of being out on the water. The drumming is surprisingly complex for such a slow-moving album. The melodies are often created through the use of a synthesizer. The vocals are typically deep and guttural, fitting in well with the speed of the music and the subject matter of the lyrics. Occasionally clean, chanted vocals find their way into the melodies and break up the morose feeling of the album for a little while. The songs are all long, except for the fourth track "Of the Monstrous Pictures of Whales". This track however isn't a song so much as a brief intermission to catch one's breath prior to the crushing weight of the second half of the album.

Lyrically, as mentioned earlier, this album tells the story of Moby Dick as told through the eyes of Captain Ahab. Many of the lyrical passages are borrowed directly from the story itself. This gives the album a more authentic feel.

The production is a little muddy, making the individual instruments and the vocals a little difficult to hear. This further adds to the doomy atmosphere of the music as it causes the listener to feel as if he is drowning in the murky sound.

This album is heavy as hell. It leaves the listener feeling drained of energy and crushed under a massive weight. The ending feels as though the listener has been plunged into the depths of the sea. An amazing and bleak album, The Call of the Wretched Sea begs to be heard again and again so that every excruciating detail can be found. Here's hoping for a quality follow-up album by this band.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Dawn of Azazel Discography

Dawn of Azazel is one of my favorite bands and I thought it would be fun to take a look at and review their discography. One of the things that makes this band so interesting is that singer/bassist Rigel Walshe made the New Zealand evening news when it came to light that he, a police constable, moonlights as the singer in a metal band with the kind of violent lyrics and imagery that the band has exhibited.

VITA EST MILITIA SUPER TERRAM (demo 2000)

This is actually Dawn of Azazel's second demo. Their first is extremely difficult to find. I know, because I have called in favors with every metalhead I know and scoured far and wide across the internet to find it. I even contacted the band itself to find out if they knew where to find it, to no avail. Oh well.

Since I can't speak to what is on the first demo, I will start here. By this point, Dawn of Azazel's sound had pretty much already been polished. By polished, I mean that the extremely chaotic nature of their music had been discovered and put to good use. Dawn of Azazel's music is like the theme to the most destructive battlefield in history.

Three of the four tracks on this cassette would appear on their first full length album, while the fourth appeared on the Bloodforged Abdication 7" single. The vocals are not real fleshed out yet, but it is very clearly the same band as recorded the next few albums. The production is surprisingly good for a demo as well.



BLOODFORGED ABDICATION (single 2002)
Dawn of Azazel's next recording was a 7" vinyl-only single featuring the song "Bloodforged Abdication", which does not appear on either of their full-length albums. The production has improved and the band sounds even more chaotic, if that's possible.

The B side is a cover of the Order from Chaos song "Plateau of Invincibility." I am not familiar with the original so I can't speak to how faithful it is, but as this version sounds like a Dawn of Azazel song, I would assume that the band put it's own spin on it. Not that that is a bad thing at all.




THE LAW OF THE STRONG (full-length 2004)
The very first full length album from Dawn of Azazel was everything that the previous recordings promised. A sonic battery of pounding drums, jagged guitar riffs, and the inhuman shrieking growls of Rigel Walshe. Walshe's vocals are unintelligible, even with the aid of a lyric sheet, but that does not make them any less devastating. The band has been known to perform live wearing gasmasks, making for an imposing live spectacle as well as being completely fitting for the music.

This album features my favorite Dawn of Azazel song "Justice is a Fist." The album is an incredibly brutal display of blackened death metal that leaves the listener gasping for breath.

As a bonus to the vinyl collectors, Dawn of Azazel put an additional track "In Flagellation of Eden" onto the record that was not available on the CD.



SEDITION (full-length 2005)

The second full-length release from the band is no less destructive than the first. This was the first and only album to feature Martin Cavanagh on drums. Cavanagh brought a little better sense of rhythm to the madness but still could blast with the best of them. Other than that, all the elements that made their previous album so great are back at full force.

At this point, there has not been any news about a new album although the band posted some new demo tracks in April of last year. Hopefully they will put out a new album soon. It has been three-plus years since Sedition and I am anxious to hear the band put out something new.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Thargos: Black Metal Punkz


What we have here are two fast-paced fun songs from Thargos. This green vinyl release includes songs "Black Metal Punkz" and "Dying Old Man." As the title of this review implies, the name of the release is very appropriate as the sound of this release is a combination of black metal and punk.

"Black Metal Punkz" starts out with a raspy shriek attracting the listener's attention before the band dives into the fast paced anthemic song. The stucture of the song is simple, verse-bridge-chorus-verse with an extremely simple but catchy chorus. The riffs are straightforward thrash/punk and the vocals are usually clean with the occasional raspy moment. The lyrics are a pretty standard glorification of the genre.

"Dying Old Man" is similar to the prior track musically. Where it differs is in the lyrical content. Whereas "Black Metal Punkz" was an anthemic barn-burner, the lyrics to "Dying Old Man" deal with the exact subject matter the name implies: the reflections on the life of a dying man. Despite the bleak subject matter, this track is again a lot of fun because of the fast-paced riffs and catchy chorus.

All in all, this 2 track single packs a lot of fun into slightly more than seven and a half minutes. The production is excellent and the green vinyl treatment is visually striking.

Thanatos: The Burning of Sodom/...And Jesus Wept


This is an extremely short vinyl 7" EP, but Thanatos really makes the most of its less-than-10 minute running time. I had first heard of Thanatos when reading an article about the Hail of Bullets album featuring Martin Van Drunen of Pestilence and Asphyx fame and the twin guitar attack of Stephen Gebedil and Paul Baayens from this band as well as former bassist Theo Van Eekelen. As I was impressed with that release, I decided to check out the backing band Thanatos an I am very glad that I did. This was the first release I came across.

Thanatos kicks things off with a blazing cover of the Dark Angel classic "The Burning of Sodom" off of Darkness Descends. Thanatos's version is faster and more intense than the Dark Angel version if that can be believed. Rarely does a cover match the original, but this comes close. The vocals are the main difference between the two versions with Thanatos vocalist Stephan Gebedi providing more of a gruff roar compared to the thrashy vocals on the original. However, the vocals are a little buried underneath the frenetic musicians.

Obviously it's easy to come up with a great thrash metal song when you are mimicking an already established classic such as Dark Angel, but how does Thanatos do when crafting their own original material? Turns out pretty well. "...And Jesus Wept" is a re-recorded song off of their 1992 album Realm of Ecstacy. Thanatos is quite adept at burying the listener under mile-a-minute riffs and constant drum blasting in this song. The vocals have a little more in common with early death metal than thrash metal while the solos owe a bit to Slayer's extremely short blink-and-you-miss-them solos off of Reign in Blood. The song does occasionally slow down but continues on with the punishing riffs.

