Saturday, 1 August 2015

TOP 50 of 2000-2009, Part 2, 40 to 31

40. Ningen-Isu – Hoochie Koo (2006)

Choosing a Ningen-Isu (人間椅子) album was a given for this list, the difficult task was to choose which one as they released seven album during the last decade and they're all excellent. I picked this one because franky it has a rabbit on it, I mean, how freaking cool is that? Well,no, really, it's a very solid album and I prefer this rockier side to the more modern one they're playing recently. It's very varied and if you have yet to discover this Japanese band, it's time to do so. You could start with any of their albums but Hoochie Koo isn't a bad place to start.

39. Mastodon – Leviathan (2004)
Before turning into a progressive or melodic metal/rock band, Mastodon were a super interesting sludge band with heavy riffs and complex drumming. This album will (and already is to some point) be seen as an influential classic in the decades to come, it has everything from speedy crushing numbers like “I am Ahab” to more epic ones like the excellent “Hearts Alive”. Hate on Mastodon for their tremendous rise into metal stardom but they actually wrote compelling music and still do.

38. Gojira – The Way of All Flesh (2008)
The French groove masters released “From Mars to Sirius” some years prior to this one and it made them quite popular but I personally prefer “The Way...” with the magnum opus “The Art of Dying” which is one of my favorite songs ever. The rest of the album isn't quite as good but I highly enjoy their mix of death metal, groove, progressive metal and some metalcore influences. The Duplantier brothers are both killer musicians and they unleash the groove song after song.

37. Crescent Shield – The Stars of Never Seen (2009)
The last album before the passing of singer Michael Grant is a great testimonial to the man. The Americans' two albums were two very unique releases in the metal spectrum, evolving in a smart, epic and original heavy/power genre, Grant and DeLucie (master guitarist known for other bands like Destiny's End) were a strong team and wrote great songs like the historical epic “The Endurance” about the Antarctica exploration by Ernest Shackleton in 1914-1917. I always enjoyed US power metal way more than its Europeau counterpart since there's a right balance between cheese, heavyness and epicness, Crescent Shield is top notch metal worth more praise. RIP Michael.

36. In Solitude – In Solitude (2008)
The debut of these Swedes is perhaps the best revival heavy metal album of recent times. Despite the young age of all the members at the time, they wrote a pretty mature album full of solid trad riffs and memorable choruses in the purest Mercyful Fate fashion. I thought their last album “Sister” was a superior record but it was something widely different from the self titled. In Solitude remains essential metal and may they rest in peace.

35. Kylesa – Static Tensions (2009)
Kylesa's super catchy psychedelic sludge is phenomenal, from the lush guitars of metal sweetheart Laura Pleasants to the mix of female and male vocals, the Georgian band has continuously improved since their debut and continue to do so. Their latest album “Ultraviolet” is also pretty good and see Kylesa move towards an even more psych direction but “Static Tensions” was pretty great at merging the aggressiveness of their early days with their current sound.

34. Esoteric – The Maniacal Vale (2006)
Greg Chandler and his band released the pinnacle of funeral doom metal with this 100 minutes double album voyage into the deepest abyss of slow, dark metal. It's a hard album to swallow in one sitting but I think it's the only way to listen to it. Put some headphones, close the lights (very important) and let the down-tuned riffs and the super cavernous vocals move you. If you're suicidal or depressed, it's perhaps not the best album to listen to though...

33. Communic – Payment of Existence (2008)
Norway is widely known in the metal world for their numerous black metal legends but they also have excellent progressive metal outfits like Arcturus, Circus Maximus or this pick, Communic. The three albums released by this power trio during this decade are all very fucking good but I discovered them with “Payment of Existence” hence its choice. I have a thing for long songs full of heavy riffs and high clean vocals and the band lead by Oddleif Stensland (guitar, vocals) hits all the right note with me. They could be compared to Nevermore (especially in the vocal department) but I think they crush the Americans by being way more atmospheric, compelling and progressive. I think people don't talk enough about this band and that's a shame since they're extremely good.

32. Vektor – Black Future (2009)
The whole retro thrash scene is deadly boring and I don't like any of those bands (see Warbringer or Bonded By Blood) but Vektor are something else. Grandly influenced by Voivod, these four dudes are into space and sci fi instead of being into “killing posers with an axe” or “driving tanks to kill posers” like your typical thrashers. The long intricate songs full of excellent solos and screeching black metal-esque vocals are excellent. Progressive thrash has always been a favorite of mine with bands like Mekong Delta or even Megadeth's Rust In Peace and these Americans managed to write a compelling album to lead thrash metal into modernity without sacrificing heaviness, quality and originality.

31. Deceased – As the Weird Travel On (2005)
King Fowley and company definitely released a great array of albums since their debut in 1991 but I think they reached their pinnacle with Supernatural Addiction in 2000 and this one five years later. Their blend of death, thrash and heavy metal has never worked as well and it's super catchy. I just love the mix of harsh, intelligible thrashy vocals mixed with Maidenesque leads, it works much better than the heavy metal project of Fowley called October 31 that are sadly far from being as good as Deceased. The intelligent lyrics about horror literature (think Poe or Lovecraft) is also a noteworthy component and it's always a plus in my book. Essential American metal.

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