After much procrastination and delays, I've finally gotten around to creating my top twenty discs for the year of 2007! As I sit in front of the computer and type this out, one thing that seems to stick out in my mind is how many disappointments I seemed to witness in 2007, which is what I'd like to use as my scapegoat as to why I am only getting around to this as of the final day of February (thank god for leap year!). Anyways, here's a few of last year's most disappointing with a quick explanation.
Dimmu Borgir - In Sorti Diaboli: They cranked up the guitars on this one, as if only to show us how boring they are without the heavy symphonics. Not to mention the lame concept story.
Shadows Fall - Threads of Life: More like last threads of life! How the mighty have fallen, in an effort to grasp a more commercial appeal. The ballad is nauseating.
The Agony Scene - Get Damned: The Darkest Red was simply venomous, but Get Damned feels like one of the laziest recordings of the year. At least put a little effort into it guys!
As I Lay Dying - An Ocean Between Us: Awkward clean vocals and a clear attempt to jump the metalcore bandwagon to more thrashy guitar riffing (like every other metalcore band at the moment) left me yawning through this one.
Dimension Zero - He Who Shall Not Bleed: Why does the singer sound like a pissed off troll now? Not to mention how all the songs sound exactly the same. What happened??
Malevolent Creation - Doomsday X: Considering the line-up that recorded this, it should have been the death metal album of the year. Why can't I make past the second track without being bored to tears?
I could probably continue for a while, but it's pretty depressing as is. Thankfully, there was a solid amount of good to great metal to counterbalance the massive disappointment numbers. Here's a few honorable mentions that just failed to make the list:
Graveworm - Collateral Damage
The Duskfall - The Dying Wonders of the World
Neaera - Armamentarium
Mors Principium Est - Liberation = Termination
Amoral - Reptile Ride
Now on to the main event! As with last year, I've included one track to check out if you haven't heard of the band that is one of my favorites and a good representation of the disc.
20. Pantheon I - The Wanderer and His Shadow: Easily my most favorite black metal efforts since Anorexia Nervosa's last release. The Emperor-stamp is easy to find but the melancholic aspects of the disc keep it far away from being a mere rip-off. I have a feeling this band is going to explode with their next release.
Check this track out: Coming to an End
19. Nightrage - A New Disease is Born: While I'm sure many will disagree, I'd say this is easily Nightrage's strongest disc, and without the supergroup line-up. More diverse than previous offerings, no doubt in part due to newcomer Jimmie Strimmell's vocals.
Check this track out: Reconcile
18. Blinded Colony - Bedtime Prayers: BC followed through on the promise of their previous demo, releasing a great disc of modern melodic death. Infectiously catchy choruses, thrashy riffs, a few solos would have been nice but I can't complain.
Check this track out: My Halo
17. Behemoth - The Apostasy: By far, my favorite release from this band. It has an epic atmosphere that helps to distinguish some of the songs, while retaining the band's penchant for overwhelming brutality and aggression. I also love how they toned down the vocals so they weren't so overpowering and loud in the mix.
Check this track out: Kriegsphilosophie
16. The Project Hate - In Hora Mortis Nostrae: The masters of beauty/beast vocals return with another rock solid effort of their unique brand of death metal. The vocals of Jorgen and Jo have never sounded better and the recording itself is stunning! 7 tracks and over an hour of music, it's not an effort for those with musical ADD but awesome for those who can dig it.
Check this track out: Crawling Through the Infinite Fields of Carnage
15. Novembers Doom - The Novella Reservoir: Another outstanding effort from one of the leaders of the doom/death movement. The added intensity and death metal influence helped me spin this one quite a bit longer than previous efforts. A nicely diverse disc!
Check this track out: Rain
14. Zonaria - Infamy and the Breed: Is it a bit drenched in Hypocrisy and Dimmu influence? Sure, but that doesn't stop Zonaria from having the highest debut ranking in my list this year. Solid Swedish death metal can never do wrong in my books, and these guys already have it down to a science.
Check this track out: The Armageddon Anthem
13. Arch Enemy - Rise of the Tyrant: Rise of the Tyrant successfully fulfills the hype that surrounded AE's previous effort, Doomsday Machine, with the most consistency I've seen in an AE release. It's also got plenty of drool-inducing riffs and melodies, thankfully they went easy on the droning slower tracks this time around and kept things moving.
Check this track out: Vultures
12. Amorphis - Silent Waters: After the great Eclipse, I'm pleased to say that Amorphis has delivered the goods once again. More diverse than Eclipse, with a few tracks that even sound like they could have been Elegy leftovers!