The record is pressed on red vinyl making for an attractive collector's item. I just wish there was a little more information about the band in the packaging. I found this to be a pretty good introduction to a band I was unfamiliar with, but people who already know of the band should probably stick to their full length albums. This is for the completist collectors out there more than anything. I will be looking out for some of Thanatos's other material though.

Soilent Green: Inevitable Collapse in the Presence of Conviction


Sludge metal is one of the first genres I discovered when I was starting out on my metal journey. I first picked up Corrosion of Conformity's Deliverance when I was about 13. Unfortunately, nothing I have heard in this genre beyond Acid Bath really comes close to that first album for me. Soilent Green, despite not being completely sludge metal as they have obvious death and grind influences as well, are no different. That's not to say the album is not enjoyable, it just does not meet the same standard as tht C.O.C. classic.

The major problem area with this album, and the band in general, is the vocals of Ben Falgoust, who utilizes a raspy, guttural growl. Do not get me wrong, I actually enjoy Falgoust in general, but I prefer his work with Goatwhore, than Soilent Green. The reason for this is that his vocal style simply works better in the black/death sort of music of Goatwhore than the style of Soilent Green. The other problem is that Falgoust does not change his vocal style at any point during this album.

The riffs are of course what really drive this album. Brian Patton, despite being a little unorthodox, can write some truly memorable riffs. He can also play a pretty decent acoustic part. The guitar is distorted but has a great tone, especially on the leads. Occasionally the death/grind influences do show through in the guitar riffs. The bass usually follows along with the drums and often cannot be heard on its own.

The music in general is fairly fast paced, with thundering drums. There is an occasional break in the speed though while Falgoust continues screaming over the top of it. The songs are all short, with only one song breaking the four and a half minute mark, by just two seconds. This makes for an easy listen.

Overall, the album is pretty good, it's not as good as the classics of the genres, but is a decent listen. I do still prefer Falgoust's voice in Goatwhore though. I would probably like Soilent Green a little more with a different singer.

Lord Belial: Revelation-The 7th Seal


Melodic black metal is a little bit of an overlooked genre and not terribly well-respected among the metal community. Perhaps this is because of the lack of very many elite bands in the genre, minus Dissection of course, depending on the viewpoint of the person listening to them. Lord Belial has varied their sound over the years but is probably most often fit under the melodic black umbrella. They have gone from a more straightforward black metal band on their early releases to the more melodic approach, even adding some death metal influence to their sound at times. For the most part though, Lord Belial suffers from the major problem of their genre, they are ultimately forgettable.

This is a decent album, but it just does not stand out enough to require repeated listenings. Other bands such as Naglfar have much the same sound and also have some hooks to grab the listener. Lord Belial just does not have that ability. Many of the songs on the album begin to run together and sound very similar, in fact most of the songs on the album are structured the same way. There are a few exceptions but for the most part the songs are Verse-Chorus-Verse-Chorus and then either repeating the chorus or ending with a last verse. The songs that differ such as "Death as Solution", "Vile Intervention", "Gateway to Oblivion", and "Black Wings of Death" are the most memorable on the album.

For the most part, the instrumentation is decent. The drumming often consists of blast beats but is otherwise high enough in the mix and entertaining enough that it keeps the listener's attention while listening to the album. The guitars often engage in tremolo picking early in the song and during the choruses. The choruses often continue with the same rhythm and riff from the rest of the song except for adding an additional guitar line or heavier drums, or just being louder. The production on the entire album is crystal clear, which is definitely a plus. The music as a whole contains an eerie atmosphere.

The vocals are for the most part the same raspy roar. Thomas Backelin's limitations are very clear as there are frequently guest vocals which provide the only differences from Backelin's raspy delivery. The guest vocals are usually more interesting than the band's own singer which is a bit of a problem. In fact, most of them truly interesting aspects of the album come from individuals who are not in the band, although Hjalmar Nielsen who provided most of the guitar leads was previously in the band.

All in all, the album is decent, but it fails to truly grab the attention of the listener beyond it's runtime.

Iron Maiden: The X Factor


This is the first album by Iron Maiden without Bruce Dickinson on vocals. The job instead went to Blaze Bayley. This album also featured a significantly different structural departure from previous albums. All that being said, this album is about as average as it can get.

There is absolutely nothing spectacular about this addition to the Iron Maiden catalog, however it is not horrible. The riffs are generally well constructed and the songwriting is still competent. The only real issue is the fact that this was, as stated earlier, a significant departure from the great Iron Maiden. Obviously the vocals are different. Bayley does not have the soaring opera-trained vocal style that Bruce Dickinson has, but he is still a very good singer. I just do not think that he fits in with the well-renowned style of Iron Maiden. The other difference was in the structure of the songs themselves. Iron Maiden has frequently written some longer songs on their albums, but on this album all but one song clock in over five minutes, and that one exception is still more than four minutes long. This is not necessarily a bad thing but it makes the album a little tedious at times. This is not an album that can be listened to over and over again. Unfortunately Iron Maiden would continue along with this for their next several albums even after the triumphant return of Bruce Dickinson.

The best thing about this album, as usual for Maiden, is the bass lines. Steve Harris is one of the greatest bass players in heavy metal and the fact that he can frequently be heard playing rhythms against the riffs of the guitars means that he can actually be heard well enough to be enjoyed. Harris is also one of the better songwriters in metal which has lead to Maiden's hallowed place in the genre.

All in all, this is an okay album, but I honestly think I would have enjoyed it more if it had not been released under the Iron Maiden name. It's just too difficult to accept the band without Bruce Dickinson after all these years. Thankfully the band only released one more full length with Bayley before Dickinson returned.

DevilDriver: The Last Kind Words


I actually kind of like Dez Fafara. I have since I was a teenager, even though I really did not care for Coal Chamber, Fafara's first band, I thought his voice was pretty good. I always wished he would focus on more metal projects than the nu metal style of Coal Chamber.

Enter DevilDriver. I actually didn't hear this band until their second album, The Fury of Our Maker's Hand, probably because of my disdain for Coal Chamber and the fact that their first album sounded a lot like later Coal Chamber. There were some very good songs on that album and it was infectious. I do believe that it was a lot more metal, but the band still had a little growth to do.

This is DevilDriver's third album, and the album that got the band into the Metal Archives. I can see why, as it is a lot more focused on groove metal with some melodic death metal thrown in for good measure. Most of the nu metal elements have been stripped away and replaced. However, it is not as catchy as their previous album, and this is unfortunate.

Dez sticks to his growled vocal style that I have always liked. There are no clean vocals in the entire album, which is good because his clean voice from the Coal Chamber days is horrible. The riffs are decent and reasonably catchy with some fine guitar leads thrown in at various points in the proceedings as well as some surprisingly decent guitar solos. As I said earlier, the music is more groove-oriented with some melodic death metal as well. The most intriguing musical part is the end of the album with a somber organ leading to the conclusion.

