My Top 10 Albums Of The 00's
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My Top 10
Remedy Lane - Pain of Salvation
Originally Released: January 2002
Genre: Progressive rock, progressive metal
I flit between both 2000's The Perfect Element, Part 1 and 2002's Remedy Lane as to which is my favourite Pain of Salvation's album but for whatever reason the latter has marginally gone ahead in my favour of late. Similar to its predecessor this is a vast emotional journey of an album, one in which vocalist (guitarist and songwriter) Daniel Gildenlöw pours absolutely everything into his delivery and to that end I think there are times the listener needs to be in the mood to listen to it in its entirety, you really need to strap yourself in and prepare yourself for a (nearly) seventy minute concept album about relationships,tragedy and existence.It's certainly worth the effort though, it's achingly beautiful stuff with effortless transitions of textures and moods in the prog tradition. Gildenlöw's powerful, characteristic and at times eccentric vocal delivery are more akin to Mike Patton than James Labrie, which certainly gives an individual edge over other bands in the Progressive metal genre.
Isa - Enslaved
Originally Released: November 2004
Genre: Progressive metal, Black metal, Viking metal
I'd only briefly flirted with Black Metal (or Viking Metal for that matter) throughout the previous years, though it was a pretty fascinating sub-genre to read about but outside of the likes of Emperor and Arcturus I'd never really delved into it in terms of listening habits. Enslaved were one of those bands I'd read about, the Pink Floyd and King Crimson influence they had absorbed sometime at the turn of the millennium really piqued my interest and the release of Isa was when I jumped on board. It's still my favourite album of theirs to this day (though Axioma Ethica Odini pushes it close). The psychedelic/prog influences seem to grow more and more as the album develops, the likes of Bounded by Allegiance with its repeating tribal psychedelia building into epic spirals before climaxing with blissful solos and harrowing screams or Return to Yggdrasill with its sudden surge of shimmering melodic chords framed by sections of icy aggression. Then there's the absolutely colossal Neogeneseis, among my favourite tracks to this day, a giant of a song, perfecting the fusion of the extreme metal attack and the kaleidoscopic splendour of progressive- rock.
In Absentia - Porcupine Tree
Originally Released: September 2002
Genre: Progressive rock
I'd never heard of Porcupine Tree until Steve Wilson's association with Opeth (Wilson produced their classic Blackwater Park) which being a metal guy with only a rather casual interest in prog I guess makes sense because suddenly the band were featured in the rock/metal press a lot more prominently and an injection of metallic riffs into the Porcupine Tree sound on In Absentia helped acclimate them to a new fanbase, myself included.
The melancholic psychedelic pop sound of their 90's material is still very much prominent but there's that harder sound to individual tracks that Wilson has attributed to influence of Opeth and Meshuggah in particular. So tracks like Blackest Eyes and Wedding Nails have an overtly heavier, staccato riff flavoured feel to them though that doesn't compromise PT's overall melody, this is closer to Tool and Pink Floyd than it is death metal. Then there's the likes of Trains perhaps PT's most popular track, a gorgeous piece of nostalgia tinged pop-rock or the heartbreaking acoustic driven harmonies of Heartbreak In A Layby that in a parallel Utopian universe in which justice always prevails would have been monster hit singles. One could be mistaken for thinking that In Absentia is a concept album because the lyrics have similar themes, often reflecting on "people on the fringes, on the edges of humanity and society".
Ghost Reveries - Opeth
Originally Released: August 29, 2005
Genre: Progressive metal, Progressive rock, Death metal
I'll continue to harp on about how absolutely brilliant Opeth were throughout the late 90's and 00's until I'm blue in the face and that fine form was very much evident on 2005's Ghost Reveries. Personally I wasn't as big a fan of the Damnation/Deliverance project as some, and even back then felt as through the band really lacked something without that true meshing of genres that characterised their sound (I found Damnation in particular to be really quite dull and sadly would become somewhat of a template for their latter day work) but with Ghost Reveries they returned to form with magnificent precision, in fact this maybe the most successful that the band have been in terms of blending brutality with melody. I think they really brought the latter even further to the fore here, with Mikael Åkerfeldt's singing vocals notably stronger and more in the way of experimentation with pastoral, progressive sonic's, though there's still more than enough death metal there to give it that wonderfully textured versatility that became Opeth's raison d'être.
Ashes Against the Grain - Agalloch
Originally Released: August 2006
Genre: Post-metal, Folk metal, Black metal
Melancholic metal elegance is how I'd personally describe Agalloch's sound, my point being despite their association with the black metal sub-genre there's clearly an awful lot of other stuff going on here. Agalloch are rarely overtly aggressive, their sound has a cinematic scope, ushering up images and moods of bleakly beautiful landscapes and existential reflection. These familiar themes are ever present across Ashes Against The Grain, a wintery ambience that permeates every track. As with its predecessor The Mantle there is much in the way of the influence of post-rock and neofolk here, the initial metal influences at the core are decorated with lush melancholic melodies and a folk inflected atmospherics. tracks like Falling Snow and Not Unlike The Waves are brimming with haunting melodic hooks that follow the listener into their subconscious state, lingering like dancing shards of smoky light in the darkness, melding and becoming one with the soul.
