As I sit down to write this end of the year extravaganza for the third time (first one got accidentally erased and them I had to reformat Windows, so I lost everything I had on here), I look back at many awesome moments over this past year. First and foremost, this is the first year that I have written for Harm and I must say that being associated with this site has been one of the coolest experiences that I have ever undertaken. The albums that I've reviewed, the concerts that I went to, and the bands that I've met have all meant a great deal to me this year and look forward to much of the same in 2006. Allow me to reminisce for just a moment: Sounds of the Underground in Cleveland, the underground / unsigned bands I've had the pleasure of listening to, Chimaira and Six Feet Under at Bogart's, the Ozzfest off-date concert also at Bogart's, meeting Randy Blithe (Lamb of God) and Chris Ojeda (Byzantine) at Sudsy's, and speaking to the guys from Hell Within up at Dwell in Darkness all come to mind as my favorite moments of this year. So at this time I'd like to give you my "Best of 2005", what a year it was, I just hope 2006 can be half as fun and exciting.
First I'd like to start off with a few albums that did not quite make my list but still produced solid album in 2005 (an Honorable Mention of sorts):
Crowbar - Lifesblood for the Downtrodden
It's Crowbar first and foremost, but it's not "Sonic Excess" either.
Byzantine - And They Shall Take Up Serpents
I was a really big fan of "The Fundamental Component" and this album isn't as good as the debut but still a solid album.
Leaves' Eyes - The Vinland Saga
How can you argue with the most amazing female vocalist in metal? Coupled with amazing musicianship produced one of the most calming albums of the year.
Trivium - Ascendancy
The more I heard the album, the more repetitive it sounded, but a pretty good sound overall.
Strapping Young Lad - Alien
Devin and the boys made a really good record this year, but I prefer "City".
Cryptopsy - Once Was Not
I have to agree with Wayfaerer's review on this one: good album, horrible production.
Dimmu Borgir - Stormblast (Reissue)
Loved the live tracks and the production did improve bringing seemingly more life to the tracks.
Cephalic Carnage - Anomalies
I really liked "Enviovore" and "Dying will be the Death of Me".
The Black Dahlia Murder - Miasma
This is yet another album that was great when it first came out but just got too repetitive after just a handful of listens.
Bullet For My Valentine - Hand of Blood EP
Barely missed the Top 25, but this band shows a lot of potential and "Poison" should breathe even more life into the metalcore genre.
Scars of Tomorrow - The Horror of Realization
Enjoyed all of the aspects of this album (except that is for the Alex Varkarzas guest vocal) but it did not break any new ground in the oversaturated metalcore scene.
Meshuggah - Catch 33
I wasn't too impressed with well, really anything since "Chaosphere", but with "Catch 33", Meshuggah have again made a name for themselves as a staple in the metal genre with thrashy (almost industrial) death. (NOTE: "Shed" is probably the most infectious song of the year)
Top 25 of 2005:
25. Devildriver - The Fury of Our Maker's Hand
I didn't like Coal Chamber and I didn't like the self-titled album back in 2003, but with "Fury of Our Maker's Hand", Dez and the rest of Devildriver may actually have it right. I really enjoyed "Sin and Sacrifice", "Before the Hangman's Noose", and "Hold Back the Day".
24. Mortal Treason - Sunrise Over a Sea of Blood
This album is one of the most surprising releases of 2005 in my opinion that no one has ever heard. Groundbreaking musicianship along the same lines of Deadlock really grabbed my attention with this album.
23. Losa - The Perfect Moment
The best, most underrated band on Metal Blade produces one of the best albums for that label and gets little attention. Well, I guess you can buy Into the Moat if you'd like, but if you want metalcore that will get you stomping, check out "The Perfect Moment".
22. God Forbid - IV: Constitution of Treason
This is actually a surprising selection due to the fact that in my review of this album I stated that I enjoyed "Gone Forever" a bit more than "IV: Constitution of Treason" but for some reason I regularly listen to this album. I guess it's growing on me and why wouldn't it, with melo-death undertones for a traditionally metalcore outfit, sounds right up my alley.