Ultimately however, this album is not as good as their previous album because it's just not as memorable. There are a few decent songs, but nothing that rises to the level of "Grinfucked", "Hold Back the Day", and "Before the Hangman's Noose." "Bound by the Moon", "Horn of Betrayal" and "Not All Who Wander Are Lost" are the highlights.

Dear Music Choice

I don't know what you have heard, but Slipknot, Disturbed, System of a Down, Avenged Sevenfold, Deftones, Sevendust, Korn, etc. are not fucking metal bands. You have been misguided. You fucking suck.

Love,
Shadowking86

P.S. The new album by Amon Amarth is called Twilight of the Thunder GOD, not Twilight of the Thunder DOG.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Demolition Hammer: Necrology-A Complete Anthology

I am approaching this collection of Demolition Hammer's material from a different viewpoint. I have just recently discovered this band through this double disc collection. For someone new to the band, this is a great way to find out what I have missed. And what have I missed exactly? Well Demolition Hammer is clearly an underrated and brutal band from the waning days of the thrash metal movement of the late 1980's/early 1990's. This fact is proven from the first two-thirds of the material presented here.

Demolition Hammer seems to reside on the borderline of thrash metal and death metal. Too brutal to be totally thrash, but not brutal enough to the same extent as some of the early death metal innovators such as Death, Master, or even Possessed. Nevertheless, Demolition Hammer has a lot to offer on its first two albums which take up the entire first disc and the first several songs on the second disc.

The riffing and solos on the Tortured Existence and Epidemic of Violence parts of the collection are extremely intense, allowing little time to stop and consider what the hell is going on in the music. The vocals are fairly typical for thrash and are one of the weaker points to the band. Vocalist Steve Reynolds unfortunately does not utilize much range in his vocal style. One of the strong points, and something that is fairly unique for thrash metal, is that the bass is audible. This is great because what Reynolds lacks as a vocalist, he more than makes up for in his creativity with the bass guitar. As great as many of the songs are in this part of the collection, unfortunately it tends to all run together at a certain point. That being said, there are some truly amazing songs in this such as "Mercenary Aggression" and "Epidemic of Violence".

The second part of the second disc is the Time Bomb album, which was originally planned by the band to be released under a different name. Century Media though refused to release the album unless it was under the Demolition Hammer moniker. This gives the second disc a disjointed feel as Time Bomb is not a thrash metal album. Time Bomb can best be described as a groove metal album more in tune with Vulgar-era Pantera or Foul Taste-era Pro-Pain. As a stand-alone album under a different name, this would have been a perfectly acceptable release. It is actually reasonably catchy and memorable, in particular the Devo cover "Mongoloid", however as a Demolition Hammer release, it fails to live up to the promise exhibited by the prior two albums. It also suffers from a lack of guitar solos, which were impressive on the first two releases and are now completely absent.

The additional bonus tracks tacked onto the end of the second disc are two pre-production demo tracks from the Time Bomb album. These are completely superfluous and could have easily been left off of the final product. The only real difference is that they have poorer production value than the Time Bomb tracks.

All in all, this is a good release in order to check out the entirety of the Demolition Hammer catalog. The question is left to the consumer as to whether they would want to check out the entire catalog. Certainly Tortured Existence and Epidemic of Violence should be required listening for any thrash metal fan, but Time Bomb is unnecessary. Finding the individual albums is a little bit of a chore and this does make the Anthology a little more desirable.
One last complaint that I have is the way that the two discs are divided. I understand the need to provide the music in some kind of chronological order, but I am less clear on why it was necessary to split up Epidemic the way it was done. This is clearly the strongest album of Demolition Hammer's career, so why subject it to this? It would have been better to present the catalog as a three disc set with maybe a few more demo tracks or live tracks corresponding with each release. I'm not normally a big fan of bonus tracks, but this seems like a better idea than the way Century Media handled this.

Atrocious Abnormality: Echoes of the Rotting



I admit that I discovered this band on Myspace. That's not to say that I usually actively seek out music using that site, but it is a pretty useful tool sometimes. The band is a brutal death metal band out of North Carolina. Normally, brutal death is not my favorite genre but upon hearing the samples on the band's page, I decided to give their album a try. I am very glad that I did, as this is not the standard brutal death metal album.

There are a lot of things that I really enjoy about this album that I do not normally hear in other brutal death metal bands. First of all, the production is fairly clean. Typically bands of this type have a muddy sound and it is difficult to hear everything that is happening in the music. This album is not at all like that. One can actually hear all of the instruments clearly. The levels of the instruments are fairly well-balanced as well, so one instrument is not too high in the mix.

Having a clear production means that one can hear what the other instruments are doing, which leads me to my next point. This band utilizes some surprisingly technical riffs. That is not to say that they are as technical as bands like Necrophagist, but they find a nice balance between technical death and the aggression and brutality of brutal death metal. Think a mix between Decrepit Birth and Suffocation.

There are several other good things about this album. The drumming is very intense, often utilizing blast beats during the breakdowns (yes the songs do have breakdowns), which keeps them fairly interesting. The guitar leads are very impressive and there are occasional solos which add to the enjoyment of the songs. The vocals are normally fairly standard low guttural growls, but on occasion the band uses layered vocals, as Deicide is known for, which consist of the aforementioned growls and some impressive banshee-like shrieking. Finally, Atrocious Abnormality spice things up a little with samples from the movie Slither and Married...With Children, which add a little humor.

Unfortunately, there are some points to the album that are not as good. As I mentioned, the band does use breakdowns on almost every song. It also drags a little bit just past the halfway point. The album is short, which is good, because if it was not so short, it would be a lot more difficult to listen to it all the way through. There is a cover of a Misfits song, which I feel is a little out of place. They did not do too bad of a job on it, but the vocals really detract from it. I would have rather seen the band cover a death metal song. Finally, the lyrics are standard brutal death fare (death, gore, misogyny). It's not surprising, but it's just a little too predictable.

Overall, this is a strong debut album. Each of the band members have been in similar bands in the past and present, hopefully this will be more than just a one-album project. I think this band has a lot of promise and they work together very well. I look forward to seeing them grow.

Am I Blood-Agitation

I am going to slowly move my reviews that I have written for the Encyclopedia Metallum over here so that everything is in one place.



I acquired this CD in a large wholesale lot of metal and hard rock CDs that I bought on ebay. This was the first CD that I listened to from that lot.

This is a fairly standard thrash metal release without any real distinguishing characteristics to it from any other thrash album. The riffs are all basic thrash riffs that have been done a thousand times before by hundreds of bands before this one. Think watered down Testament riffs from Practice What You Preach and you get a pretty good idea what this band sounds like. Another thing this album seriously lacks are some good guitar solos. There are a few solos scattered throughout the album, but there is not one single solo that really grabs your attention and makes you think you are listening to anything more than a run of the mill thrash guitarist.

