One of these days, I will get this series caught up.
AMORPHIS: AM UNIVERSUM
Amorphis continued to change their sound on this release, abandoning almost all of their prior death metal influences for a much more progressive and even psychedelic sound. Nevertheless, this remains a terrific album from the band. I actually prefer their more progressive metal sound to their death metal roots, but I may be in the minority there. The additions of the saxophone to several parts, especially the baritone sax in the last track, is my favorite part of this release. I used to play the sax in high school.
FINNTROLL: JAKTENS TID
This was the first folk metal album I ever heard, and I got it in a grab bag from Century Media. As it is, I cannot think of a better introduction into the world of folk metal. There is certainly more than enough influences from death and black metal here as well as the folk melodies. It does not stray too far into folk territory, clearly resting on the metal side of the fence. It is also catchy and memorable. A great introduction to this scene.
MOONSPELL: DARKNESS AND HOPE
Moonspell is another band whose sound is constantly evolving. On this release, the band has adopted more of a dark, gothic metal sound. This was the first album by the Portuguese band I had heard and it got me very interested in checking out further releases. This is a slower, somber, and darkly beautiful release. Vocalist Fernando Ribeiro's deep, soothing baritone is the highlight of the album. Moonspell even does a decent job at covering Ozzy's "Mr. Crowley" on this.
OPETH: BLACKWATER PARK
Often considered Opeth's masterpiece, this one is not my favorite but it is definitely up there. The band's fifth album features one of their most complete and well-formed combinations of their progressive rock side and their death metal side. This is definitely the album to point to as the best summation of the band's sound. It is a great album, full of excellent instrumental passages and of course Mikael Akerfeldt's terrific voice. It's not my favorite Opeth album, but it is amazing all the same.
SONATA ARCTICA: SILENCE
I have a bit of a soft spot for romantic, powerful European power metal and Sonata Arctica can definitely deliver on that. When they are not playing ballads on this release, their music is extremely fast and infectious. But the ballads also shine brightly on this album. "Tallulah" in particular is a very emotional song. This is a long album, but it never feels long. It is instead, an impressive take on European power metal and one of the best albums in the scene in my opinion.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: ARCH ENEMY: WAGES OF SIN, ICED EARTH: HORROR SHOW, MEGADETH: THE WORLD NEEDS A HERO, SLAYER: GOD HATES US ALL.
BANDS THAT FORMED IN 2001: The Black Dahlia Murder, Dragonlord.