Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Ten Awesome Metal Albums From The 2000s (That You Should Definitely Listen To)

From Bloodbath to Scar Symmetry, a fond look back at a handful of somewhat underappreciated CDs from the aughties that are WELL worth revisiting today ...

By: Jimbo X

I used to be a huge metalhead. I still listen to the genre from time-to-time, but around the mid-2000s, I almost exclusively listened to death, black and grindcore. In fact, I used to wait all week to listen to the Georgia Tech metal show every Friday night, when I would get rip-roaring hosed on Dr. Pepper and vodka and play Metroid: Prime until 4 in the morning while being serenaded by Gorguts, Dark Tranquility and Cradle of Filth. Of course, this being before the proliferation of the internet (at least, in my own life), finding CDs from bands like Carcass and Deicide was virtually impossible. Hell, I used to freak out whenever I found Mastodon and Dragonforce albums at Walmart … aye, the nearest Best Buy was like, 30 miles away, and even then it was highly unlikely that even they would have the latest from Celtic Frost and Cephalic Carnage.

Indeed, it wasn’t until the late 2000s — we’re talking Great Recession time, folks — that the really obscure stuff became readily accessible … if not through traditional retailers, through avenues like iTunes, YouTube and social media. And from my perspective, not only were the ‘00s a tremendous time for the musical genre, from a holistic standpoint, it may have been the absolute best decade for metal ever

Let’s face it, a lot of the stuff from the ‘80s “golden era” just doesn’t hold up, and while there was plenty of great technical death metal in the ‘90s, on the whole there just wasn’t a lot of diversity across the genre spectrum during the Clinton Years. But from 2000 to 2009, you had quality stuff across the board pouring in, no matter how you preferred your metal. Black metal, death metal, grindcore, symphonic metal, neo-thrash metal, post-Pantera groove metal, neo-neo-power metal, you name it, the 2000s gave it to you in spades. 

Of course, it would be easy — very, very easy — to just sit down and say “hey, listen to all this shit Opeth, Devin Townsend and Arjen Luccasen did” and call it good. But no, we here at TIIIA like to do you one better and expose you to stuff off the beaten path, the lesser-known and lesser-heralded genre offerings from the Bush/Obama decade that maybe you’ve heard of or maybe you haven’t. By no means is the following “top ten” supposed to be an objective (or even subjective) ranking of the best metal albums to come out in the 2000s; rather, it’s a quick round-up of ten metal albums from the previous decade that I loved the shit out of that perhaps you’d enjoy, as well. Y’know, pending you’re not a pussy or anything like that.

Regardless, get ready to strap on your headphones and throw up the devil horns — here are ten good reasons why the 2000s were a fan-fucking-tastic time to be a conniseur of the devil’s music …

BloodbathThe Fathomless Mastery (2008)

You know how, back in the early ‘90s, Soundgarden and Pearl Jam merged together for one album and they called the whole shindig Temple of the Dog? Well, Bloodbath is pretty much the Swedish melodic death metal equivalent, featuring a mishmash of genre heavies Opeth and Katatonia. The tracks on The Fathomless Mastery are a lot faster and more aggressive than either of the bands’ “regular” work, which definitely gives it appeal to the more hardcore genre loyalists out there. Even better, for the track “Iesous,” they even got the dude from Scar Symmetry to step into the studio, in turn giving us one of the most blistering all-star metal mash-ups of the 21st century — yep, all three minutes and thirty-four seconds of it. Sure, a lot of people prefer their previous albums Resurrection Through Carnage and Nightmares Made Flesh, which, being the unabashed contrarian I am, is probably why I tend to gravitate towards this one … and if absolutely nothing else, it’s certainly WORLDS better than the two post-Akerfeldt albums released afterwards.