The vocals are also fairly standard and remain unchanged throughout much of the album. The vocalist sounds like a less threatening Chuck Billy or Eric Knutson. One of the things that I did like on this album was some of the industrial effects that the band added in some of the songs. There is a knocking sound in Suicidal Solution that seriously made me get up and check my door to make sure the sound was actually coming from the speakers and not my door. There are also some odd effects in Eternal You and The Final Scream.
Overall, this is a solid release, but it's just not very memorable and it sounds like may bands that came before and after Am I Blood.

Deicide, What the Hell Happened?


I was listening to my Deicide albums the other day, of which I only have four thus far, and a couple of things came to mind. First of all, Glen Benton is a total fuckwit. I'm not totally sure if he's drunk off of his ass all the time, although people who have seen him in concert certainly believe that he is, but what the hell is the band doing?

I have their first two albums Deicide (1990) and Legion (1992). Both of these albums are viewed as classics in the death metal scene and for very good reason. They were revolutionary for their time and remain highly influential today. The songs are typically short blasts of sonic destruction featuring Benton's dual-layered vocals of psychotic shrieking and maniacal growling, pummeling drums, and jagged riffs. Great albums from start to finish.

After those two albums though, Deicide descended into mediocrity. They had a few decent songs here and there, but were pretty much bereft of originality.

Then came The Stench of Redemption (2006). This was a huge turnaround for the band. They enlisted Obituary guitarist Ralph Santolla into the fold. Santolla brought his trademarked classically-trained, shredding guitar solos. The songs became longer and Benton continued the vocal styles that made him one of the most renowned death metal vocalists. The album was a huge success as a comeback record.

So, what does Deicide do for an encore?

They tried to revert back to the pre-Stench sound on Till Death Do Us Part (2008) but mix in some of the things that made Stench a success, namely Santolla's guitar solos. But they scaled those back and the album sounds like the band threw their entire discography in the blender and then released it. The album sounds like the band had no idea which direction to take. Plus just look at the cover posted. I understand that the entire album deals with Benton's divorce and was a very emotional time for him, but when your band is most known for your constant praises to Satan and blasphemies against God, maybe making an album about divorce issues isn't such a bright idea. Just saying.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

2008 in Review-Metal

2008 Metal Year in Review
Albums:
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.

Concerts:
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.

Surprises:

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.

Disappointments:

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?

Top 100 Albums-Outdated a Little

For my first blog I figured I would post my Top 100 Metal Albums that I worked out last Spring. This is an outdated list as I have picked up several classic albums and some underrated gems that would probably make my list. That's okay for now. At some point I will update it.

