2006 has given us so much quantity that even as I write this I'm reviewing albums to solidify my final Top 25. Yeah, that's right 25 albums. Why? Because along with the quantity of albums spit out at us this year, there is much quality that I see (sorry Blasphemer). There are albums that I thought for sure would be in my Top 10 earlier this year that appear no where on this list, and many have made quite a rebound. Basically meaning an earlier 2006 release that I might have put down for months jumping back up to where it originally belonged in my list after only a few spins lately. But to be honest, this year was even worse than last as far as writing this end of the year review goes. I guess over the past 12 months I've opened up and allowed my mind to scamper through a few subgenres that I never liked before. That automatically opened the door to new fresh ideas and absolutely awesome albums, but I wanted to listen to everything so digging through all these albums has been tedious. Every time I went to write this review, I'd find something I forgot. But nonetheless, this is what I got for you (Note: I will also provide a track from each album that I feel represents the band/album in the best light, sorry Wayfaerer I'm stealing this great idea):
Threat Signal - Under Reprisal
Enter My Silence - Coordinate: D1SA5T3R
Submission - Failure to Perfection
Cannibal Corpse - Kill
Belphegor - Pestapokalypse VI
Deicide - The Stench of Redemption
My Dying Bride - The Line of Deathless Kings
The Autumn Offering - Embrace the Gutter
Celtic Frost - Monotheist
Torchbearer - Warnaments
Lamb of God - Sacrament
Lacuna Coil - Karmacode (it grew on me)
Burn in Silence - Angel Maker
Eventide - Diaries from the Gallows
The Haunted - Dead Eye
Alright ladies and gents, let the countdown begin:
25. Burst - Origo
About as dynamic as any album released this year, "Origo" burst (no pun intended) on the scene early in 2006. If you've never heard Burst, this band definitely takes an open mind with elements of hard rock, jazz, blues, and progressive metal sprinkled throughout their frantic assault. I love the atmosphere of the album though. Recommended.
Track: Where the Wave Broke
24. Torture Killer - Swarm!
This album was also released earlier this year and features THE brutal death metal voice himself, Chris Barnes. I will say this; it was hard not to judge this record up against some of the most recent Six Feet Under albums for that reason alone. Both follow the same lines of brutal riffs, punishing rhythm sections, and are accompanied by a great growler but there is something about Torture Killer that keeps me listening to "Swarm!" ten months later. The riffing is more diverse and I think Torture Killer on the whole have more creative ideas than Six Feet Under at this point. Definitely check it out.
Track: Funeral for the Masses
23. Neaera - Let the Tempest Come
Solidly following up my #1 album of last year was quite a tall task. Although "Let the Tempest Come" did not strike me the way that "The Rising Tide of Oblivion" did, this is still one hell of an album. They did lose the rougher, unpolished sound that I ate up in "The Rising Tide of Oblivion" but this is still brutal, technical, and well-executed. A must-have for fans of German metalcore.
22. The Sword - Age of Winters
This is one of those albums that came out and I never even picked up until I saw them live with In Flames last month. But I will tell you this, I've seen other webzines that give them all kinds of honors and I now see why. "Age of Winters" is not your run-of-the-mill album and The Sword is not your run-of-the-mill band. Now I'm not ready to christen them yet but this sounds like Black Sabbath resurrected 30 years later. They are heavy, they are technical, and they have excellent songwriting. You can't go wrong with those three. I can't wait to see what they do in the future.
21. Machinemade God - The Infinity Complex
German metalcore to headbang to brought to you by your friends in Machinemade God. I remember waking up, driving to school (when I was still finishing up my degree), being pissed off, and blasting "The Infinity Complex" to prepare for the day. Machinemade God's debut surely has me pumped and anticipating whatever they do next. Once again Heaven Shall Burn and Neaera fans, check these guys out.