Cryptopsy Once Was Not (2005)

In the mid-1990s, Cryptopsy came out of nowhere (well, technically, Montreal) and hit us with two back-to-back death metal masterpieces — ’94’s Blasphemy Made Flesh and ’96’s None So Vile. Then lead singer Lord Worm left the band and then they shat out two really disappoint albums, only for Mr. Worm (which, call it a hunch, I’m pretty sure isn’t his real name) to make his triumphant return with 2005’s Once Was Not, an absolute sonic ass-kicker that stands tall as one of the subgenre’s best technical achievements of the decade. From the one-two opening salvo of “Luminum” and “In the Kingdom Where Everything Dies, the Sky is Mortal” to the concluding double shot of “The End” and “Endless Cemetery,” this CD is just 49 minutes of beautiful brutality from start to finish. And I don’t know how anyone can NOT say that Flo Mounier isn’t the greatest drummer in death metal history after giving this one a listen …

CynicTraced in Air (2008)

It took technical death metal pioneers Cynic 15 years to follow up their beloved debut album Focus, and while 2008’s Traced in Air didn’t quite net the same reaction out of the metal-o-sphere, it was nonetheless a rock solid outing that stands out as one of the better prog-death hybrids of the decade. Tracks like “Integral Brith,” “Evolutionary Sleeper” and “The Space For This” certainly have a vibe contra the genre zeitgeist, with a much greater focus on synth-lade ambiance than sheer vocal brutality. And Paul Masvidal — no relation to UFC fighter Jorge, I think — definitely gets to show off his pipes on this one, especially on the tracks “The Unknown Guest” and “Adam’s Murmur.” It may not have the blunt sonic force of some of the other albums on the list, but it definitely makes up for it with its idiosyncratic spaciness and atmosphere; this shit was tailor-made for late night bursts of Geist and Eternal Darkness right here.

GorgorothIncipit Satan (2000)

Following up 1998’s Destroyer was no small task, and while Incipit Satan doesn’t quite recreate the sheer brutality of that seminal black metal classic, it’s nonetheless a damn good album that offers quite a bit more aural diversity than you might expect from Gaahl and the gang — i.e., the album closer “When Love Rages Wild in My Heart,” which is about as close as we’ll ever likely get to Danzig playing frontman for Mayhem. On tracks like “Unchain my Heart!!!!” the boys get to show off their piano playing prowess, while on “An Excerpt of X,” we actually get to hear Infernus do his best spoken word performance over a heavy, chugging riff that feels more like something out of Crowbar setlist than the Cryptopsy songbook. And “Litani til Satan” HAS to be the greatest Charles Baudelaire cover in metal history, and it’s not even close.

Misery IndexDiscordia (2006)

What I dig about this album is that it’s just good, old-fashioned, no frills, super-cynical, East Coast death metal nihilism, through and through. While a lot of bands might try to impress you with their virtuosity or attempt to make their sound more refined and sophisticated, Baltimore’s Misery Index just comes out swinging on this album, and for all 33 minutes of its duration it’s like having cinder blocks dropped on your skull from a high-rise. The one two punch from vocalists Jason Netherton and Mark Kloeppel is unabashed sonic fury, with nary an attempt to harmonize whatsoever, while the drum work of Adam Jarvis is a feat of death metal minimalism excellence. From the brunt force of the opening track “Unmarked Graves” to the rip-roaring two and a half minute closer “Pandemic,” Discordia is just a balls-to-the-wall, no-gimmicks needed Maryland-core metal mini-masterpiece that doesn’t even bother seeking out its own niche genre classification; it’s just great, George W.-era death metal with no intentions of being anything deeper or more nuanced, and I just goddamn love it.

Nachtmystium Assassins, Black Meddle, Part I (2008)

It’s not easy drumming up a “new sound” when it comes to extreme metal, but leave it to Illinois’ Nachtmystium to give us one of the few wholly unique stylings to emerge from the GWB epoch. Sure, we’ve heard PLENTY of “weed metal” bands over the years, but Nachtmystium is one of the few to successfully merge psychedelia with black metal WITHOUT depriving the latter of its trademark gutturalness and viscereality. From the hard-hitting thud of the eight-minute opening opus “Assassins” to the grooviness of “Ghosts of Grace” to the tripartite album closer “Seasick,” this is an album that joyously defies any and all subgenre conventions, ultimately providing listeners a solid overall album that’s both textbook black metal brutality and esoteric experimental metal excellence at the same time. And hey, the lead singer seems pretty based on the JQ, so that’s another reason you should probably give this one a hear sometime …