I managed to find this. This is an old post from Myspace. This was in ten parts. I will only reproduce the actual albums analyses:
100. AHAB: THE CALL OF THE WRETCHED SEA: This is a concept album about Moby Dick from these German funeral doom merchants. Agonizingly slow and monolithically heavy, this album will suck you in and have you imagining that you are on board the Pequod with the sea air blowing through your hair.
99. EDGE OF SANITY: CRIMSON: One song, 40 minutes long. Swedish death metal stalwart Dan Swano brings his vision of a bleak future to the listener in this avant-garde metal opus.
98. DARK FUNERAL: THE SECRETS OF THE BLACK ARTS: Swedish black metal at its best with crushing blast beats and shrieking vocals. All songs are about Satan or evil, but if you know Dark Funeral that's certainly not a surprise.
97. SKELETONWITCH: BEYOND THE PERMAFROST: One of the newest bands to make my list, this album captured my attention right away with its retro-thrash attack and blackened shrieks. One of my personal favorites of the thrash metal revival, they should have a bright future.
96. DEMILICH: NESPITHE: Totally bizarre death metal from Finland. This band only released this one studio album, but it is a legendary release. Incredibly deep croaking vocals and technical riffs make up the sound. It's too bad they didn't stick around.
95. BURZUM: DET SOM ENGANG VAR: Norwegian black metal legend Varg Vikernes's one-man band. More infamous, than famous, Vikernes is well-known for his time in Mayhem which ended when he stabbed guitarist Euronymous to death in his apartment. This is my favorite of Burzum's material with equal parts screeching black metal and soothing ambience.
94. EXHORDER: SLAUGHTER IN THE VATICAN: Pantera fanboys take note, because this album is where that band got its well-known sound. Exhorder was groove metal before Pantera became popular.
93. THORNAFIRE: EXACERBATED GNOSTIC MANIFESTATION: Another newer band, Thornafire hails from Chile which is kind of a unique place to find a metal band. Thornafire plays old-school U.S. death metal in the vein of Morbid Angel and Incantation. Another band with a bright future.
92. BOLT THROWER: REALM OF CHAOS: One of the first death/grind bands along with English countrymen Carcass and Napalm Death. This album will crush your skull under its weight.
91. FAITH NO MORE: THE REAL THING: Well-known album from the late 1980's featuring hits Epic, Falling to Pieces, and From Out of Nowhere. It's tough to categorize FNM because their sound was constantly evolving. Terrific vocals and musicianship make this an unforgettable album.
90. MELECHESH: EMISSARIES: One of the more unique albums in my collection, this is a black/death metal band from Israel. They incorporate a lot of Middle Eastern instrumentation and rhythms into their music and their lyrics mostly deal with Sumerian/Mesopotamian mythology. Very interesting stuff.
89. WINTERSUN: WINTERSUN: It's difficult to tell whether this Finnish group is a melodic death metal band or an extreme power metal band. They seem to have elements of both. Harsh vocals but epic in both the sound and the length. They have a new album coming this Spring, I'm looking forward to it.
88. IRON MAIDEN: PIECE OF MIND: Ah yes Iron Maiden, one of my all time favorite bands and one of the icons of heavy metal. This was their second release with Bruce Dickinson fronting the band and features the classics "The Trooper" and "Flight of Icarus." An underrated album compared to what came before and since. This won't be the last time you see Iron Maiden in my list, I promise.
87. CANNIBAL CORPSE: EATEN BACK TO LIFE: One of the most well known death metal bands, Cannibal Corpse provide many of the extremes that have come to be expected from the genre. Bloody artwork and gory lyrics along with Chris Barnes's trademark roar make this debut album a landmark in the death metal scene.
86. GORGOROTH: PENTAGRAM: Norwegian black metal at its most hateful and abrasive. Fast riffs, howling vocals, and blast beats provide the sound for one of the most frightening black metal bands around. Not for the weak of heart.
85. NAGLFAR: PARIAH: A black metal band from Sweden that focuses more on melody than groups like Gorgoroth, Naglfar still uses raspy vocals but the lyrics deal more with personal issues than Antichristianity, at least on this album.
84. DARK ANGEL: DARKNESS DESCENDS: One of the lesser-known thrash metal bands from the mid-1980's, at least as far as the mainstream is concerned. Dark Angel is a more technical band than their peers. Amazing riffs and blazing speed. Many thrash fans consider this the best thrash album ever. I won't go that far, but a great album nonetheless.
83. DIO: HOLY DIVER: One of the all time great voices in heavy metal, this was Ronnie James Dio's best solo album and featured the hits "Holy Diver" (recently horrendously covered by Killswitch Engage) and "Rainbow in the Dark." It was very difficult to leave this so far down on the list but many of the songs are less than memorable. The good ones certainly make up for it though.
82. ANTHRAX: AMONG THE LIVING: Of the Big Four of American thrash, Anthrax is the weakest. That doesn't mean that they don't have their moments though. This album caught them at their best when Joey Belladonna was still the singer. John Bush later replaced him and the band went downhill. Anthrax was much more fun and light-hearted with Belladonna.
81. DANZIG III: HOW THE GODS KILL: Cover art by H.R. Giger, a dark gothic atmosphere, and Glenn Danzig's trademark Elvis-meets-Jim Morrison crooning make this Danzig's best album. A lot more metallic than other albums, this features the classic "Dirty Black Summer." Not to be listened to in the dark.
80. CORROSION OF CONFORMITY: DELIVERANCE: Southern-style sludge metal at its greatest. C.O.C. combine hardcore attitude and traditional doom metal to produce a mindfuck of an album. Several short acoustic interludes break up the heavy bass-driven riffs. "Clean My Wounds" is a classic.
79. INSOMNIUM: ABOVE THE WEEPING WORLD: This melodeath band from Finland combines sweeping guitar riffs and melancholic atmosphere to produce a sound that is aggressive but sorrowful at the same time. The band has a lot of doom influences to their music.
78. QUEENSRYCHE: OPERATION: MINDCRIME: One of the better bands at writing concept albums, this Seattle-based progressive metal band is full of talented musicians and an even more talented singer. Geoff Tate has a highly distinctive tenor while Chris DeGarmo provides the guitar riffs and some fantastic solos.
77. SATYRICON: DARK MEDIEVAL TIMES: One of the well-known bands in the second wave of black metal from Norway, the name of the album describes the sound. Satyricon combine their black metal with the occasional medieval interlude sounding as if it came right out of the nearest Renaissance festival. After this album, Satyricon would start to go in a more standard black metal direction, cutting out most of the folk influences.
76. KAMELOT: THE BLACK HALO: Very good American power metal. Layers of intricate sound and stunning musicianship make up this powerful album. Kamelot is on the verge of making it very big.
75. ROTTING CHRIST: THEOGONIA: RC is a gothic black metal band from Greece. They incorporate folk elements from their home country, including rhythms, instrumentation, and even chanting, providing a powerful atmosphere backing up Sakis's raspy vocals.
74. SYMPHONY X: THE ODYSSEY: A concept album based on Homer's epic poem, epic being the operative word. Symphony X is a progressive metal band from the United States with highly technical, yet memorable riffs and the operatic voice of singer Russell Allan.
73. SEPULTURA: MORBID VISIONS: The debut album from these Brazilian thrash legends is a little sloppy in the drumming and bass (but that is part of its charm), but with an evil atmosphere that has never been equalized by the band. This album helped shape death metal.
72. ATHEIST: UNQUESTIONABLE PRESENCE: Death metal with jazz influences? Seems totally crazy but this band made it work, paving the way for several bands that would try to emulate them, but never match them. Criminally underrated in their time, Atheist is now getting the attention they always deserved.
71. BLACK SABBATH: VOL. 4: The original heavy metal band, responsible for the entire genre, in their classic lineup (Tony Iommi, Ozzy Osbourne, Geezer Butler, and Bill Ward). This is one of their more psychedelic releases but features some of their most memorable riffs as well. "Supernaut" makes this worth the money by itself. Expect to see them on this list again.
70. FLOTSAM AND JETSAM: DOOMSDAY FOR THE DECEIVER: Arizona power/thrash metal band on its first full length release. This band is well-known for being the band Jason Newsted was in prior to joining Metallica, this being the only release he contributed to. The band is extremely energetic on this release with the throbbing bass, powerful guitar riffs and banshee shrieks of vocalist Erik Knutson.
69. TYPE O NEGATIVE: BLOODY KISSES: From the high energy of Flotsam and Jetsam to the lethargic gothic doom of Type O Negative. Vocalist Peter Steele has a very deep voice and combined with the dark humor and overall spooky atmosphere of the band provides an unforgettable and unnerving listening experience.
68. CANDLEMASS: EPICUS DOOMICUS METALLICUS: Traditional doom metal from this pioneering Swedish outfit. Poweful vocals and melancholic music merge to create what is universally regarded as one of the greatest doom metal records. "Solitude" is a masterpiece.
67. OBITUARY: CAUSE OF DEATH: One of the earliest death metal bands, the typical lyrical topics are covered by tracks like "Chopped in Half" and "Infected." Obituary stands out from the rest of their peers on account of their sludgy riffs, rotting-sounding vocals, and surprisingly technical guitar solos.