Panopticon - Isis
Originally Released: October 19, 2004
Genre: Post-metal, sludge metal, progressive metal
Isis were one of my favourite bands of the decade, I remember first hearing them around the release of Celestial and I knew they would be very important in terms of redefining metal for the new millennium and as the years progressed it became startlingly clear exactly how special they were. Honestly if this list had been that bit longer I could have happily included 2002's Oceanic and 2006's In The Absence Of Truth as I rate both of those extremely highly too but I think the common consensus is Panopticon is their masterpiece and I'll go along with that. Post-metal isn't everybody's cup of java but for me and my listening habits it was clearly a part of the evolutionary process, at eighteen years old at the turn of the millennium the Bostonian band sounded like the future. What really sets Panoticon apart from the pack is the vast amount of melody injected into their sound, yes it is crushingly heavy but the gorgeous swell of chords coats the molten lava riffs like a swell of precipitation, as beautiful as it is destructive.
The Mantle - Agalloch
Originally Released: August, 2002
Genre: Folk metal, Black metal, Post-metal
The Mantle is arguably Agalloch's pinnacle moment, beginning with the eerily restrained In the Shadow of Our Pale Companion, an acoustic soaked epic that is widely considered one of the band's best and from there it's straight into the absolutely gorgeous instrumental Odal, a track so jaw droppingly beautiful it conjures up images of the vastness and the cruel allure of nature. 99's Pale Folklore was clearly a great debut but in terms of production and overall songwriting Agalloch had clearly moved on leaps and bounds, their sound sharpened to a refined sheen. This trend characterises their sophomore effort as a whole, folky acoustic chords, a melancholic, almost doomed atmosphere and evocative distorted guitar melodies. The feeling of restraint is clear too, even when they are full out black metal (which is actually very rare on The Mantle) Agalloch are somehow not aggressive in the crudest sense but offer a cultivated assault rather a barbaric one. The influence of the likes of Godspeed You Black Emperor and The 3rd and The Mortal are as prominent as Katatonia and Ulver, heck I even detect quite a lot of Fields Of Nephilim in those evocative guitar leads too.
Blackwater Park - Opeth
Originally Released: February, 2001
Genre: Progressive death metal,Progressive rock
I'd regard both Blackwater Park and Still Life to be among my top 10 albums of all time and it's really difficult for me to choose between the two as to which I prefer, Still Life narrowly pushes into the lead because it was my introduction to Opeth and thus has the sentimental edge but none the less that would be a slither or marginal favour because quite simply Blackwater Park is a masterwork. The familiar marriage of extreme metal brutality and autumnal progressive folk that the band had been refining since the mid-90's is present but here it's perfected, with Steven Wilson's immaculate production bringing the Swedish quartet to all new heights of musical zenith. Tracks like opener The Leper Infinity, The Drapery Falls and the title track are bona-fide examples of millennial metal at its absolute best.
Lateralus - Tool
Originally Released: May 2001
Genre: Progressive metal
...and to think the five year gap between Ænima and Lateralus actually seemed like a long time... 2001 was an important year for me in terms of music, I was eighteen and was a cultural sponge soaking up music, movies, books, comics, video games and TV like they were the very sustenance of the soul, I mean don't get me wrong I still do that but when you're younger that's when that stuff really matters, because your mindset hasn't yet been solidified, or jaded by existence, your tastes are fluctuating and mind (hopefully) open. It was troubled year in a lot of ways for me too, a lot of things had changed in my life and there was quite a bit of upheaval (as we all go through) and music was a salvation. Then Lateralus dropped and it's impact on my psyche still lingers to this day and what we get is a colossal journey into the soul, to sum up exactly how special tracks like Parabola and the title track are to me in terms of my vain attempt at music critic ramblings would be rather trite, suffice to say these tracks are fused with my being in a way that goes beyond explanation and words.
Jane Doe - Converge
Originally Released: September, 2001
Genre: Metalcore, hardcore punk, post-hardcore
... 2001 was a special year indeed.
The sanitised, nonsense that has become modern metalcore in all it's overproduced, makeup wearing, diluted melo-death conterfeit riffs and cringe-worthy melodic vocal break banality isn't actually metalcore, it's vacuous pop music with an At The Gates fixation. Now Jane Doe that's what metalcore is and should be, the perfect fusion of the streetwise,DIY ethics of hardcore punk with the brutality and savagery of metal. Not only that but it's the prime example of what 21st Century metal should be; an extraordinary tidal wave of passion and immense in it's intelligence and depth, the listener is plunged into a volcanic storm of emotions. This isn't easy listening by any means, this is genuine, pure, ferocious heartbreak, the loss of love made into a 45 minute frenetic expression of tragedy and my favourite album of all time.
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