21. Screams of Erida - Burn the World EP
Onto what I believe is a diamond in the rough (a.k.a. the underground Boston scene) and the best underground release of the year "Burn the World" (guess I blew that one early huh?). Anyway, all of the elements of this band are outstanding and I'm very much looking forward to their full-length debut in 2006.
20. Throwdown - Vendetta
A hardcore straight edge band at #20 on my list? I wouldn't have believed it if you told me a year ago, but Throwdown have released an upbeat thrashy record with "Vendetta" that I still can't stop listening to. Check out "Burn" and see if it doesn't get your head banging.
19. Graveworm - N(U)topia
More of a brutal death album with atmospheric undertones, if you want my personal assessment of this album, but "N(U)topia" is the best overall album in Graveworm's collection in my opinion (although I'm sure that view could be met with opposition). With the heavy riffs and extreme vocals that spit fire throughout the entire album, Graveworm got it right with "N(U)topia". ("Hateful Design" might be one of my favorite songs of this year.)
18. Six Feet Under - 13
Thank God for this album. After all the crap (i.e. both "Graveyard Classics" discs), Six Feet Under are back with a vengeance with "13". I loved "Shadow of the Reaper", "Deathklaat", and "The Art of Headhunting" and I would say this album is a definite death metal pickup for 2005.
17. Fear Factory - Transgression
If Fear Factory would've taken out a few of the tracks on this album, it would've been Top 5 without a doubt, but they didn't and here it sits at #17. "Transgression" is a good follow-up to "Archetype" and some of the same melodies are reintroduced on this album as well. With two solid albums in the past two years, "Digimortal" is now an afterthought.
16. Arch Enemy - Doomsday Machine
Another excellent follow-up disc is "Doomsday Machine" by Arch Enemy. I enjoyed "Wages of Sin" more than "Anthems of Rebellion" but it appears that with "Doomsday Machine" Arch Enemy is initiating heavier riffs and a more wide open approach to their music. I might also be the minority in this as well but I believe Angela is progressing well as a vocalist, and this might be her best album with Arch Enemy.
15. Darkane - Layers of Lies
What a comeback Darkane has made with "Layers of Lies". "Rusted Angel" was a great album and then they went and released "Expanding Senses" which I didn't really enjoy at all. "Layers of Lies" passed "Rusted Angel" as my favorite Darkane album with tracks like "Secondary Effects" and "Layers of Lies".
14. The Absence - From Your Grave
This album is probably higher on a lot of lists and don't get me wrong I loved this album, but I just feel that there were stronger all around albums that stood out in melo-death this year. I really enjoyed "A Breathe Beneath", "I, Deceiver", and "From Your Grave".
13. Fear My Thoughts - Hell Sweet Hell
I, for one, could not be happier with Fear My Thoughts latest release, "Hell Sweet Hell". It's not very often that a hardcore band jumps ship and releases an unbelievable melodic death album but that's exactly what these guys did. With songs like "Satisfaction Guaranteed", "Sweetest Hell", and "Sadist Hour", they sold me on this great release.
12. Old Man's Child - Vermin
Mastermind Galder has returned with "Vermin" and I soaked up every second of it. Even spending time with Dimmu Borgir since "In Defiance of Existence", he still found a way to create a great album. With seemingly nothing to really gripe about with "Vermin", it was deathly close to being my favorite black metal release of the year.
11. Lord Belial - The Seal of Belial
Enter Lord Belial, my favorite black metal album of the year, bar none. The orchestration of this album is top-notch and every aspect of this album excites me every time I hear it. Whether it is the outstanding musicianship, the choral samples, the symphonic interludes, or the terrorizing vocals, "The Seal of Belial" is a must-have for all black metal fans.
10. Nile - Annihilation of the Wicked
Nile's "Annihilation of the Wicked" is a great album but it slipped pretty far on my list for some reason. I guess the technical aspect of the album just wasn't enough to keep Nile at the top of my list, where it was for a quite a while. This is still a must-have for all brutal death fans, but for some reason I just thought that although "Annihilation of the Wicked" does everything right, brutal death can only be so dynamic. Melodic death can go many more places. This album, though, still rivals "Amongst the Catacombs of Nephren-Ka" as Nile's greatest release and a top 10 album of 2005.