66. BATHORY: BLOOD FIRE DEATH: Bathory mastermind Quorthon (who would eventually take over playing all instruments on their future albums) almost single-handedly created both black metal and viking metal. This was the first album to take the black metal Bathory previously created and mix it with elements of what would eventually become viking metal.
65. IN FLAMES: COLONY: In my opinion, this was the highest point for this elite Gothenburg melodeath metal band. The band was at its most creative mixing Iron Maiden-styled riffs, manic harsh vocals and even began providing clean vocals in some chorus spots.
64. DARKTHRONE: A BLAZE IN THE NORTHERN SKY: Norwegian black metal landmark album which combined the simple death metal riffs the band previously utilized with the atmosphere and raspy vocals that the black metal scene would later become synonymous with. Darkthrone were one of the originators of the sound and many bands still try to capture the feel of this record and fail.
63. MERCYFUL FATE: DON'T BREAK THE OATH: Mercyful Fate was extremely influential on the black metal scene because of the dark atmospherics of their sound. King Diamond's falsetto vocals and the band's dual guitar attack make up the sound of one of metal's true iconic bands.
62. INCANTATION: ONWARD TO GOLGOTHA: One of the early death metal bands from the east coast. Incantation combines brutal guttural vocals and extremely heavy doom-laden riffs into a sound and image that is extremely vile and frightening. Not a good album for someone new to the genre.
61. PARADISE LOST: GOTHIC: These English death/doom metal pioneers put out their best album in Gothic. This album is a testament to the sound the band helped create, as they later drifted into gothic metal/rock territory on following releases.
60. CENOTAPH: SAGA BELICA: Excellent Mexican death metal band featuring raw aggressive riffs, manic screaming vocals, and wailing guitar solos. An extremely energetic album that will get your heart pounding.
59. BEHEMOTH: ZOS KIA CULTUS: Polish black/death metal band. This was one their best album in their new sound adding death metal elements to their usual black metal sound. The band features extremely Satanic lyrics and crushingly brutal music.
58. AMON AMARTH: THE CRUSHER: It's tough to pick just one album from this Swedish melodic death metal Viking horde. Partly because they all sound basically the same and partly because they are all excellent. Gruff, roaring vocals, melodic guitar leads, pounding drums, and lyrics about warfare and Viking glory.
57. CARCASS: HEARTWORK: The kings of English grindcore starting going in a melodic death metal direction on the album prior to this one. This one perfected the sound and was a very early and influential album on the Swedish melodeath scene.
56. DISSECTION: THE SOMBERLAIN: One of my favorite bands, Dissection was a melodic black metal band from Sweden with death metal influences. The music is extremely chilling and includes some insanely technical drumming. Menacing vocals and tremolo guitar riffing completes the effect.
55. SWALLOW THE SUN: THE MORNING NEVER CAME: This Finnish death/doom metal band is one of the better doom bands around lately. At times extremely melancholic, at others frighteningly intense. Don't listen to this when you're in a good mood, it has a tendency to crush hopes and dreams.
54. OZZY OSBOURNE: BLIZZARD OF OZZ: One of the godfathers of the heavy metal genre, Ozzy has released a number of classic albums. This was his first and probably his most well-known, featuring his signature song "Crazy Train." Randy Rhoads provided the fantastic guitar work: riffs and solos, and Ozzy contributed his trademark vocals.
53. JUDAS PRIEST: BRITISH STEEL: Another of the great early metal bands, Judas Priest had a great deal of influence on the thrash metal scene with their fast bluesy guitar riffs. "Breaking the Law" is an all time classic.
52. METALLICA: ...AND JUSTICE FOR ALL: The third metal icon in a row here, this is Metallica's most technical album. Fast, intense, and epic, this is where the band garnered mainstream attention. Not their best album, but it's tough to decide between their first four.
51. WHITE ZOMBIE: LA SEXORCISTO: Dirty guitar riffs, bass-heavy sound, B-movie dialogue samples, and Rob Zombie's insane mumbling growls. This is White Zombie.
50. EXODUS: BONDED BY BLOOD: Exodus was one of the early thrash metal bands and are considered to be in the second hierarchy of thrash bands along with Testament, Dark Angel, Flotsam and Jetsam, and Overkill. Exodus has an aggressive, energetic sound that is missing from some of the other bands on this album. The music is loud, fast, and fun, they don't make them like this anymore.
49. IMMOLATION: SHADOWS IN THE LIGHT: Released just last year, this is the quite possibly the New York death metal band's finest release as it blends the band's trademark brutality, deep growled vocals, and dirty guitar riffs with a technicality that was missing from their previous albums. One of the best albums from 2007.
48. OVERKILL: HORRORSCOPE: See Exodus: Bonded by Blood. Overkill may have been the first thrash metal band as they were recording demos even before Metallica. A bit more refined than Exodus, but still a lot of fun.
47. OPETH: STILL LIFE: Progressive extreme metal band on their finest release. This album blends death metal and acoustic interludes to produce an album that is at times brutal, and at others beautiful. Michael Akerfeldt has an amazing clean singing voice and also some truly great death metal growls.
46. BLIND GUARDIAN: IMAGINATIONS FROM THE OTHER SIDE: German power metal legends Blind Guardian combine bombastic music, lightning-fast riffs, and Hansi Kursch's amazing vocals. This album is a stepping stone from their traditional speed/power metal to a more progressive sound.
45. TESTAMENT: THE RITUAL: Similar to Amon Amarth in that it is extremely difficult to determine which album is their best. Testament was a thrash metal band from the Bay Area in the mid-1980's. This is probably my favorite as it is a more mature sound for the band and it includes the amazing "Return to Serenity", my all-time favorite song. Testament would shift to a groove/death metal sound after this album.
44. APOPHIS: HELIOPOLIS: Extremely underrated German melodic death metal band. Apophis takes U.S. death metal like Morbid Angel, and combines it with the Swedish melodic death metal sound of At the Gates. An incredible album that has gone unnoticed by many people, a shame.
43. AMORPHIS: TALES FROM THE THOUSAND LAKES: It's tough to categorize this Finnish band for more than an album or two because they frequently change their sound. On this album, Amorphis is closer to a death/doom style with some folk metal elements. Their cover of "Light My Fire" can't be missed.
42. POSSESSED: SEVEN CHURCHES: One of the major influences on death metal, Possessed is an early thrash metal band from the Bay Area. The subject matter, guitar riffs, and screaming vocals had a huge impact on the later death metal scene.
41. KING DIAMOND: ABIGAIL: King Diamond's debut album after splitting from Mercyful Fate (both bands are currently going with KD singing for both), this album features amazing guitar riffs and solos and KD's inhuman falsetto singing voice. The album tells the tale of the ghost of Abigail who possessed the body of a woman in order to be born again. One of the best concept albums in metal history.
40. DEATH: THE SOUND OF PERSEVERENCE: One of the original death metal bands, as you might have guessed from the fact that the genre and band names sound suspiciously similar. This was the last album by Death, as singer/guitarist/founder Chuck Schuldiner died of brain stem cancer in 2001. This album is incredible, the band had long ago moved away from their raw death/thrash attack and moved in a progressive direction. The songs are emotional, the riffs are amazing, and Chuck produced some terrific solos. The cover of Judas Priest's "Painkiller" is exceptional, I had no idea Chuck could scream like that.
39. SLAYER: SEASONS IN THE ABYSS: You can't have a metal top 100 list without one or two Slayer albums, sure they're overrated but they put out a couple of damn fine thrash metal gems, this being one of them. The title track is probably my favorite Slayer song because it is a lot more progressive than their normal full-on thrashers. The rest of the stuff is typical 1980's-era Slayer.
38. DEICIDE: LEGION: Short, fast, and raw as Hell. Deicide put the death metal scene on notice with this album. Unrelenting in its speed and its intensity, this is the band's best album. Although their latest was nothing to be ashamed of, this is the sound that made them who they are.
37. METALLICA: KILL 'EM ALL: Metallica's debut album was possibly the very first thrash full length album. What a way to start a movement. Fast, raw, and a ton of fun, this is an instant classic. "The Four Horsemen" has one of thrash metal's all-time great riffs.
36. BLACK SABBATH: SABBATH, BLOODY SABBATH: Black Sabbath began incorporating elements of progressive rock on this album and produced one of their all-time greatest albums. Iommi's riffs were still amazing, and Ozzy's vocals were a force to be reckoned with. "A National Acrobat" is unfortunately overlooked quite a bit, I think it is one of the band's greatest songs.
35. MERCYFUL FATE: MELISSA: The album that started King Diamond's career. KD's trademark falsetto and the dual guitar attack were new and unique at the time the album released. An all-time classic album.
34. BLACK SABBATH: HEAVEN AND HELL: The only Black Sabbath album on my list without Ozzy as vocalist, this version of the band was fronted by Ronnie James Dio. It's difficult to decide which vocalist was better, Dio is probably the more talented of the two, although Ozzy's vocals matched the band's sound perfectly. This would be a pointless debate if the songs on this album were anything but the classics that they are. Dio re-energized the band.
33. IRON MAIDEN: SOMEWHERE IN TIME: On this album, Iron Maiden began to incorporate some keyboard parts. It did not detract at all from their music and this album has some great songs. Bruce Dickinson's vocals were perhaps at their strongest here.
