Wow, what a year! If you're reading this, then allow me to congratulate you for surviving the year 2008. At times it seemed as if the very fabric of society was steadily coming unravelled like the cheap secondhand sweater of some unsuspecting emo kid, but more importantly, it was a very productive year in the world of metal. The word "unprecedented" is thrown around a lot these days, but I think it's highly apt when referring to the sheer volume of new music that was released in this past year. Literally almost everyone released an album in 2008, even me! And I'm just, like, some guy or something! Nevertheless, I feel confident that I've stayed abreast of all the best metal albums coming out recently, making this perhaps my most well-researched Top 10 list thus far. Let's start off with some miscellaneous awards:
Highest number of snare hits in a given song:
Lord Belial, The Black Curse.
Lowest number of snare hits in a given song:
Esoteric, The Maniacal Vale.
Least likely band to ever have a hit song:
The "I wish Warrel Dane would start singing" award:
Jeff Loomis, Zero Order Phase. Jeff, you're a certified guitar god, but you've got some hefty competition out there when it comes to instrumental music. Now please get started on another Nevermore album.
The "O hai, we can haz emo vocalz now?" award:
Cryptopsy, The Unspoken King. I hope you've learned your lesson, "Cryptopsy", if that is your real name. Now take your award and go back to Canada! You think you're so great with your free health care and your Jones Soda and your slightly higher prices on manufactured goods!
Best concept album about an alien who drinks coffee:
(no entries submitted this year)
Most unnecessary album by a washed-up, self-parodying artist:
Metallica, Death Magnetic. Yes, I forced myself to listen to this entire album, and I will admit that the first song is actually pretty good, but overall, listening to Death Magnetic is a lot like watching Star Wars, Revenge of the Sith: Sure, it's great that Jar-Jar 's not in it, but it's still a piece of crap compared to the first three.
Now back to the hard-working bands who still do their own laundry...
10. The Faceless, Planetary Duality. Although I'm not as blown away by technical death metal as I used to be, The Faceless keep things interesting by steering clear of most of the cliches associated with this genre. Their well-polished style is a fine example of modern death metal, owing a lot to bands like Necrophagist, Meshuggah, and even Cynic.
09. Nihil Nocturne, Entheogen. An interesting atmospheric black metal band that's quite pleasant to listen to. I found myself enjoying this much more than the latest from veteran black metallers Lord Belial, although it's not really "better" in any demonstrable way.
08. Cubensis, Metaphysical Impact. The closest thing to metalcore you'll ever catch me listening to. This band is very mosh-friendly, with similarities to Mastodon, Meshuggah, and Gojira, but somehow they manage to sound really fresh and unique.
07. Gojira, The Way Of All Flesh. If you thought From Mars To Sirius was Gojira's breakthrough album, think again. It's actually this one. Having heard their entire discography now, I think this is by far their best work to date.
06. Korpiklaani, Korven Kuningas. I don't care if this band ever changes. They're awesome just the way they are, and "Ali Jaisten Vetten" is one of their best songs yet.
05. Eluveitie, Slania. An impressive follow-up to Spirit that undoubtedly delivers an equal amount of the proverbial goods. A very complete-sounding band, considering this is only their second full-length album. I'm not sure how they can even improve upon their sound at this point.
04. Hammers Of Misfortune, Fields / Church Of Broken Glass. An excellent double-disc from a very eclectic band with captivating male and female vocals. This album has a bit of a Pink Floyd / 70's flair to it, but not in a predictable way. Their style is difficult to pinpoint, but I'm just going to call it progressive post-folk metal and leave it at that.
03. Meshuggah, obZen. It's been said that Meshuggah is a "musician's band". It should also be said that obZen is a Meshuggah fan's album. It may not win them any new converts, but everything that makes the band great is here in full force. As with all things Meshuggah, you really have to pay close attention to appreciate the exceptional musicianship on display here.
02. Canvas Solaris, The Atomized Dream. A highly underrated band with an insane amount of talent. The kind of band that could probably play any style if they wanted to, but luckily for me, they've chosen to play purely instrumental music in the vein of Gordian Knot and At War With Self. That said, The Atomized Dream should allow them to shed all comparisons with other bands, as they've truly established their own unique identity with this beautiful collection of songs.
01. Cynic, Traced In Air. Even though I had already heard three of the new songs by the time this album was released, it still managed to surpass my expectations. Not that I ever expected them to make another album in the first place! Fifteen years after the groundbreaking Focus, Cynic has given us a worthy follow-up which can only enrich their legacy in the history of metal. Having accomplished this, they can once again ride off into the sunset, leaving the bewildered townspeople to remark, "There goes the best damn gee-tar band I ever did hear."