Track: Losses to Lessons
20. Gojira - From Mars to Sirius
This is Gojira's third album and previous to it, I'd heard zero about Gojira. Yet another concert find for me, and their set blew me away. "Can these guys get melodically heavier?" I thought. The rhythm section alone knocks the listener right to the ground. Although the riffs patterns aren't the most difficult pieces of music I've ever heard, they are still effective. The vocals match the music well and are not overdone while the songwriting is slick and intuitive. From influences ranging from Death to Meshuggah, this industrial bomb is about to go off, I'd check it out before it does.
19. Fleshgore - May God Strike Us Dead
My favorite gore album of the year was turned in by Ukraine's Fleshgore. Although gore is usually not my cup of tea, Fleshgore makes the style interesting mixing in a lot of brutal death as well. Frantic and chaotic for the most part, the solos are great and the songwriting is surprisingly pretty good. They did take a bit from different influences like Cephalic Carnage, Vader, and Cannibal Corpse but it's all wrapped up in a nice maniacal package. Not for the feint of heart though.
18. All Shall Perish - The Price of Existence
"The Price of Existence" is without a doubt the best deathcore album of the year. Plain and simple, this album will pummel each listener it crosses with raw power and frenzied melody. The change in vocalists worked wonders for this band as well as the increasingly sound songwriting made this album a step above and beyond the rest this year. Highly recommended for fans of Despised Icon and Through the Eyes of the Dead.
Track: Eradication (check out the video too)
17. Vader - Impressions in Blood
"Impressions in Blood", along with "The Art of War", symbolize a new beginning of sorts for Vader. The intros have become more magnificent thanks to more elaborate orchestral offerings, which might be the only logical progression that Vader has introduced in quite a while. Vader is still Vader, with thrashing riffs welded with interlocking melodies, bone-crunching beats from the skins, and your standard hellish screaming vocal work. If you don't know Vader by now, you don't know metal.
Tracks: Helleluyah!!! (God is Dead) or Shadow Fear
16. Unearth - III: In the Eyes of Fire
So the long awaited follow-up to one of the best metalcore releases in its history (i.e. "The Oncoming Storm") picks up exactly where that album stopped, with power. Eleven tracks of brutal rhythm guided by high energy and masterful guitarwork greet listeners of "III: In the Eyes of Fire". The songwriting is as good as those on "The Oncoming Storm" and moreover Unearth has solidified itself near the top of the metalcore genre.
Track: So It Goes
15. Mercenary - The Hours that Remain
I know this album is going to sit much higher on many lists (as a matter of fact it already is) and although I think this is probably Mercenary's best album, there are better in the genre this year. There still seems to be a lot of power metal in this band which is a change of pace from the run of the mill melodic death, for that I'll commend Mercenary for bringing their influences to the forefront. The vocals do irritate me at times (never was into the falsetto thing to be honest) but they are actually fairly tasteful on many of the tracks. But all in all, musically, these guys are amazing. The instruments are executed perfectly and the transitions are flawless, I really liked the synths as well. Not much to gripe about but personally, enough to leave it at 15. Solid pickup though.
Track: My Secret Window
14. Cradle of Filth - Thornography
First off, I'm prepared for a backlash and I don't care, because this is a hell of a metal album. Cradle of Filth is one of the only bands in recent memory that has improved their sound since joining Roadrunner (a label notorious for destroying bands). This album has everything in it and appeals to fans of every style in our genre that have the gusto to pick it up. As much as I love this album, Cradle of Filth is not what they used to be, i.e. black metal. Yes, they have elements of their beginnings but they also have become catchy and melodically sound, resulting in their best album to date "Thornography". Pick it up, you just might like a Cradle of Filth album after all.
Tracks: Dirge Inferno or Lovesick for Mina
13. Within Y - Portraying Dead Dreams
This album is actually ranked much higher than I originally anticipated it would be, but these guys have produced quite the thrashy melodic death album with "Portraying Dead Dreams". Straight from the source, the Gothenburg natives come right at the listener's throat at the onset of the album, meaning the entire arsenal blasting at full strength in what I think is the one of the best intros of the year. The rest of the album is just as relentless, mirroring bands like Soilwork, At The Gates, and The Duskfall. If you are into thrashing to the point melodic death, check out "Portraying Dead Dreams".