32. MEGADETH: PEACE SELLS...BUT WHO'S BUYING?: Megadeth's second album proved that Dave Mustaine knew how to write thrash riffs. One of the major creative forces in Metallica's early days, Mustaine honed his craft with his follow-up band. Mustaine also has a very unique and noticeable voice.
31. CELTIC FROST: TO MEGA THERION: A major influence on both the black and death metal scenes, this Swiss trio combined gothic atmosphere, thrashy riffs, death-style grunts, and other unusual elements into a fresh sound that has never truly been duplicated. Unfortunately, Celtic Frost would never duplicate it either as their music declined in quality sharply after this one until their comeback album Monotheist in 2006.
30. DARK TRANQUILLITY: SKYDANCER: One of the great bands from the Gothenburg, Sweden melodic death metal scene, Dark Tranquillity has a much rawer sound on this release. Melodic lead guitar lines and tremolo picking coupled with future In Flames singer Anders Frieden's tortured shrieks give this a cold, gothic atmosphere.
29. FEAR FACTORY: DEMANUFACTURE: Industrial death metal pioneers on their second album. This one is volatile and has a fuller sound to it than their debut. The band also turned this into a concept album of sorts. Burton Bell has one of the more interesting voices in metal between his hardcore screaming and his more melodic clean singing voice.
28. DOWN: NOLA: Supergroup made up of members of Pantera, Corrosion of Conformity, Crowbar, and Eyehategod. Down brings a Southern rock edge to good old stoner/sludge doom. One of the few bands able to modernize Black Sabbath-style riffs. This is a killer.
27. AT THE GATES: SLAUGHTER OF THE SOUL: The landmark album in the Gothenburg style. Every metalcore band owes a major debt to this album. The sound is still better when you hear the real thing.
26. MAYHEM: DE MYSTERIIS DOM. SATANAS: The most famous album from the Norwegian black metal scene. This album came after singer Dead committed suicide, but before bassist Varg Vikernes murdered guitarist Euronymous. A cold, terrifying atmosphere.
25. SEPULTURA: BENEATH THE REMAINS: Brazilian thrash metal band on their best album. The band had left their rawer Slayer/Sodom sound behind on this one in favor of a more refined thrash. Still a amazing album, but the band would go downhill into groove metal soon after.
24. DESTROYER 666: COLD STEEL...FOR AN IRON AGE: Fairly unknown band out of Australia. D666 combine thrash metal and black metal into an aggressive and raw sound, featuring lyrics about war. The sound would come to be known as War Metal and this is one of its elite bands.
23. ROTTING CHRIST: NON SERVIAM: Atmospheric black metal band from Greece. This is the album that the band put everything together and managed to incorporate some Greek folk music elements as well.
22. OZZY OSBOURNE: DIARY OF A MADMAN: In my opinion, this is Ozzy's best. The songs are not as well-known but they are better written and stronger. Guitar virtuoso Randy Rhoads's last album before he died in a plane crash.
21. DESTROYER 666: UNCHAIN THE WOLVES: Slightly less thrashy than the other D666 album and a lot more black metal. This is the band's debut album and a very impressive debut at that.
20. ENTOMBED: LEFT HAND PATH: Swedish death metal pioneers on their debut album. One of the all time classic death metal albums, with a dirty rock and roll vibe to it with gruff vocals. Some truly evil sounding metal. Unfortunately the band would later take a very strange direction.
19. DARK TRANQUILLITY: THE GALLERY: One of the pioneering bands of the Gothenburg melodic death metal sound on their greatest album. Standard harsh vocals mixed with rolling guitar leads over heavy bass riffs. An amazing album, and even better if you can find the version with the bonus tracks. Their version of Metallica's "My Friend of Misery" is quite possibly better than the original.
18. JUDAS PRIEST: DEFENDERS OF THE FAITH: One of the all time great bands in heavy metal and a big reason for the continuing scene today. Priest took the Black Sabbath sound and added speed and power. This is, in my opinion, their greatest album. It has the energy of their 70's material and the heaviness of their 80's material in the best overall package.
17. IRON MAIDEN: POWERSLAVE: This was the first album that Maiden started experimenting with a more epic feel. Their previous albums were a little too punk for my tastes, though I do enjoy them. This album dropped the punk vibe in favor of a straightforward metal assault.
16. PANTERA: COWBOYS FROM HELL: The only Pantera album I truly enjoy all the way through and it is amazing. This is before the "trademarked Pantera" sound which they ripped off of Exhorder. This album is more of a power/thrash hybrid. Phil Anselmo's wailing shrieks are incredible and the album is fast and energetic.
15. ICED EARTH: SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES: This band is quite possibly the Iron Maiden of its generation. Melodic and powerful, backed by Jon Schaeffer's characteristic galloping guitar riffs and Matt Barlow's impressive vocals.
14. DEATH: SYMBOLIC: Death further delves into the progressive death style they had begun experimenting with from a couple albums previous. Chuck Schuldiner is one of my favorite figures in metal as he was incredibly influential on the technical death metal scene. His guitar playing is extraordinary and his tortured screams are extremely powerful. R.I.P. Chuck.
13. EMPEROR: IN THE NIGHTSIDE ECLIPSE: My favorite black metal album and the first black metal band I ever purchased. Emperor combines the raspy vocals and raw aggressive riffs of other Norwegian black metal bands with orchestral synthesizers and cold atmosphere.
12. MORBID ANGEL: COVENANT: One of the first death metal bands, this album is pure unadulterated aggression and power. Only "God of Emptiness" slows things down and that is one of the most frighteningly evil songs I've ever heard. The video is on my profile page.
11. BLACK SABBATH: PARANOID: The band that started it all. This is their second album and they have perfected the sound they experimented with on their first album. This album contains the all time classics "Iron Man", "Paranoid", and "War Pigs." It also contains the highly underrated "Electric Funeral."
10. SLAYER: REIGN IN BLOOD: Brutal, fast, and intense. This album was a huge turning point in heavy metal. Slayer added an extreme aggression missing from the likes of Metallica in the thrash metal scene. This album also helped to spawn the death metal genre. A little tame by today’s standards, but a total mindfuck when it was released.
9. SODOM: AGENT ORANGE: In my opinion, the best of the Big Three of German thrash metal bands. Sodom, like Slayer also had major influences on another genre of metal besides thrash. In Sodom’s case, they heavily influence black metal and their first EP is widely considered one of the first black metal recordings. This album was when Sodom perfected their war-influenced thrash attack.
8. KREATOR: PLEASURE TO KILL: The German version of Slayer, Kreator’s riffs are fast and brutal and Mille Petrozza’s shrieks are incredibly powerful. One of the most aggressive-sounding vocalists of all time in front of some killer thrash riffs. The best album to come out of the German thrash scene. This one will pummel the listener from start to finish.
7. MORBID ANGEL: ALTARS OF MADNESS: One of the first death metal albums. Extremely raw and intense combining David Vincent’s powerful growls, some insane drumming, and Trey Azagthoth’s impressive guitar riffing style into something uncompromising in its aggression. Many bands have tried and failed to sound like Morbid Angel, one of the true masters of the genre.
6. BLACK SABBATH: MASTER OF REALITY: Speaking of masters of the genre, this is THE album by Black Sabbath. This is when they were in full-on doom metal mode. Highly underrated album for some reason, but it features the absolutely killer song Children of the Grave.
5. METALLICA: MASTER OF PUPPETS: Widely considered the top metal album of all time by a bunch of people who really don’t know much about metal. Don’t get me wrong, this is an absolute classic, but it’s not even the best album by Metallica. Some great songs but Metallica was starting to become a little pretentious on this one, just look at the absurd song lengths on here. Still an amazing album.
4. DISSECTION: STORM OF THE LIGHT’S BANE: This album gives me chills. Dissection is truly terrifying and they present an extremely cold, grim atmosphere. Tremolo guitar riffs, insanely technical drumming, and the inhuman shrieking of Jon Nodtveidt make up most of the sound, but the album also features some haunting acoustic guitar interludes to keep the listener on his toes before steamrolling into more powerful black metal.
3. MEGADETH: RUST IN PEACE: Megadeth’s finest hour. Dave Mustaine teamed up with guitar virtuoso Marty Friedman and the two shredders absolutely had a blast with this one. Searing guitar solos perpetuate this album. Tornado of Souls is one of the greatest thrash songs of all time.
2. IRON MAIDEN: SEVENTH SON OF A SEVENTH SON: Somewhat of a theme album from Iron Maiden this time around, many of the songs focus on psychic abilities. The high point of Maiden’s career finds them putting together epic songs backed by amazing guitar riffs and solos and Bruce Dickinson’s soaring operatic vocals. Amazing stuff.
1. METALLICA: RIDE THE LIGHTNING: As I alluded to earlier, this is Metallica’s greatest album and my personal favorite album of all time. I am partial to this because it was my first metal album. But it is also the best combination of the better styles of Metallica. Forget the shit they have put out since AJFA, this album combines their almost-progressive thrash sound of MOP and AJFA with the raw aggressive thrash of KEA. Great, powerful songs like Fade to Black and For Whom the Bell Tolls make this album completely unforgettable.