Check this track out: The White Swan
11. Sonic Syndicate - Only Inhuman: I feel I was far too harsh when I reviewed this one back in the summer, as it's definitely grown better with age. "Denied" is one the catchiest songs I've heard, bar none, and the rest of the disc keeps me coming back for more. Modern melodic death done right. Only "All About Us" kept it from being higher on the list.
Check this track out: Denied
10. The Black Dahlia Murder - Nocturnal: TBDM continue to get better with age, and Nocturnal is their best offering yet. Going back towards more horror-esque lyrics and putting yet more death metal into the mix, along with some very subtle blackened bits have kept this one on regular rotation.
Check this track out: Worship Only What You Bleed
9. Deadlock - Wolves: Full of even better musicianship and melodic riffing, Wolves rivals Earth.Revolt quite nicely. The full-time addition of Sabine Weginer was a brilliant notion, and I'm excited to see where they are headed next. A must-have for melodeath fiends.
Check this track out: Bloodpact
8. Fall of the Leafe - Aerolithe: The gothic/rock band's last (RIP!) offering is certainly their most dynamic and powerful. Tuomas Tuominen's unique vocals may not be for everyone, but he truly shines on this disc. I'm not sure why this band flew under the radar of practically everybody.Check this track out: Sink Teeth Here
7. Raintime - Flies & Lies: Excellent melodic death/power metal in the vein of Mercenary and Scar Symmetry. Effectively diverse songs that range from blistering melodeath ("Apeiron") to progressive and melodic ("Finally Me"). The cover of "Beat It" is surprisingly not cheesy.
Check this track out: Another Transition
6. Fear My Thoughts - Vulcanus: Another band that really upped the diversity factor was FMT. From the vicious and straight-forward melodic thrash of "Survival Scars" to the melodies of "Gates to Nowhere" to the Opethian "Culture of Fear", I was addicted to this cd for the entire first half of the year. Though on a personal level it may not top Hell Sweet Hell, it's everything I expected from the band and then some.
Check this track out: Survival Scars
5. Soilwork - Sworn to a Great Divide: Their first effort without songwriter Peter Wichers proved to be their most consistent and solid release since A Predator's Portrait. With a nice mix of songs going from the more commercially-appealing "Exile" to the thrashier "Pittsburgh Syndrome" as well as more experimental ("Light Discovering Darkness") and traditional Soilwork-esque songs ("20 More Miles"). Additionally, Speed is at the very top of his game, pushing the choruses to mindblowing infectiousness.
Check this track out: Breeding Thorns
4. Dark Tranquillity - Fiction: As I mentioned in my review, Fiction seems to blend elements of all the Century Media era releases into one. Over time, it may become my favorite of DT's catalog (which is something I feel like I say with each release from them lately), but for now, it's a no brainer for any melodic metal fan. DT have yet to disappoint these ears and it's a testament to the band's strength after being around all these years.
Check this track out: Focus Shift
3. The Absence - Riders of the Plague: While I enjoyed The Absence's debut, I feel they've really come into their own on this one. With a vastly superior recording, upping the ante musicianship-wise, and gorgeous melodies that kick your ass and tap your toes at the same time, The Absence are really standing at the top of the melodeath pack to me. They've mastered that old school melodic death sound without sounding dated, and the injection of thrash is enough to make any metal fan salivate. Had this been a little longer (11 minutes of instrumetnals), it would have made a definite contender for #1.
Check this track out: Merciless
2. Iced Earth - Framing Armageddon: When I heard the "Ten Thousand Strong" single, I knew the potential was definitely there, but the first listen to Framing Armageddon simply blew me away. Songwise, its the most consistent IE has ever been, and Owens sounds phenomenal! Framing Armageddon is an ambitious concept album that was both intriguing and executed flawlessly. I could have done with a few less instrumentals to keep the flow of the songs going, but then listening to the disc as a whole truly captures the mind in a way that many concept albums fail to deliver on. The passion and energy that has been lacking in IE efforts for almost 10 years is back, full-force, and I'm thrilled with result. Part II can't come fast enough (though it'll be interesting to see how the return of Barlow effects things).
Check this track out: The Clouding
1. Carnal Forge - Testify For My Victims: Never would I have imagined that Carnal Forge, given their track record of discs that sound remarkably alike, would ever crack my top 10, let alone number one. But Testify For My Victims knocked me flat on my back the first time I heard it and I still haven't been able to get to my feet. The intricate melodies and guitarwork, melodic aggression and energy, and dynamic vocal performance of Jens Mortensen have kept this disc in my car for well over 1/2 a year now, getting consistent play time. I almost feel as if the band truly realized their potential with this disc, pulling out the subtle melodies and properly balancing them with their intense trademark aggression and speed. Without a doubt, the best thrash disc I've experienced since The Haunted's self-titled in 1998.