9. Construcdead - The Grand Machinery
Wayfaerer's review of this album, again, was right on target. The addition of Jens Broman worked wonders for Construcdead, especially after the lack of originality that was represented on "Violadead". Gladly, "The Grand Machinery" saw this band finally start to break out of their shell and develop their own style. With "A Cog in the Machinery", "The Lustfall", and "Peter Noster" (among others) leading the way, Construcdead has it right with one of the best releases of 2005.
8. Chimaira - Chimaira
If you looked at my review of this album, I didn't know what to expect at first. Was it going to be another "Impossibility of Reason" or something deeper, could Chimaira turn over a new leaf?
With their self-titled album, Chimaira really outdid themselves meaning the more I listen to it, the more I love it. "Chimaira" shines with "Salvation", "Inside the Horror", and "Nothing Remains" but the entire track list is worth a listen and makes up one of the best albums of the year.
7. Hell Within - Asylum of the Human Predator
I'm not sure why, but this album didn't take off with most as I expected it would. "Asylum of the Human Predator" is brutal, that's all you can say about it. Other than Dark Tranquillity's "Character" and Neaera's "The Rising Tide of Oblivion", I probably listened to this album the most of any others this year. Hell Within has given us a great debut and I think perhaps the most passionate album of the year. These guys are rough and tough and do not care who gets in their way. I love this entire album cover to cover but others were just a bit more dynamic this year.
6. The Agony Scene - The Darkest Red
This is without a doubt my favorite metalcore release of the year. With a ferocious bass and thunderous drumlines paving the way for excellently orchestrated riffs and screaming vocals, The Agony Scene have given all metalcore bands a creed to follow for excellence. The entire album is relentlessly attacking and brutal as you will find in metalcore. I look forward to many, many more good things from The Agony Scene as "The Darkest Red" has put them on the metal map.
5. Hypocrisy - Virus
Peter Tagtgren's Hypocrisy released a great melo-death album this year with "Virus". I think Wayfaerer's review of this album hit the nail on the head. The slow maturation process from their brutal death days to this more melodic death album shows that Hypocrisy will continue to be a heavy hitter in the metal genre for years to come. "Virus" is just another example of that.
4. Soilwork - Stabbing the Drama
I'm going to make a statement that I'm sure will shock and outrage a few people, "Stabbing the Drama" is the best Soilwork release. I love this album; it's infectious, energetic, with outstanding guitarwork, and a pulsating rhythm section. It beat out "Natural Born Chaos" on my list by about the fifth or sixth listen, and that was the first day I got this album. Every track on this album has something to offer and Soilwork fans should be very pleased with this excellent release.
3. Dark Tranquillity - Character
Dark Tranquillity just keeps coming out with awesome albums. I really started getting into them with the release of "Damage Done" but diving back into "Haven" and "Projector" has given me more of an appreciation and insight into Dark Tranquillity's style and musical progression. I believe that "Character" is the correct step towards more brutal death with more attacking vocals and blast beats and an onslaught of heaviness that Dark Tranquillity rarely has represented. "Character" is my second favorite Dark Tranquillity album, and one of the best of 2005.
(Tie) 1. Neaera - The Rising Tide of Oblivion and Deadlock - Earth.Revolt
On one hand I thought the most ingenious album of the year belonged to Deadlock, due to the fact that the musicianship, song structure, and vocals (male and female) were probably the best of any album this year. Then I thought the most brutal, heaviest death metal album of the year had to belong to Neaera solely due to the fact that I have already worn out two copies of this album and their doesn't appear to be an end in sight. Both of these albums are outstanding for completely different reasons. I loved the concept album idea with Deadlock and also how involved Ms. Weniger was with the entire album. On the other hand, the double bass thumps and blast beats really excited me about "The Rising Tide of Oblivion", as well as the scream/growl vocals that were amazing in my opinion. Nevertheless, I tried for three weeks to decide which was better but they were so different, that my both of the albums deserve Album of the Year.
I was going to go ahead and post my Metal Awards on here as well, but I'll post them in the forum in just a few minutes. Hope everyone had a good year and I can't wait to hear what 2006 has to offer. As always, stay brutal,