12. Agalloch - Ashes Against the Grain
"Ashes Against the Grain" is actually the first album I've heard from Stateside boys Agalloch. How it is, I don't know, because this record is one of the most powerful and melodically sound albums of the year. The instrumental portions of these epic tracks struck me as not only well-orchestrated but also infectious. Catchy melodies interwoven with meticulous transitions and excellent production make "Ashes Against the Grain" a year-end favorite. The harsh deep growls overlapped with the occasional clean vocals fit the music perfectly. Highly recommended.
Track: Falling Snow
11. Noumena - Anatomy of Life
Wow, that's all I have to say. Why? Because I thought "Absence" was one of the most overrated albums of last year, especially on this site to be honest. How long did it sit atop our Top Ten albums? But nevertheless, this album completely floored me. "Misanthropolis" kicked onto the speakers and I swear I must have listened to that song five times even before listening to the rest of the album. The folk elements are jaw-dropping, the riffs are consistent throughout the album, the drumming is immaculate, and the bassist controls the tempo. Oh yeah, the vocals are head and shoulders above "Absence", hell, this entire album is. A must-have for Finnish melodic death metal fans.
Track: (no surprise here) Misanthropolis
10. Raunchy - Death Pop Romance
Raunchy has finally gotten it right. Enough with the (seemingly i.e. read between the lines) homoerotic and immature lyrical content on "Confusion Bay" (wonder what they were confused about). Not to mention poor vocal output in general under former vocalist Lars Vognstrup. In his stead strolls Kasper Thomsen to take Raunchy to a better place and he delivers. The lyrics actually mean something and his vocals fit Raunchy so much better. The clean vocals were undertaken by keyboardist Jeppe Christensen and sound immaculate for this record. Oh yeah, and by the way, this is melodic death metal to the core. Fans of thrashy melodic guitarwork with a dose of industrial crunch and blast beats abound, you have found your record.
Tracks: Remembrance or Farewell to Devotion
9. Scar Symmetry - Pitch Black Progress
Scar Symmetry completely avoids the sophomore curse with "Pitch Black Progress". Wow, this album is powerful as hell, but grounded at the same time by excellently portrayed vocals and outstanding overall instrumental experimentation. I think this album coupled with Disarmonia Mundi's "Mind Tricks" probably said the most about how great of a year it was for thrashy melodic death. But anyway, the leads and solos are insanely well done, the synths show through the madness well, the drumming fits this brutal puzzle in excellent fashion, and the vocals are the perfect mix of angst laden and clean. "Pitch Black Progress" has everything you'd want and more from this style.
Track: Calculate the Apocalypse
8. Daylight Dies - Dismantling Devotion
Put the best attributes of Katatonia, Opeth, and My Dying Bride in a blender, put it on for about 30 seconds and you have Daylight Dies. What Daylight Dies shot at us this year is one of the best deathdoom albums of 2006. The best thing about Daylight Dies is even though "Dismantling Devotion" is a collection of epic tracks, none are overdone and all the transitions fit. Too many bands in deathdoom try to force too many aspects of their music into each track and it turns out rushed and annoying in the end. Daylight Dies seemingly makes a conscious effort to let everything flow on this record. The results are astounding, well-orchestrated tracks with masterful melody that grab the listener and never let go.
Track: A Dream Resigned
7. All That Remains - Fall of Ideals
Can someone tell me what happened to Philip Labonte please? This guy is no longer one dimensional; he can scream, sing, and growl. The result of this vast improvement, coupled with more extensive songwriting and style experimentation is the best metalcore album of the year. "Fall of Ideals" fell into my lap earlier this year and anytime I need some metalcore it finds its way into my CD player. The double bass drums works wonders, the dueling guitars increase the diversity of All That Remains, the new bassist sounds great, and I've already told you about the vocals. If you like metalcore, you need this album. Not should get, you need it.