Also, here is a post that I did for Halloween:

Well here we are on Halloween. This is definitely one of my favorites holidays, if not my favorite. One of the things I like to do on Halloween is listen to music that quite clearly has a Halloween vibe to it. I tortured myself for about half an hour last night picking out 10 albums to listen to today. Most people know I am a little obsessive compulsive about my listening habits. Nowhere is this more evident than last night in preparing this. So without further ado and in alphabetical order, I present my Halloween playlist.
1. Cradle of Filth: Dusk...And Her Embrace: Cradle of Filth is a bit of a guilty pleasure of mine. I enjoy the creepy atmospherics and surprisingly Dani Filth's voice. This is definitely a good band to listen to on Halloween because of the over-the-top image and subject matter. In my opinion Dani Filth is an excellent lyricist, although that is sometimes missed due to his psychotic shrieking. This is Cradle of Filth at their gothic and symphonic best before they were more concerned with selling albums.
2. Death: Scream Bloody Gore: How can you pass up an album with song titles like Zombie Ritual, Regurgitated Guts, Baptized in Blood, Evil Dead, and Beyond the Unholy Grave? Death's first full-length is an extremely raw, stripped-down, fun listen. One of the earliest death metal albums and still one of the best.
3. Denial Fiend: They Rise: Former lead singer of Death Kam Lee started a new band devoted to the same feeling as his early band. Again, a lot of fun, with most songs dealing with horror movies. The gang vocals give the impression that the band had as much fun making the album as I do hearing it.
4. Dimmu Borgir: In Sorte Diaboli: Similar to Cradle of Filth in that they are extremely over-the-top. I ultimately chose this album just because of the symphonic parts which I felt gave it a Halloween feel. Not my favorite Dimmu Borgir album, but not terrible.
5. Iced Earth: Horror Show: Each song on this album deals with a different horror movie monster with Dracula, The Creature From the Black Lagoon, The Phantom of the Opera, Damien, and Frankenstein all represented. Ultimately a disposable album from this band, and was done to fulfill a contract, but it's a good listen this time of year.
6. King Diamond: "Them": The master horror storyteller in one of his greatest concept albums. "Them" is the story of Grandma returning from an asylum, some bloody tea, and ghosts trying to reclaim their home. A hell of a lot of fun although you really need to be in the mood because of King's falsetto. The music is fantastic traditional metal.
7. Luna Ad Noctum: Dimness' Profound: An underrated symphonic black metal gem. This is the sound Dimmu Borgir strives for. Thrashy riffs, creepy vocals, and keyboard flourishes abound in this. The cover is fantastic as well.
8. Merciless Death: Evil in the Night: The impression is that these thrash metal revivalists are trying to channel early Death. Another one heavy on the zombies and murderous rampages. One of the best acts of the new thrash revival.
9. Mercyful Fate: Don't Break the Oath: King Diamond's prior band. They laid a lot of groundwork for black metal bands. Surprisingly not a concept album although it gives off an overall eerie vibe. Definitely not one to listen to in the dark alone.
10. Possessed: Seven Churches: I love this album and try to get it in whenever I can. That said, the reason for its inclusion here is the opening track The Exorcist, complete with the theme from Tubular Bells. One of the early Satanic bands and helped usher in death metal. The rest of the songs are fast and thrashy as hell. This is not an all-encompassing list. It's just what I chose for today, so if there are any arguments, I don't really care.