Nile Annihilation of the Wicked (2005)

I might be going out on a limb here, but I think it’s safe to say that Nile is EASILY the greatest technical death metal band to EVER come out of South Carolina with a pervasive Egyptian mythology gimmick. While it’s quite easy to overlook tracks with such overwrought titles as “Dusk Falls Upon the Temple of the Serpent on the Mount of Sunrise” and “Chapter of Obeisance Before Giving Breath To The Inert One in the Presence of the Crescent Shaped Horns,” the meat of the matter is that Nile is easily — pound for pound — one of the most talented metal bands out there, and that ensemble virtuosity clearly shines in Annihilation of the Wicked, a mid-2000s release oft-regards as the cult favorite group’s magnum opus. On tracks like “Lashed to the Slave Stick “ and “Cast Down the Heretic,” George Kollias and Dallas Toler-Wade just plain KILL it on the drums and guitars, and Karl Sanders’ vocal work on the titular track is absolutely awe-inspiring (and if that wasn’t enough, the dude plays a mean bouzouki, too.) Don’t let the seeming novelty of the act fool you — tracks like “User-Maat-Re” and “Von Unaussprechlicehn Kulten” are among the best metal songs you’ll hear anywhere from the aughties … definitely cranks thins one all the way up to 10, and give adequate thanks to Ra whenever you feel it appropriate.

Pig Destroyer Prowler in the Yard (2001)

Easily one of my all-time favorite grindcore albums from any decade, Prowler in the Yard is just 36 minutes of lyrical madness and relentless bonesaw guitar riffs, with J.R. Hayes insane stalker/necrophile vocal stylings making this one headbanger that GENUINELY feels unpleasant and unsanitary. Technically a “concept album,” Pig Destroyer’s pre-9/11 ode to sociopathic obsession is straight and to the point, with a majority of the tracks clocking in at under 90 seconds. Oddly enough, though, the album does tend to mix things up slightly towards the end, with the significantly longer standout tracks “Starbelly and “Hyperviolent,” with the whole shindig closing out with the early EIGHT minute long paean to noise “Piss Angel.” Simply put, this is extreme metal at its most obnoxious and abrasive — and boy howdy, am I ever the admirer!

RefluxThe Illusion of Democracy (2004)

LONG before he was in Animals as Leaders, Tosin Abasi cut his teeth with Reflux, and this election year release from ’04 is easily one of the best — and most unique — metal albums of the decade, irrespective of the sub-genre flavoring. It’s pretty hard to sum up what the band sounded like, but I suppose describing their vibe as “Bane meets Cynic meets CKY meets The Mars Volta” is at least partially accurate. Really, every track on the CD feels tangibly different, and there is no denying that this band was just GLUTTED with talent across the board. From “An Ode To The Evolution of Human” to “Single File to Bliss” to “Modern Day Persona,” this thing is just one surprise after another, giving us a rare “experimental metal” offering that doesn’t collapse under the weight of its own abstruseness. If you’re looking for something different — and certainly, something awesome — you DEFINITELY need to give The Illusion of Democracy a listen.

Scar Symmetry Symmetric in Design (2005)

The freshman release from Swedish Scar Symmetry definitely stands out as one of the better debut metal albums of the aughties. With a sound that rests somewhere between Soilwork and good In Flames, frontman Christian Alvestam and pals really made an impression with this Nuclear Blast-branded release, with a muted symphonic sound that makes itself apparent from the opening seconds of “Chaosweaver.” Meanwhile, Jonas Kjellgren definitely gets to show of his musical dexterity on tracks like “Underneath the Surface” and “Obscure Alliance,” while lead guitarist and keyboardist Per Nilsson flat-out brings it on tracks “Detach from the Outcome” and “Seeds of Rebellion.” Long story short, this is just an all around great album from start to finish, and proof that the famed “Gothenburg” sound was still alive and well this late into the George W. years.


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