6. In Flames - Come Clarity
Got this album back in January (maybe even December), played the hell out of it, then didn't listen to it for about six months. Doesn't sound like the #6 album of 2006 does it? Then something happened, I saw them live a couple of times towards the end of the year and forced myself to really sit down and dissect it. The result: Although a couple of tracks do get on my nerves, the remaining tracks not only fit the overall progression of In Flames, but also hold up as great overall songs in the history of In Flames. Now, I'm listening to it even more than I was when I first got it. These tracks will grow on you, and even though it doesn't touch at least three other albums in my In Flames discography, it still annihilates most of the rest of melodic death.
5. Insomnium - Above the Weeping World
If you read my review of this album you already know how much I absolutely fell in love with it seemingly upon first listen. There are so many aspects of this album that I think are missed by most who have listened to this album. It might actually be the most intelligent record of the year. You've got your older In Flames references tattooed all over "Above the Weeping World" mixed with some Finnish folk/doom elements and some of the best constructed tracks I've heard in this type of melodic death in a long time. You must listen to this album probably five times to really get how excellent it really is, and if you don't you are definitely missing something great. Highly recommended.
Track: Mortal Share but The Gale is without a doubt the best introduction of the year
4. Kataklysm - In the Arms of Devastation
When you look up the word 'brutality' in the dictionary, a picture of Kataklysm should sit directly underneath the definition. "In the Arms of Devastation" only amplifies this. This album is ferocious. This album is punishing. But this album is also the best output Kataklysm has produced in its long history. The songwriting for one is immaculate. The brutality is a cut above the rest of their discography as well, which is saying quite a lot. And even though I've been listening to this album for a majority of the year, it still finds itself getting played regularly. One of, if not, the best brutal death metal attacks of the year.
Tracks: To Reign Again or The Road to Devastation
3. Katatonia - The Great Cold Distance
From the most brutal album of 2006 to the most sobering: Katatonia's "The Great Cold Distance" has been a favorite of mine since its release. Every track seemingly has something to offer to the overall picture of the album and of where Katatonia is as a band nowadays. It is deeply depressive, highly melodic, and the most beautiful album of 2006. This album is thought proving and emotional throughout. You can sense the depression and want in Jonas' voice while all around him the instrumental pieces fall delicately into place. Quite an overall experience for the listener.
Tracks: Follower, Deliberation, or In the White
2. Disarmonia Mundi - Mind Tricks
"Mind Tricks" is the most solid thrashy melodic death release of the year. This album does not have a bad song, one bad element, or even a poor thirty seconds of music on the entire thing (yes that includes Pantera cover "Mouth for War"). The vocal patterns between growly and clean are as dueling now as on "Fragments of D-Generation". The guitar melodies are rhythmic and as dueling as the vocals and the brutal rhythm section is excellently portrayed. I personally can't stop listening to this album. It gets universal thumbs up from the writer in just about every thrashy melodic death category I can think of. The brutality level is high, the songs are well-constructed, and every aspect is perfect. Great album and a must-have for melodic death metal fans.
Tracks: Celestial Furnace, Process of Annihilation, or A Taste of Collapse
And our #1 Album of the Year:
Amon Amarth - With Oden on Our Side
I was scared to death initially to listen to this album. I loved "Versus the World" and thought "Fate of Norns" was o.k. but that Amon Amarth could do better. How much better? "With Oden on Our Side" better. Every track on this album offers the listener a glimpse into the life of not only the Viking life itself, but also the life of the members of Amon Amarth. This album also flows the way most don't and offers brief blasts of death metal and also more melodic epic tracks so emphatically portrayed that no one into death metal can help but salivate about what is around every corner of this album. No other album this year kept me on the edge of my seat the way "With Oden on Our Side" did. No album matched it's magnificence, and no other album offered me seemingly every aspect of metal that I enjoy in one package. This is the best album of 2006. Highly recommended release, I hope you enjoy every aspect of it as much as I did and am.
Well, looks like that's it. Thanks to all of our readers for reading me ramble on about every album on my list. And stay tuned, 2007 should be just as great. And always, stay brutal,